FreeConnect - Business Directory Search With Multichannel Capability

Today we showcase an exciting and interesting startup, in the online business directory search market segment, from Sydney Australia, FreeConnect - An online business directory search with multichannel capability, including VOIP. It was started by John Kennedy and was launched on May 28, 2008.

In my view, FreeConnect is definitely a unique service in the Australian business directories market segment as compared to other players. It has the huge potential to change market forces. It offers consumers a free way to connect with the business of their choice via (multichannel) telephone, email, SMS and VOIP. It is also Australia’s first-ever VOIP online directory service.

It allows businesses to post a wide array of information - everything from their address and contact details to product and service information, photographs, payment options, business history and more – all at no cost. The only payment businesses make is for the actual lead when it connects them with a customer looking for their service.

Let us explore what John has to say about his venture FreeConnect and his thoughts for the future. This is what he has to say:

• Who are the people behind this and how it started?
John Kennedy

• What is your background?
Advertising Executive in Europe

• How long it took before it was up and running?
3 years

• What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
Accurate pay-per-lead enquiries for the business and FreeConnects for the public

• How does FreeConnect Work?
For businesses wanting to purchase leads, FreeConnect operates the same way as a pre-paid mobile phone account, with a $99 advance payment giving the business up to $175 credit which reduces as leads are delivered. Leads range from 40c for an SMS up to $3.00 for a phone connection, with businesses able to specify how and when they are contacted, with options including telephone, email, SMS and more.

Consumers either search FreeConnect’s national online database for a business meeting their criteria or type in keywords specifying their location and the nature of the service they need. The service shifts the cost of the connection to the business, with FreeConnect either ringing the consumer back to link them with the business or sending their details to the company for them to make contact. The service doesn’t cost the customer a cent – they get the right details from the FreeConect website, they don’t have to keep trying different numbers, they just click the FreeConnect button and they are connected to the business free.
With FreeConnect, businesses don’t pay to list or promote their products and services. They only pay for the leads that bring new business in the door, which is a results-driven approach that hasn’t been available before now.

“For Australian businesses not familiar with the internet and its innovations and those of you very familiar with generating business from the internet can now get calls instead of clicks. FreeConnect is the next logical step. Unlike major search engines that charge per click, businesses can’t lose – they can have a totally accurate and detailed listing, they can decide how many leads they want, when and how they want them, and how much they want to pay each month. They have total control.
The ability to specify the number of leads and available times to receive them allows businesses to grow at a rate they can sustain and ensures they don’t receive calls after hours or during holidays. The flexibility of the system enables business owners to suspend customer contact if they’re fully booked, or on vacation simply by changing their preferences online.

We know this approach works. We ran a two month beta test of the new service in Newcastle last October and saw our usage levels grow by a massive 126 per cent each day. If a consumer asks for a plumber in Balmain, it’s a reasonable assumption that there’s a job involved. Every connection represents a customer who is pre-qualified as wanting that particular product or service in that area.
• What type of customers you are targeting?
SME businesses

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
Viral right now and TV soon

• What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is there any new model, which is being tried?
Pay per call/SMS/Fax/Post/email

• Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
Anyone in local commercial search, yellow pages, white pages, google, look etc...

• What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
Oracle, PHP 5 & IPPBX

• Are you using a lot of open-source tool sets for this?

• What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
Linux and Oracle

• What’s your thought on being an entrepreneur? How tough it is to start a venture in Australia?
Almost impossible, great employees are hard to find

• What government resources have you used to help your business? And have they made an impact? Have you sought any funding?
Comet grant

• Which City you are based in?

• Do you have any business advisor/mentor?

• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Think about it longer, ask lots of questions to your mentor and then ask some more!!!!!!!

Thanks, John for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for the future.

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