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How do you suggest i market this, so people are aware of the site and add their listing to it asap.
I'll be offering free and paid listings, maybe an offer like the first so many free for whatever type of listing.
The main problem is getting people to the site, do you think adwords would help my problem or just be a waste of money. Or should i advertise in the local papers, send out flyers/emails etc...
The directory will offer business listings, jobs, houses, classified ads, forums etc..
im sure this will work as there are other directories for this county (im on some of them for other businesses) that will not be as good as the one ive developed, and i know most of them charge £50.00 per year to advertise on.
So i just need the companies to view the site
To begin with you may need to offer free listing (perhaps free for exchange for a reciprocal link).
No, it won't. The only "content" you'll get is drive-by submittals by the "submit your affiliate spam to 50,000 search engines" grade of spammers.
UNTIL, that is, you have good content, and more good content, adequate to attract visitors -- created and filtered by some disinterested party such as yourself or your employees.
At that time, of course, you'll be getting MORE DBS's by the SYASTFTSES's ... and you'll begin to get good content by visitors adding their own site.
Additionally, they get unlimited classifieds ads. And, I have several manufacturer pages with nice photos and descriptions of all the manufacturers' products. Visitors can search for shops that carry that particular brand.
Since there are some manufacturers who have models within their line that are hard to find and very desirable, I'll eventually make it possible for visitors to find the shops that have those particular models in stock (why start giving away everything all at once?).
After the six-month trial period, if the store doesn't want to pay, they'll be listed by name, city and phone number, but won't get the web page, classifieds, or search by map, city and state, or by brand features.
If they decide they want to subscribe, the cost will be $10 a month, which I think is dirt cheap.
Obviously I have to get subscribers before I can get visitors, and vice versa. So, I've committed six to eight months of savings to live on while I wait until I get paying subscribers.
I don't think visitors are going to go to a site where there's nothing, and certainly subscribers aren't going to pay to be on a site with no traffic. The classic chicken-and-egg scenario.
To get trial subscribers, I'm going to call each store individually and offer them the free trial. I don't see another way that's more effective. There's about 12,000 of these stores nationwide, which means a lot of phone calls!
So, Andrew, that's my solution to a problem similar to yours. If my solution works, I think I'll make a respectable amount of money off the site. If it doesn't, my wife will divorce me. ;)
What do you think about that solution?
For an individual store to make any money at all, your site will need a lot of traffic. 1000 unique visitors a day is only one visitor per store per two weeks, then assume a 1% conversion factor and that's one sale per store per four years, having spent $480 on a listing. Even 1000 uniques a day probably means spending on some advertising. How easy is it going to be to get incoming links from related sites? How are you going to compete with Froogle and dmoz in similar niches?
I think you should do some more research into the viability of your business proposition before sinking your life savings into it. The age of the profitable portal is probably waning, unless you're one of the really big names.
Hope that at least helps you to think more through some of the issues. :)
Many of them are spending $300 to $600 a month on yellow pages advertising that only reaches potential customers in their metro area. There are some of these stores that have been around for decades, yet even some potential customers in the area don't know the stores are there.
I'll really know whether the idea is workable once I start spending eight hours a day on the phone calling them for their trial subscriptions. If I find too much disinterest, I may have to cut the project short, or consider other means of revenue such as banner ads.
I certainly appreciate the comments, as I'm sure Andrew does as well.
Many of them are spending $300 to $600 a month on yellow pages advertising that only reaches potential customers in their metro area.
Herein lies one of the truths of internet marketing - traffic is worthless if you can't turn it into paying customers. So a New York car salesman spending 10c to get someone from Los Angeles viewing their website is almost certainly wasting their money. But the same car salesman spending $10000 to get a full page ad in the New York Times may make a lot of money from the investment, because the target audience will have a much higher conversion rate into customers.
That is what im banking on - my directory will only be county wide, and i will not accept listing from outside this county.
Im also going to offer businesses to have a mini-web page within my site, as a lot of businesses in this area do not have website of their own.
I'll see how it goes, im not expecting fast results and havent put my life on the line for this to work, it is just an idea i have for extra income and if it takes off i will be happy, if it doesnt i shall try to find out why and resolve the issues.
One thing I didn't mention is that I'm not going to submit the site to search engines or change the "nofollow, noindex " meta tags until I have at least 10 to 20 shops listed in every state. That way there's going to be content.
Another thing about the nature of the stores involved is that potential customers will travel a fair distance to check out a shop they've never visited before. There's lots of "shop junkies" out there who will take an afternoon drive just to visit a new shop and see what they have to offer. It's a bit different than car dealers.
In the end, as I said, it will boil down to what sort of reactions I receive when I start making the phone calls.
John's comments now have me concerned. I felt I had done enough of a "feasability study" to conclude that many of these shops would indeed pay the $10 to subscribe.
John, if you don't mind my asking, is there anything besides what I've indicated above that you think I should do?
One thing I didn't mention is that the marketing director for one of the manufacturers said he'd personally call the editors he knows at the four major trade magazines and ask them to give the site a little blurb.
I recognize that a site needs content to get visitors which, as I said, is why I plan on keeping the site from the search engines for a couple of months. By that time, I will have contacted somewhere around 2000+ shops to get them in the directory. Even if they don't want the full-page listing, I doubt that many would refuse to have their shop listed by name, town and phone number.
If the portal covers a similar topic and catchment to some other, then you just diluted the amount of information out on the web. If the site really is "unique" then hopefully you will clean up and take all the business, and become the "defacto" site for that topic in that location. If you do it well, then you'll make it more difficult for someone else to start up doing the exact same thing.
Let's put it another way. Say you were putting up an online-auction site. There are already many of those out there. By adding a new one, potential buyers now have to browse more sites to find what they want. Sellers now have to browse more sites before deciding where to advertise. Sellers may decide to auction their wares on several different sites, pulling the auction offline from sites where it under-performs. As a buyer, I might have to bid on several different sites to get what I want, only to find that infact I was bidding for the same single item, from the same single seller, who had posted that same single item on several different sites. This is obviously a waste of everyones resources.
As I've said before, there is _no_ site on the internet like the one I'm constructinng right now. There are sites where you can find realtors, attorneys, doctors, plumbing contractors--you name it.
But there is no site where you can find Widget Shops based on multiple search criteria--by map, by state and town, or by brands they stock. And Widget Shops are truly are niche market, perhaps one of the most "niche markets" around, due to government regulations. Many major newspapers will not allow them to advertise, and even radio and TV stations are hesitant to accept their ads. This isn't porn or anything like that, it's just sometimes politically contentious.
There are three major sites where Widget Shops--or those who sell Widgets out of their homes--can place classified ads or put their Widgets up for auction. Those sites charge a percentage of each sale, and they do very well.
What those sites do not do is allow a visitor to find a Widget Shop in an area that the visitor is interested in. It's not my goal to try and take over the classifieds/auction portion of the Widget online retail market. I view the classified ads portion of the site as icing on the cake for those who want to subscribe.
Right now you can find detailed information about a doctor, lawyer, plumber, realtor, home builder, home improvement contractor, or just about any other type of business by going to any number of portal sites.
But, if you're trying to find Widget Shops in Raleigh, North Carolina--good luck. If you find anything, you might get the name and phone number of the Widget Shop, if even that.
My idea gets mixed feedback from webmasters, but somewhat less mixed feedback from those involved in the Widget Shop business.
Without going into boring detail about my own business, I now find myself with my back against the wall. After being on my own for 17 years, I find my own industry falling apart, and I think it best to move on. The Widget Shop Finder idea is something that I think can work, based upon opinions from numbers of Widget Shop owners.
Nevertheless, those posting here have much more experience with directories and portal sites, so I must very seriously take to heart your comments and suggestions.
Using six to eight months of savings isn't going to harm me over the long haul, at least not seriously. What concerns me more is that I would devote six to eight months of something far more precious--time--only to find that my idea doesn't work.
Please keep those comments coming.
A different way to fund the project would be for people to pay on the basis of advert views - that way if you don't hit your traffic target then they don't pay so much and don't feel that you've swindled them.
Alternatively, you could track advert click throughs and charge them on that basis. That way they're paying for leads rather than an ad view that could be from anybody.
Both approaches could make you less money, but if it does take off as you hope then it could make you more.
In terms of making a portal stand out, yes it's possible to arrange a similar list of businesses in a different format, with different searching options etc., but are your users going to appreciate those differences and flock to your site in preference to more established names? It will help you draw in the traffic if you can make your site both a hub of directory listings and a hub of the best knowledge on the subject - that will help you gain incoming links, keep users on the site for longer and increase traffic to the paid listings. If you could set up the leading web discussion forum on your subject, that would also greatly increase the profile of your site.
If it were me, I'd set up a pilot version of the site in my spare time, whilst continuing my full-time job, offering free listings while I tested the system. I could see how well I could rank in search engines and what kind of traffic a top position for my major keyphrases would achieve. I'd then be able to get a feel for whether my predictions were realistic or not before diving in feet first.
When I was speaking to shop owners, I never gave them any idea as to how many visitors the site would bring in. While that's hard to know, it's possible to estimate.
For example, one shop that I did a site for has four manufacturer pages on it that account for about 20,000 visitors a month. This site will have about twenty manufacturer pages, and some of those manufacturers are more popular than the four on the other site. So, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect 100,000 or more visitors after six months to a year's time. In fact, I'd be surprised if the site didn't bring in 200,000 per month by this time next year, based on my experience with other sites. The one site I mentioned that gets 20,000 visitors a month has about 130 pages. My site already has nearly 1,000 pages, and will have far more than that in a couple of months.
I've done very well with SEO'ing other sites, and so I do feel confident about this one getting very good rankings. I'm consistently able to get first-page positions for keywords on the major search engines, and I'm even more focused on SEO right now as I construct this site.
Your idea about tracking click throughs to the individual shops is interesting. I'll run that idea past some shop owners to get their feedback.
This site differs from other established directories in a number of ways. First, it offers the shop owners their own website page with detailed information, while the other directories only list name, town and phone number. Further, the other sites don't make a distinction between storefront shops and those people selling products out of their homes. For "widget shop junkies," that's an important distinction.
The idea of doing this after a regular job has been suggested, but I don't see it as a possibility. I need to call all 12,000 to 15,000 of these shops, which is going to take a long time, and has to be done during the day. Then, at night, I need to make updates to the pages as well as create new ones.
It may sound like I'm rejecting ideas out of hand, but much of what has been suggested so far are things that I gave serious consideration to months ago.
In the end, it may be that I'll just have to see how the response goes as I make the phone calls.
But I've got to warn you that it's going to be tougher than you think.
First of all there is your competition. There are at least 1'500 retail sites out there (Ask Jeeves results), so you may be dead before you have started.
Also, there are 10 main General portals, 47 UK directories, and at least another 100 specialised portals out there.
Having worked as a retail professional and telesales expert, making 'cold calls' will not be easy.
Making 15'000 of them is going to take you:
10 - 15 mins per call = 4 calls per hour. 32 calls per day.
That's 160 calls per week. which works out at 640 a month, and 7'680 per year.
Plus it's going to cost you £600 per month in phone charges at least!
And are you making all these sales calls yourself - or do you have a telesales call centre?
You may have to outsource the work.
So you're looking at 2 years just filling the portal - this doesn't include time for advertising, answering emails, calls to the business, extra time needed for other things, then you have problems that need sorting, administration needs to be done, fending off other sales calls calling you etc etc etc.
And when were you thinking of sleeping? Also, you will get a lot of rejections, insults about your website, lot's of "the person you need to speak to is in a meeting, not available, and ring back tomorrow"
You will get lot's of "let's do big business partnership thing" from affiliates.
Lots of genuine enquiries and propositions - but only if you offer them something on their terms - kind of thing!
Your idea will need something special to make it work - ie, why should they purchase from you, when they can go to Google etc?
You see where I'm going here.
I do hope it works out for you - just don't sink all your cash into it.
Good luck with it.
How frightening reality can be.
Having never done so before, I am just about to put "yet another" directory on the web.
I'm with you on this one dickbaker and would like to share with you my take on it.
No guarantees expressed or implied but no dire predictions either.
Collect a database of every specialist widget supplier you would want to be in your Directory. Include every useful field you can think of. Full contact information, of course, but also other details that might be handy, like do they have more than one shop - specialties etc. You will drop some of these fields but at the start get everything there is to get.
Just doing that is hugely beneficial and querying the data will help you with the next step. (At this point you have thought about but haven't spent a cent on net software. er hopefully)
Step Two: THE OFFER
The most important and in my view critical part.
After careful study of your database. What proposition are you going to make to your Targets that will have the most appeal? Have website - link , No Website - your page idea,
lots of green widget suppliers - Discussion board for green widget suppliers. (Now decide on software to deliver OFFER. )
Step three. Make Site.
No problem to query database and put up every target as content with basic Free listing ( notice database now also crucial to content ). Spending so far hosting and lowest cost listing application as per OFFER.
Step Four. Implement Bretts brilliant Top site in 26 steps or as close as you can. However, can't agreed with the domain being all about branding ..... Would rather have a natural write in for starters.. Sex.com against ... rather raunchy but obscure site name.com ... no contest in my view.
Step Five, (Should follow at least some progress being made with Step Four).
Make OFFERs to Targets,
Database plays vital role again in telemarketing, drives mail outs and email marketing.
Remember from database you have identified segments for specific and personalized approaches.
If you are phoning them and can't sell immediately good idea to ask if its OK to send email.
Of course it's all a lot of hard work and it's likely to take time. I pick up that you know that already.
Anyway, as a absolute Directory Newbie I feel completely at ease confidently offering you these steps and fully anticipate your success.
My plan is also to concentrate on adding the content first (geographical and industry info) to get up in the SE for the first year, then advertise for listings, so people can see its worth while when im top on different keywords.
keep you posted on my progress
Christopher, many of your concerns I've already thought about.
There is no site like this on the internet, so there is no competition. There are sites that list some shop's name, address and phone number, but none that have a detailed description of the shop, and allow the user to find them on a map or by the brands they carry.
There are sites like this for golf courses, realtors, lawyers, and any number of other businesses. But there are none like this for the particular retail business I'm focusing on.
The cost for long distance isn't a concern, as I have a plan that gives me unlimited nationwide calls for just $50 a month.
I understand fully that it will take a long time to contact all of the shops, and there will be many times when the owner is not available. I think that four to eight calls an hour is possible. Given that the offer is a free listing, I expect a good number of those shops to say yes, although I also expect to have to help some shop owners write their pages for them. There may also be shops that agree to be listed, but don't want to bother with the detailed listing.
At the end of the six-month trial period, I need 30 to 50 shops a month to agree to pay for their listing in order to make ends meet here at home. If I'm getting through to 600 to 800 to perhaps 1000 shops a month, I think that 30 to 50 number is possible.
The shop owners that I've discussed this with have been on the whole very enthusiastic. Those who have seen the site love the idea.
The site is already built, and I will begin making phone calls in a couple of days (I need a little rest). There will be additions to the site that I'll be making on weekends. If you'd like to view the site, just sticky me. I should warn you, though, that the type of business these shops engage in is very controversial in your country, so I hope that doesn't cloud your judgement should you decide to take a look at the site.
Durham_e, I read Brett's comments on building a site long ago, and have taken that to heart. There are already over 1,000 pages on the site, and I'll be adding a hundred or more every week. 99% of the site is very SE friendly.
If, in two or three months, I get the feeling that these shops are not going to pay to subscribe after the trial period--whether that feeling comes from their comments, or just a gut instinct--I can always bail out without having lost much.
But as I know the retail industry inside out, I'm thinking you must be targeting one type of product/area
say 'fashion stores' - am I on the right track? I'm just using fashion as an example of a product area.
I think it's potentially a good idea, but it sounds like you're taking on a lot, as I own a portal business already, I know exactly what is involved here.
Also, make sure that you don't copy other sites categories - as you could be sued for copyright issues.
Both Kellysearch and Yell have statements to that effect.
I found that out the hard way, and had to go to court over it - and although I won the case, it wasn't a nice experience.
Big companies will always sue. It's quite scary lol
But it sounds like you've thought about it.
I'll sticky you anyway. Yeah your site sound pretty good.
I started calling shops back on April 21st to see if they wanted a free listing. Because of illness, I missed about a week of calling.
I now have 116 shops on the site, with 75 of them having a full-page listing. I have a field in the database called "renew" in which I enter the word "probable" if the reaction I get from the shop owners is very postive. There are now 56 "probables."
I need a minimum of fifty paying renewals per month to make a decent income once the trial period ends, so it seems to be pretty much on track. There may also be some shops with full listings who will pay to subscribe even though I don't have them down as probables, and vice versa.
My minimum goal is 500 paying shops per year, and my realistic goal is 1,000 paying shops. It could take over a year to reach the 1,000 mark, but I think it's possible.
Anyway, just wanted to provide an update.
Andrew, how are you doing?
My portal is also doing very well. I've got 1700ish companies listed so far, and expect many more to take an interest throughout next year.
My main ad sections are up and I had paying clients so, I must be doing something right!
I imagine the press releases going out once I have about 3'000 companies in there.
So it should be good - and it's very rewarding helping people out, as I didn't think it would be!