How do you sell listings on an empty directory?

by iPete
26 replies

My niche directory website is almost empty and I'm desperate to sell a premium listing!

Does anyone have any advise on how to sell listings on an empty-looking directory? Would you recommend making any design changes to make it look more popular?


#directory #empty #listings #sell
  • Profile picture of the author asepkomara
    Hi There,

    Well, i think you should try to contact some of local businesses. Ask them if they want to list their sites/info there.
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  • Profile picture of the author iPete
    I've been working on getting the design right and want to give the impression it's more popular than it is and hopfully this will convert some sales. The traffic is relatively low, about 30 uniques a day. I want the site to eventually run itself but want to get over the hurdle of the site looking rather sparsely popular.

    Are there any tricks to overcome this?

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  • Profile picture of the author Greg guitar
    It looks good; there is plenty to show, so I wouldn't worry it looks empty.

    What does concern me is your statement that you are desperate for a sale; that puts you at a huge disadvantage. They get hit up constantly by people who radiate desperation, and they hate it.

    I wouldn't even ask for a sale to start off; stand out from the hoards of salespeople by giving value first. Give them a free listing for a while, and just introduce yourself, show them what you've done, then build traffic, and offer them services when you are certain it will bring them a good return.

    I think you will make vastly better money with less stress if you simply add tons of businesses for free (at least in the beginning), and tell them about it, gauge their gratitude level, and then offer a casual free consultation to the ones that are nicest to you; their gratitude should be your foot in the door for a 10-20 minute consultation. That is where you can really start building mutually profitable relationships.
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    • Profile picture of the author iPete
      Thanks for your reply Greg. It's been something I've been working on in my spare time for last three years. It's something I really enjoy working on so I know that's a good start and although I said I was desperate for a sale I'm more than willing to be patient. I have been concentrating on the design side of things for a while so now I'm trying think of ways to get the brand out there. If any one else has any ideas as well it would hugely appreciated.

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      • Profile picture of the author Greg guitar
        Originally Posted by iPete View Post

        Thanks for your reply Greg. It's been something I've been working on in my spare time for last three years. It's something I really enjoy working on so I know that's a good start and although I said I was desperate for a sale I'm more than willing to be patient. I have been concentrating on the design side of things for a while so now I'm trying think of ways to get the brand out there. If any one else has any ideas as well it would hugely appreciated.

        Have you thought about using Facebook? They are perhaps the best site for really targeting local traffic; you can actually build a list with just a simple local page. Once you have a few thousand locals looking for deals, you can start approaching businesses with the confidence that comes from knowing you can bring them a return on their investment.

        If you are interested in pursuing Facebook marketing, feel free to hit me up with a PM. I am about to put my Facebook local page up as well, and wouldn't mind sharing ideas, as well as results as they come in. For starters, it wouldn't hurt a bit to pick up some or all of Dr. Ben Adkins' Facebook WSOs, particularly "Offline Gravity Method".
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  • Profile picture of the author tim205
    I agree with Greg, I think giving the first 20-30 businesses a free listing in exchange for a link from their website would be a good way to generate goodwill, traffic and even help your SEO.
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  • Profile picture of the author KimboJim
    I've never made a directory, but I read a lot of threads about this topic. Offer them a lower price so that they buy now. For example, tell them that you plan on building your directory and that people will come to you to find local cafes. Give them 50% for the first 3 months and see if anyone bites.

    Or, you can place a few local cafes on your website for free to make your directory look populated and to grow some traffic. Just take them off later once you have a few businesses that actually pay for their listing.
    Ready for some great content at a low cost?
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    • Profile picture of the author iPete
      I currently offer a months free trial using a premium listing or a cafe can create a basic listing for free.

      I'm concerned I may have been working so close to the project that I may have made a school-boy error somewhere with regards to getting people to sign up
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  • Profile picture of the author drewfioravanti
    What is the value to the business owner of having a premium listing on a website that gets 30 visitors per day?
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    • Profile picture of the author iPete
      True. It doesn't really at the moment but I'm not an experience IM to know how to take it to a popular directory, just looking for some pointers that's all.
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    • Profile picture of the author Sid Hale
      Begin by correcting your meta description tag in the <head> section of the page.

      Your google listing currently reads

      Cafes in Leeds | Good Cafe Guide
      Good Cafe Guide
      Notice: Undefined index: cafe_name in /home/goodcafe/public_html/view/template/common/header.php on line 10 - Notice: Undefined index: cafe_address_1 in

      That's certainly not going to help traffic.

      Sid Hale
      Coming Soon... Rapid Action Profits (Pro)

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    • Profile picture of the author SantiSantana
      Originally Posted by drewfioravanti View Post

      What is the value to the business owner of having a premium listing on a website that gets 30 visitors per day?
      Or in other words (my words anyway) how about you look for the ones who have a website already and offer them a free listing for x period of time in exchange for a link form their website.

      Best thing is probably to offer them a premium listing if you have the option and show them the cost of such listing.

      Of course this differs from the pure internet marketing model where everything happens online, but you might be able to develop a powerful brand image with this that will help you sell down the line. I dont suggest you give more than 3 months listing in any case. In fact you could setup a page where people sign up for them with their credit cards and only start charging them monthly after the free period, with an option to simply opt out before the period if they are not happy with it.

      Hope this helps

      Once you have a few of those accept your offer, start building your audience and focus on getting a higher user base for your next listing campaign. You will have a more powerful message to sign up new businesses when you can say " we have x number of businesses in our directory that gets XXXX visits a month.

      Now at this point I will tell you what I learnt form my best friend who used to own his own radio station. His exact words were:
      "Me apuesto lo que sea a que casi toda la publicidad que vendo no le sirve a mis clientes".

      While you google the meaning of that piece of inside knowledge given to me by a 19 year old radio station owner, find a way to track if those listings are sending customers or not. THe only way I can think of right now is turn those listings into coupon of some sort, so that the customer should use a code in the listing to get an offer or discount of some sort.

      Alternatively, you could give all your listings for free and monetize the site a different way. That's what they do in this site MIL ANUNCIOS.COM: segunda mano, anuncios gratis, empleo, contactos, clasificados...

      Oh yes, that one is also in Spanish. Did I tell you I'm Spanish? basically they put adsense in some sections and do a few other things here and there. The site is plain ugly, and it now advertises on national TV. Go figure.

      The other idea I can give you I got from a 5 quid booklet I bought while living in London. I have added a twist or two to adapt it to your current situation. Get as many listings as you can, possibly free of charge to widen the pool. Offer perhaps a 2 or3 month free listing to begin with.

      During that period of time find out the ones without a loyalty scheme of some sort. You can offer those a combined loyalty card. Tell them that instead of them paying you per card, you want their best possible offer. Discard x% off offers. Its not what you are looking for. Coffee shops have some high margin items, ( I know, I was a store manager for Caffé Nero for 3 years) so you need them to offer you some free items for first and last visit, perhaps with a discount for middle purchases.

      You can then create a Big loyalty card for those businesses you have signed up. That card will be for SALE, as opposed to your standard loyalty card which is freely given away. That's why you needed to get those free things from the businesses.

      You offer value to the customer. They are paying for the card yes, but (if you have done your job well) they will get much more than they paid for.

      You offer value to the businesses. The card doesnt have any upfront cost for them. They only "pay" once a customer is already in shop and already buying other items, which should make up for the free high margin product being given away.

      Your businesses also make money on cards sold (yes, you can offer them this deal and chances are they will accept, so that you also get a distribution network without an upfront expense)

      And you make money providing your businesses with free listings and cards that only pay for themselves once the customers are already spending money with them. As word goes around that your business provides such value for everyone I'm sure you''l find room to grow.

      Two caveats: First one, I have only seen this model ( minus the internet part) in action once, so I don't have enough data to back up how well it works. it did for them but they were kids on a school project, business owners tend to be more supporting with kids doing grown up things I suppose, so I don't know if they even tracked results or just gave the kids a hand. And people on the streets just probably bought them because they were kids begging for school trip money, like they do in Christmas around here selling you christmas cakes and the like.

      Second caveat. The kids only had three businesses in their "loyalty" card. So they had the card printed with three rows with squares that would be punch holed. I don't know how you could cheaply handle having a lot of businesses in a single card.

      "Disclaimer: the kids that did the project were "given" this idea by my nephew who was also in that project. As I said before there is a lot of goodwill when it's kids doing the selling. I have no way of knowing if it would work equally well any other way.

      Hope this helps.

      Writer for hire

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  • Profile picture of the author drewfioravanti
    The first thing you should do is get traffic. Put all free listings in there if you have to. Have some banner ads. Links to the businesses website, and track clicks. Once you get a viable amount of traffic, you will have hard stats to try to make the sale.

    Pretending to have a popular site so you can get someone to pay you is a ruse. You are giving absolutely zero value to your customers. You are only pretending to give them a service so you can get money out of them. You will not have success for very long with that business model.
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    • Profile picture of the author iPete
      Originally Posted by drewfioravanti View Post

      The first thing you should do is get traffic. Put all free listings in there if you have to.
      If I give premium listings away for free for one year will that make it difficult to ask for money from the business next year?

      Apologies if this is basic stuff.
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  • Profile picture of the author drewfioravanti
    I have no idea really as I am not in that space. But what I do know is that if you pretend to have a valuable product, and do not, your cusomters will figure this out and be pissed.

    I also know that businesses often send out notifications that "Your business' premium listing is expiring. Renew now" to businesses all the time. And I know most of those businesses getting the notifications either never signed up for a premium listing or don't remember signing up for a premium listing. And I further know that some of those businesses do not want their premium listing to expire, so they act.
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    • Profile picture of the author iPete
      Thanks for your help. Appreciate it.
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    • Profile picture of the author Sid Hale
      I understand your desire to monetize the site now, but I'm getting totally unrelated ads showing on all pages. (i.e., and an ad for a 10K run in the US, and Lifelock identity protection services)

      Also, the home page is showing cafes in Leeds by default. The best thing to do for the home page would be to have a different default selection, based on geo-location. Keep the search box at the top, so visitors can look elsewhere if desired, but default to cafes in their current vicinity.

      Do you have a mobile ready version? This would be a great addition (maybe one of your premium services), and makes the geo-location function that much more important.

      Sid Hale
      Coming Soon... Rapid Action Profits (Pro)

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      • Profile picture of the author iPete
        Thanks SantiSantana. Interesting idea!

        Thanks Sid. I am currently developing the mobile site, I was thinking this could be maybe an addon down the line.

        I'm not looking to make a quick buck out of the site as it my hobby in my spare time, I think a little guidance here and there and I will get there, eventually!
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  • Profile picture of the author Tim3
    Nice idea but personally I think your niche is too small, I might be inclined to do places to eat instead, and use cafes as a sub-topic (build another site)

    Make a nice page up for all the businesses in your area and start sending them traffic (you must track this)

    Get you site to the top of Goog if it isn't already.

    After a period of time, (your choice) contact each business owner in turn and tell them you have been sending them customers via your website, (give them the url and the search term that shows your site at the top of G), if you would like to continue to benefit from me doing so there is a nominal charge of x £ per month.

    and then something like... "If you are not interested, no problem, thankyou for your time, I will remove your listing immediately and divert the traffic to other businesses in the area (be tactful and don't make it sound like a threat! )

    Don't forget to offer them a custom page design to their own spec for more £££, FB page £, website £ etc and you can do this whether or not they want to pay for an ad listing.

    Never tried this in the UK, but it works well in the US
    Site looks good btw.

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    • Profile picture of the author iPete
      Thanks for the ideas Tim. Great to get other people's take on my site.

      I know there will be a lot of addons like those you suggested which I can monetize so it's just a matter of me making a strategy and increasing traffic.
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  • Profile picture of the author jgant
    Focus on targeted traffic and fill in some listings. Nobody will pay to advertise on an empty site with no traffic.

    I used to own an offline local business and was bombarded with sales pitches all the time. I was a good target because I invested in online marketing. I asked every directory what the average number of clicks for my industry/town was for existing listings. Most of the time I never received an answer, so I didn't bother.

    If you can get traffic and clicks (track it all), you can sell premium listings. It's the outbound clicks that matter. If you can say X competitor received 43 clicks to their site in one month, you have something to sell. Assuming a click sells for $1, you can reasonably charge $43 per month as long as you continue delivering clicks. Many local clicks are worth more.

    Also, when you continue delivering visitors to your advertisers' sites, you'll improve your renewal rates. If they don't renew, let them know how many visitors you sent them during the year. If it's hundreds of visitors, they'll do the math and will likely resign fearing they'll lose customers.
    How I hit $10,000+ per month very fast w/ 1 niche blog - Click Here to learn more (no opt-in).
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  • Profile picture of the author ExpertSEOServices
    Offer businesses a free listing. Build up free listings first then offer premium listings when you have a few to play off each other.

    Also try to get it ranked or get some traffic to it to show businesses the stats the directory is pulling in

    Hope this helps
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  • Profile picture of the author Stuart Walker
    Your site looks nice but I have some questions. Do you own and control the whole site or just the Leeds section of it?

    Did you do any keyword or other research to see whether this was something people were searching for online? When I type 'cafes in Leeds' into Google keyword tool it tells me there are only 110 local searches per month (UK).
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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    There are several different ways. First you have to realize that a directory site requires you to put in about 30 days in intense work to make it sellable and presentable, unless you want to cold sell on a pre-launch, which is a bit harder sale... but the thirty days is sooo worth it, because after that, you have something you can make sales with over and over creating residual income.

    Even 2 listings per weeks at $97 per month creates over six figures per year in PASSIVE RESIDUAL income within 12 months...and its reasonable to sell 5 per week or ten if you really go at it. even more if you REALLY go at it.

    Kudos. I believe Directory sites are the greatest offline business model ever for several reasons.

    There are a few different angles to take, in answer to your questions, but I'm going to give you one or two ideas here for creating perceived value, prior to selling... that will make people want to buy premium listings when you are just starting. Also a synergistic way to make a call list and fill your directory with listings before you even start calling...

    Also, not to be rude but...

    Please no PM's, I cant afford to answer 20 questions via pm on this for 50 people everyday...:

    Here's is how you set yourself up to have perceived value that will make people want to buy...

    A: Pick the top competitors in town, the most prestigious ones, and give them a free premium listing... create it for them.

    B: Contact them and tell them you gave them a free premium listing that you are going to be charging $XXX.XX per year for. Ask them to look it over and make sure you got their info correct and find out if they need any changes. You can do this via email or maybe even lead them through it on the phone.

    C: When they write you back they are going to say THANKS!

    D: Tell them No Problem "Hey if you want to help me out though, you dont have to, but I could really use any testimonial or thanks I can get, to help me attract other business owners, if you dont mind offering a couple of nice words".

    E: They will usually want to help and offer you a couple of lines, but if not you have their thanks, and their permission to list them at least.

    NOW, you have something valuable that you can sell off of...

    When you contact other business owners you can say "Hey Im ______ with____________ you probably know some of the other business people advertising with us like _________ or ________, or maybe you have been to the site and read their testimonials?"

    That gives your premium listings some perceived value.


    Once you have a couple of mock premium clients listings up in each category...

    1: Go ahead and take a couple of hours and put up 100 free 3 line listings (Non Premium) for other businesses. You can get them in the phone book, or however you are generating leads. This is also going to be your initial call list. It literally takes 10-20 seconds to put one up. Within an hour or two you can easily put up 100 free 3 line listings copied right out of the phone book.

    Now your site isnt empty.

    Note: Its most optimal to visit other directory sites and make this list out of people who have premium listings with other directories already, they are proven buyers.

    2: Once the listings are up either contact those people through email and ask them to check out their free listing to make sure the information is correct... or call them and do the same, going over their information with them on the phone.

    While you are at it tell them that _______ has a "premium listing" and proceed to pitch them on the opportunity to upgrade like Bob did.

    I have about 5 other ways of doing this, and some require no cold calling at all, but Im not going to type them all out here.

    For now, this is one way to make sure your directory isnt empty when you start selling.

    Fill it up with more free NON premium listings for an hour everyday before you start calling, or in the evenings after you have finished calling for the day, then the next day make those listings your call list for the day, and just call to make sure you got their info correct and to offer them an upsell to a premium listing.

    Get their email address also and put them on an email list.

    Hope this helps.


    Ps. The process of getting sellable doesnt have to take 30 days, if you stay on it you can do it in a week.

    In a nutshell...create free listings on your site for local businesses...and make your own site your call list. They are half obliged already because you already gave it to them for free with no are just calling to have them look it over and make sure the info is it gives you a MUCH better chance of getting your premium pitch in. You will be able to pitch practically every one of them.

    Spend an hour per day putting up free listings on your site, and the next day that is your call list. Your site is always growing and never empty.

    Sorry I missed the link iPete, if you want to pm it it to me, I will make an exception on the pm thing and check this one out.

    The basic idea is to call them up, make sure you didnt make any mistakes on their free listing. Dont tell them "we are offering you a free listing", say "We have GIVEN you a free listing Already", and you just wanted to make sure it was correct. That will generate a thanks and instant rapport... Now: "While I have you on the line Bob, you can see that _______ has taken out an actual premium listing with us, which has alot of advantages...just so you know; what that is is......." and pitch them.

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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      I've never done this, but there has to be a listing scrapper that will populate your directory very quickly. Then you can sell the listings (or Premium listings).
      One Call Closing book

      What if they're not stars? What if they are holes poked in the top of a container so we can breath?
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  • Profile picture of the author seobro
    Actually, back in the 90's I owned an internet cafe and created a listing of cafe locations as well as set many up. Sadly, that service is not necessary anymore. People now have broadband in their homes and do not need me. Also, people can use their smart phone to check email when they travel over seas.

    Back to your question on getting traffic:
    1) I did promos
    Free coffee
    Free T-shirt (I could get them for 50 cents each)
    Free Doughnuts (A friend had a restaurant)
    Free CD

    2) Created movies of people at the internet cafe.

    3) Posted a lot of picture of people playing games.

    Try to do something that others are not doing now. For example, video is a good idea as people like to watch movies. I did scan in some menus. People like to know what a restaurant serves. Also, include a list of prices.

    All the best to you.
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