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 commercial-property.co.uk/.

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 AsbestosSurveys.com site into an actual business, called AsbestosServices.com. 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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