Starting from scratch with a new business idea

A new telephone service based on internet and advertising

The problem

A young entrepreneur, with a background in sales and marketing in a textile company, reaches out to Contract Manager thanks to the recommendation of a well-known headhunter in Milan. His problem is quite simple: he needs assistance in drawing up a business plan to launch a new venture. The idea is aligned with the growth of the internet, search engines and mobile phones.
His intention is to launch a new service in Italy. The idea is to provide information via phone to anyone who needs it through web searches, supplying a wide range of information and not just an address or a phone number, as other well-advertised operators already do. The idea is to provide exhaustive, customized information, seeking out the right solution to the caller’s specific needs. To do so requires building a team of young people skilled in the use of search engines, working around the clock across Europe. A very ambitious project.

The solution

The idea was already well developed in the mind of the entrepreneur: a telephone information service using the main search engines; a team of bright youngsters; powerful hardware and software to handle the calls and to trace user profiles. The foundations were there. What was missing was just a coherent approach to marketing the service. First of all: how to sell the service and, secondly, how to advertise it. The idea that emerged from a series of brainstorming sessions was to offer a free service on an international number, paid for by advertisers. Advertisements would cover the cost of the service and users wouldn’t pay anything. This was his daring idea. However, the service had to be promoted to get advertisers to use it. It had to be designed and tested, and then had to generate enough traffic to make it appealing to investors. An unconventional marketing strategy was chosen to promote the service, exploiting the potential of Web 2.0 and stimulating discussion of information services on blogs and in communities about information services.  It targeted an enormous range of potential customers: basically, anyone who needs information but doesn’t have access to a computer or the latest model of smartphone. Giving the service visibility through the involvement of young people in their first jobs, stressing its social value, was somewhat akin to the Google concept: free information provided by young people and paid for by advertisers. The support to the young entrepreneur lasted for six months. The business plan was drawn up but, most important of all, the company was formed and, for over a year now, has been providing free information to anyone who calls its toll-free number.