Fast Company

Franchising On The Internet

When I was a kid the only phone books anybody had were the ones they delivered when you ordered your phone. Then came the Donnelly yellow pages, the Smart Yellow Pages, and the yellow pages from competing phone companies on the other side of town. With so much competition, most people would assume yellow page advertising would get cheaper, but anyone who has placed an ad recently will tell you it’s still several hundred dollars a month for a tiny ad. This is what frustrated Brandon Muth, a web developer in Albuquerque New Mexico. When his local yellow pages promised him guaranteed clicks and targeted placement and didn’t deliver but still charged him $600, Brandon figured he could do it better and launched www.clickbricks.com. Part yellow pages, part review site, ClickBricks offers features such as full page listings, photos, cross marketing with other businesses, and printable coupons for as little as $9 a month.

Brandon gave me a site tour of ClickBricks and I was impressed, but like any new website he faced the challenge of building traffic. I asked him how he could expand beyond his new home base in Tampa Florida, and he explained that dissatisfied yellow page salespeople were contacting him about marketing ClickBricks in their home cities. As it turns out, not only were advertisers unhappy with the yellow pages but the sales reps were too. From this discovery, Brandon created a clever new sales model that may change the way new websites build traffic. Brandon is franchising ClickBricks by the city to former ad salesmen. Franchising on the Internet seems counterintuitive, but since ClickBricks still needs sales reps on the ground, this model gives Brandon the sales coverage he needs to grow the business without the hiring and payroll cost of a sales force. As Brandon explained his plans for growth, I realized his real innovation wasn’t the ClickBricks site, but the business model that he is using to expand.

The ClickBricks site has a 30-day free trial and if you want to try some new media advertising it’s definitely worth checking out, but I think the bigger opportunity for those looking for something new might be the ClickBricks franchising model. It just might be the hottest new trend on – and off – the Internet.

This story was voted up for coverage on The Killer Pitch portal. Help me pick the stories for FC Buzz by voting HERE (instructions on the portal home page).

Coming soon to Fast Company Buzz, 1-on-1 video interviews with Ashton Kutcher, who is launching a new web property, and Guy Kawasaki of Garage Technology Ventures, as well as in-depth VC discussions with Venrock and CMEA Ventures.

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