The Washington Post continues ramping up its vertical strategy, launching Service Alley to provide leads for home and trade professionals. The site, which is a standalone and not directly linked to Washingtonpost.com, follows the launch of other Post verticals, such as Capitol Dish.
The site currently serves Washington D.C., and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs. It efficiently divides listing categories in three main groups: “Cleaning Services,” “Inside the Home” and “Outside the Home.” It features full-fledged directories of providers built on licensed data; and a “Coupons in Washington D.C.” section.
In addition to procuring leads for home and trade providers, the service also has weekly deals of service providers with a strong viral element. If three friends buy a deal based on your recommendation, the deal is free for you. Only businesses that have been well reviewed are allowed to participate.
The site also has a convenient list of your own favorite providers that you can use for reference (although, in the spirit of review generation, it might be better to have made it a list of providers that you have actually reviewed).
Service Alley has also been designed to maximize its use of social media. Users can connect with their friends and neighbors via Facebook, and check out their recommendations in Service Alley’s directory, which is built from licensed data.
Currently, there are two tiers of participation for service providers. The free basic tier gives three free leads and some basic info and charges $9 every time a coupon is activated from the coupon directory. A “pro” tier is $30 a month (or $300 per year) and enables unlimited leads, multiple listings in different categories, testimonials and awards listings, and a discounted $3 coupon activation rate.
Interestingly, the engine that powers Service Alley is provided by TeachStreet, the Seattle-based site that connects consumers with classes and teachers. While TeachStreet remains focused on its own fast-growing activities, it turns out to have an engine that is totally compatible for home and trade providers, says The Post’s Tim Condon, who is director of new digital ventures.
Condon tells us that The Post determined that there was plenty of room for a new entrant for home and trade in town, and that it was time to get back in the water. The Post had tried out a number of home and trade-focused dot-com projects over the years, including a big effort with BigBook in 1998.
The Washington metro area, of course, with its strong demographic profile, is one of Angie’s List’s best markets. But home and trade leaders such as Angie’s List and ServiceMagic are relatively closed systems, says Condon. To use them, you either have to be a member or accept the leads they give you.
By jumping in the water now, The Post beat the likely entry of other home and trade sites, such as Redbeacon, ThumbTack, LikeList and HelpHive. It also gets a jump on efforts by existing providers such as Kudzu and ServiceMagic. The challenge — as it is for all these services — is to ramp up the sales efforts for this hard to reach but valuable segment.
The Post’s Tim Condon is a featured speaker at ILM East in Boston March 21-23.