Last week, I posted a 36 page PDF of Harvey Brody’s presentation on the tollbooth or toll position concept. Yes, it probably could have been condensed into half that number of pages and no, it was not a setup to sell you one of his products.
Here are eight tollbooths I came up with. The list could be expanded but it’s a decent starting place.
Review Site Tollbooths
Angie’s List (AngiesList.com) is a rating service for residential contractors, like painters, plumbers and repairmen, with annual memberships starting at $35. The beauty of this tollbooth is its content, like Amazon.com is user generated. But, unlike Amazon with its huge warehouses, inventories and distribution systems, there’s almost no overhead besides advertising and hosting. Angie’s list does somewhere around $30 million per year in revenue. RatedPeople.com, in the U.K is similar to Angie’s List.
There are many outstanding examples which could be used. I’m partial to intermittent windshield wipers, invented by Robert Kearns. Imagine receiving a fee for every single automobile manufactured in the United States from 1969 to 1988. Kearns conceived one of the most elegant and useful tollbooths, even though he had to endure a decade of legal battles against the Big Three automakers before triumphing.
It can take many years and huge investment to establish a trademark everyone recognizes. Some logos which leap to mind in no special order are: McDonald’s, Ferrari, Google, FedEx and Nike. But, here’s the beauty of trademarks. Unlike copyrights and patents, trademark rights can last indefinitely, as long as the owner continues to use the mark to identify its goods or services.
America Online. One day, future archeologists will unearth millions of CD’s from the late 20th Century with curious slogans like: “1000 Free Hours” and “Introducing Unlimited Dial Up.” Upon investigation, they’ll conclude that AOL possessed one of the greatest tollbooths ever devised. The sheer numbers of people getting online was one of the largest commercial migrations in history and AOL was at the center of the toll road.
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” As a kid, I played a few games of speed chess at the Marshall Chess Club in New York against a pleasant old-timer. I didn’t find out till years later that the old timer was songwriter, Johnny Marks, who composed “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” I heard Marks collected somewhere around $800,000 a year in royalties for a song that took him less than a day to write. No wonder he was so pleasant!
Search Engine Tollbooths
Google had a 63.7 percent share of the 14.3 billion searches in the U.S. in March 2009. Yahoo had only 20.5. And the spread continues to widen. It’s interesting to recall that ten years ago, Excite, AltaVista, HotBot and Lycos were among the top search engines.
eBay may be a shadow of its former self but when you think auction, it’s the business that still springs to mind.
Mailing List Tollbooths
It’s been pounded in our heads enough times: “the money is in the list.” I like Ben Kingsley’s character’s line in the film Schindler’s List: “the list is life” And the list -– whether it’s of the email or direct mail variety — is one of the surest and fastest to set up tollbooths there is. Almost anyone can set up an AdWords campaign and start driving traffic to a squeeze page in mere minutes. But my preferred method to start a list will always be the joint venture. Create a sold product, find appropriate partners and give away a free widget on the page your partners drive traffic to. I went from zilch to having a healthy sized list within weeks, using this method.