online directories

How to Turn a Free Business Directory Into a Profit Center

The most successful business directories aren’t the most exclusive. They usually aren’t the most expensive for advertisers, either. What the most successful business directories have in common is that they’re free — up to a point, at least. The free business directory has a way of luring in both readers and advertisers with the promise of something for nothing. And who doesn’t like that?

Just remember, creating a free business directory doesn’t mean you have to give everything away for — free. Savvy digital publishers are discovering that it’s possible to launch a free business directory that generates substantial revenue. Here’s a few of the ways those publishers are making it happen.

Basic listings

In order to run a free business directory, publishers usually need to give away something at no cost. In most cases, that means letting businesses add their listings to the business directory for free. What’s the catch? Well, those free listings are usually very small and minimal in scope. Most include just a business name, telephone number, and physical address. In order for business owners to include images, highlighted text, or outbound website links, they need to pay for upgraded or premium listings.
Basic listings are a great way to bring new businesses, which could eventually turn into paying advertisers, to an online directory. Just make sure to give business owners plenty of opportunities to upgrade their basic listings, even once those listings have gone live on the directory. For example, you could send business owners weekly emails showing how much web traffic and engagement their listings are generating, as well as invitations to upgrade to premium listings — for a fee. These periodic emails serve as good reminders, in case business owners have forgotten about their listings, and relevant page view statistics justify the value of upgrading to paid promotions.

In some cases, a simple weekly or monthly email isn’t enough to encourage a business owner to upgrade from a basic free listing to a premium listing. In those cases you may want to try…

Free trial offers

If you’re confident in your product, then a 30-day free trial is an excellent way to expose business owners to the effect that premium listings on your directory could have on their companies. For maximum impact, upgrade businesses to the highest level of service — for example, a premium listing with an image gallery and outbound website links — and then carefully track the number of page views, click-throughs, and other engagement metrics during the trial period. These metrics will be valuable when the 30-day free trial has expired and it’s time to sell the business on a regularly-priced upgraded listing.

When you sell digital products, like listings on a free business directory, it doesn’t cost you anything to temporarily give away the product for free. It’s also easy to revoke access, which makes the 30-day free trial an effective strategy for encouraging business advertisers to upgrade to premium listings on your business directory.

Digital incentives

Basic listings are the foundation of a free business directory. Most businesses — particularly small and mid-size businesses — will create accounts on a free business directory just for the opportunity to have their business information included on the public page. But even a free business directory that’s centered around listings can have some valuable add-ons, for a price.

The sky is the limit when it comes to the value-added services you can offer with a digital business directory. Outbound links, location maps, and image galleries are a few of the self-service options that businesses can add to listings on their own, but the addition of more customized marketing services, like individual business landing pages, ecommerce capabilities, and online reputation management, can turn your free business directory into a hub for local digital marketing.

Imagine if a business owner arrived at your free business directory planning to post a basic listing for his business, and after doing so, he sees the option to sell products or accept client bookings directly through the listing he just created. Imagine the extra value you would be providing for the business, and the profit that these digital marketing add-ons would generate on a larger scale.

On the surface, it may look like business directories are generating their revenue from paid listings, but the vast majority of successful directory publishers are utilizing digital incentives and other value add-ons to make their directories profitable. If you’d like more information about how to increase the profitability of your own business directory, feel free to reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.