Interview with LocalPrice.com Startup Founder: Rob Shields
LocalPrice is a privately held Atlanta-based startup founded in 2008 by Rob Shields. Rob has 10 years of broad experience working for internet companies. He agreed to answer a few questions about his work for LocalPrice and the ideas that power this online local service price comparison shopping site.
Thanks for taking time out to talk about what you are doing with Local Price. Can you start by giving us some background on yourself and how you came to be involved with this interesting startup?
Growing up in Western Kentucky, I worked for my father’s stump removal business. As soon as I could drive, he turned it over to my brother and me to run. We’d market our services by taking a business card and sticking it in the door of any house we saw with stumps in the yard. On the back of the card, we’d write something like:
“2 stumps in front yard removed: $40.”
I was always amazed by how effective this was. As soon as people saw a price, they were far more interested in the service. This was a lesson I took to heart. Since then, I’ve spent most of the last 10 years working for companies offering consumers online personal finance solutions. Most recently, I was responsible for new products at CheckFree Services Inc.
So when I came up with the idea for LocalPrice, I drew on my early experience marketing the stump cutting business. Given how difficult it still is for consumers to get a quote for most services, I felt that LocalPrice could act like the business card quotes we gave. By giving customers pricing information that is hard to find elsewhere, we’ll encourage consumers to buy when they may have never otherwise considered it.
What does LocalPrice offer?
LocalPrice allows online shoppers to compare local service providers based on price and other objective criteria. Let’s say you are shopping for the latest flatscreen TVs online, you’re probably aware that prices and feature comparison information is widely available. By contrast, if you are looking for services like: Atlanta home security systems, Atlanta locksmiths, granite countertops, movers, dentist in Atlanta, lasik surgeons, etc. it’s not as easy. These services are provided by small, local businesses who generally don’t list their prices online. So getting a few quotes can require hours of time. Surprisingly, no site offers price comparisons of these services. LocalPrice is the first.
How is it different from other service comparison sites?
Unlike Kudzu, Yelp and other sites offering subjective consumer reviews, LocalPrice compares providers based on price and other objective criteria that matter most to consumers making a decision.
I routinely monitor the 20 or so web hosting reviews posted at Clickfire and adjust pricing and feature data as it changes. This can be a pain to do manually and sometimes it takes a while. How do you ensure that visitors get fresh data?
The service providers you see listed on LocalPrice are responsible for the pricing and other data listed on the site. It will be the responsibility of each service providers to ensure that this information is current. Fortunately, pricing information for services is typically more stable than that of products. So there is not a great deal of churn in the data.
Tell us a little bit about how you came up with the idea for LocalPrice.
Early this year, my wife, Allie, was getting quotes on replacing the shocks on her car. The shops she called gave her quotes that were all over the place. When she told me about it, I wondered whether any site allowed users to do comparison shopping for local services. I was surprised to find that there weren’t any. In fact, I found that there was very little local service-pricing information online. Like Allie, folks shopping for local services have to make many phone calls to get information. It’s a very inefficient process. I came up with LocalPrice as a solution. Through LocalPrice, folks shopping for a service can get a ball-park estimate from a number of top providers instantly.
I know that some of the local business portals here in Atlanta and elsewhere struggle when it comes to organic search. Will you be utilizing SEO for LocalPrice? What promotional techniques are you currently using to spread the word?
We are using modern SEO techniques to optimize LocalPrice including the basics like good copy, Metas, linking, sitemaps, and other essentials. We are also looking at the promotion of LocalPrice in a more holistic manner in that we are looking at more than just the traditional SEO techniques. We are promoting the site through social media, blogs, shared advice via articles, and most of all, old fashioned world of mouth.
What are some of the pitfalls and successes you’ve encountered so far with your new business venture?
When we launched the site, we really didn’t have any ideas how businesses would react to us requesting that we place their prices next to those of their competitors on a site open to anyone. Most of the businesses we list on LocalPrice do not list their prices on their own web site. We’ve been surprised to find how receptive businesses have been to listing with us. We continue to get more and more businesses requesting a listing.
As far as pitfalls are concerned, there have been many. But I guess that this is the nature of a startup. Fundraising in an economic environment like we have today would probably be one that readily comes to mind.
Recently there have been some big downturns in the economy. People are losing jobs, 401ks are dropping, and the future is uncertain for many at home and in business. Is the current situation on Wall Street and Main Street affecting your business?
It is affecting us in a number ways, both good and bad. As the economy worsens, consumers are more interested in saving money and I think that this increases interest in sites like ours. However, as a business that will eventually be supported by advertisers, I believe that we will have to work even harder to prove our ROI to service providers that advertise with us.
If I own a business how can I get my business listed on Local Price?
If you have an Atlanta area service business that falls into a category we either currently cover or will cover – see the “Services” section of our site for a list- fill out the “List Your Business Form” for a free listing.