Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How To Sell Something You Know Nothing About

David Carter Story

One of the many remarkable aspects of the Internet is how easily people can use it to pretend to be something they aren't. There are, of course, terrifying results, such as when crooks pose as your bank.

But David Carter has taken that capacity for misdirection and made it into a legitimate way to make money.

For instance, Carter didn't know a thing about asbestos when he launched - yet it sure looked as if he did. He wrote about regulatory changes in his native England by culling data from a government website. He explained what property owners needed to do to comply. He even posted local phone numbers for his "business" in London, Manchester, and Birmingham, each of which was forwarded to an answering service.

When inquiries flooded in, Carter steered them to an acquaintance who really was an asbestos surveyor. The requests were far more than one surveyor could handle, but Carter continued to book new customers.

"I told them there was a big backlog," recalls Carter, who is 47 and lives in Birmingham. "Then I said, 'Oh, God. What do I do now?'"

To Carter, there was really only one answer: Become a surveyor himself.
So with eager customers, Carter turned his site and follow-on properties into an actual business, called He took a half-week course, got certified, and teamed up with his friend. Today, once or twice a week -essentially whenever he feels like getting out of the house - Carter surveys a property, armed with a digital camera and notepad. The effort, he says, will net the pair about $350,000 this year.

Carter set up the site three years ago as an experiment to see what would happen if he dressed up a website to reflect a more serious and professional operation than it actually was. In doing so he stumbled across what turned out to be a clever way to cash in on the power of Internet search and marketing. The basic strategy: Build the customer base first, and then figure out how to sell to it.