Attract customers first — then figure out what to sell them

Attract customers first — then figure out what to sell them

Want a sure-fire strategy for building a successful Web business? Line up customers first, then create a business to serve them.

It’s an approach that’s working for the UK’s David Carter, says Business 2.0. Carter identifies a business niche or a hot growth area like commercial real estate. Then he buys domain names around the topic. He saves money by shunning pricey domains for URLs with hyphens, such as

He builds the sites, adds content, and waits for customers. When inquiries come in, Carter steers them to an acquaintance or a local business he’s partnering with. In many cases, Carter simply becomes the middleman, using the Web to attract willing buyers that he hands off to others for a fee.

To satisfy a flood of eager customers, Carter turned his original site into an actual business, called He took a half-week course, got certified, and teamed up with a friend. Today, once or twice a week — essentially whenever he feels like getting out of the house — Carter surveys a property, armed with a digital camera and notepad. He claims the effort will net the pair about $350,000 this year.

Not too shabby for a guy who knew absolutely nothing about asbestos when he started.

Carter’s way, in brief:

1. Identify an overlooked need for services kicked up by, for instance, relatively obscure regulatory changes.
2. Construct a first-rate website with a generic domain name that will draw in prospective customers.
3. With clients in hand, create the business, providing the service yourself or subcontracting to established players.

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