As often happens, my original plans changed as life happened. I originally believed I would make money from my directory by charging businesses to advertise on it. But instead, the connections I have made and the know-how I have gained in developing the hyperlocal portal have led to retainer contracts with a variety of local businesses in different niches.
Developing Business Relationships
It didn’t happen overnight, but the hyperlocal directory allowed me to introduce myself and my services to local business owners in a low-key, nonthreatening way that helped me build relationships of trust. I began by offering free business listings on the directory to local business owners; and I emailed all my friends and asked them to sign up for the directory email newsletter so they could receive notices of local deals.
It was a win-win all the way around: The local business owners were happy to get free advertising, and I was able to motivate local residents to sign up for my email newsletter to get special deals from local businesses.
Once I got to know local business owners, I would let them know about other services I could provide, such as website design and local search optimization. I have found that I am most successful when I don’t try to “sell” what I do, and instead take the time to patiently explain and educate potential clients about what could be improved in their current websites, why they aren’t getting found in local search results, and how I can fix that for them.
One of my website clients, a marriage and family therapist, told me that “There are a LOT of people in this town who do what you do . . . but I chose to work with you because you are the ONLY consultant who could show me IMMEDIATE results!” I owe that success to my wordpress-based hyperlocal directory. I wrote and published a short blog post promoting one of her upcoming workshops and put a link to that blog post on the Directory’s Facebook page. Whereas her existing website was nowhere to be found in local search results, my optimized blog post about her workshop showed up in Google within hours. That demonstrated that I could deliver real results and led to a $1,700.00 website job.
The Benefits of Business Coaching
Looking back, it was serendipitous that I connected with Don in my early research phase. Don’s vast knowledge of wordpress, local search and local business website design, together with the Expand2Web Small Biz WordPress Theme and Expand2Web Experts Group have been an invaluable asset to me. I have built a number of websites for local business clients using the Small Biz Theme.
Thanks to Don’s expert coaching, I have gained the know-how and confidence to obtain retainer contracts with local businesses for a variety of web-presence services, ranging from website design and development, to web copywriting and blog writing, to Facebook fan page set up and social media management. My monthly retainer fees from a handful of local business clients range from $500 to $1,500 per month. (Note: retainer contracts provide a specified level of service to be provided at a fixed monthly amount over a specific period of time. By negotiating retainer agreements lasting 6-12 months, I am able to count on a predictable level of income without worrying so much about how I am going to pay my monthly bills.)
I got so busy working with a small number of local business clients that my plans for the community directory took a back seat. Still, I hold onto the dream of turning it into a source of stable, residual advertising income. I know others out there are succeeding with this business model; and it is only a matter of time before I will too. I see many possibilities for monetizing my directory next year. My income in 2011 is more than twice what it was in 2010. While I haven’t attained my $10,000 per month goal, yet … I hope to get there in 2012.
Lessons Learned From My Experience
Knowing what I know now, here’s my advice for anyone else who is intrigued with the possibility of setting up and managing their own hyperlocal web directory.
- It’s almost impossible to find a wordpress-based business directory template — or any other business directory template — that looks good AND works the way you think it should work. I have tried half a dozen community directory platforms and have not been satisfied with any of them. That’s why Al and I together have developed our own community directory design and template. You can see it in action at http://www.warrentonfavorites.com.
- Use your directory as a foot-in-the-door strategy to introduce yourself, your services and your capabilities to local business owners. Don’t march in with the intention or expectation that you are going to sell them high-priced advertising on an unknown product (your directory) right off the bat. Instead, offer local business owners the opportunity to list and showcase their business for free and get a trust-building backlink to their own website. You can offer to interview them and publish a feature article about their business online for the world to see.
- Let the web directory demonstrate and prove your abilities and your heart’s intention to, first and foremost, be of service and win their trust. Once local business owners see firsthand that you are not out to exploit their ignorance and make a quick buck at their expense, they will be receptive to your suggestions for improving (or getting) their website and/or other online marketing strategies you might suggest.
Today, Yvonne helps local businesses in Northern Virginia and elsewhere get a web presence that works. You can read more about Yvonne and see examples of her work at http://www.herbstmarketing.com and http://www.warrentonfavorites.com. You can read Yvonne’s review of the Small Biz WordPress Theme here.
If you like what you see and would like to save yourself hundreds — even thousands — of frustrating hours developing your own solution or hunting for an affordable ready-made solution — give Yvonne a call. We can customize the WarrentonFavorites.com design and layout to suit your requirements, at a reasonable price.
See my disclosure about advertising and affiliate links