RedBeacon – Find A Local Service and Book It is a service that allows consumers to find local businesses or service providers, get a price quote, and schedule an appointment with them.  The site officially launched earlier this month at the TechCrunch50 event in San Francisco.  There, it won the presentation contest for 2009 and took the $50,000 grand prize from TechCrunch50 as well.

The RedBeacon concept isn’t new, of course, but the way its implemented certainly is.  As Aaron Lee, cofounder and Software Engineering lead at RedBeacon said at the conference, “One of the things that sets RedBeacon apart is the sophisticated algorithms we’ve developed to match consumers’ service needs to local providers who are best qualified for the job.”

The way that works is pretty interesting, for sure.  Consumers can log in, put in a profile for the service they’re looking for that includes a time, place, and so forth.  Using this information, RedBeacon then matches them with registered service providers who’re capable of delivering that product or service to that place and time.  This results in a list that the consumer can see and compare.  The customer then picks one and sets up an appointment time right there on the site.

Businesses and providers benefit by the increased exposure and job leads, for which they do not have to pay, and they can use the service to establish themselves and save a lot of phone and scheduling time.  Providers pay only for the jobs scheduled through RedBeacon, which charges 10% of the job’s value.

Right now, RedBeacon is focused on the San Francisco Bay Area, but will soon expand to a national focus as the site catches on.

The overall concept and the execution I see on RedBeacon looks very good and this is a great concept and service.  My only problem is with that 10% charge.  That cost obviously has to be factored into the total price charged the consumer if the business is to make a profit.  This means that prices could potentially be higher.

Over time, the savings could be realized by the business, of course, with lower overhead from advertising.  Initially, however, I doubt this will be the case, so it will be an added cost rather than a savings in marketing or other costs.  That means more overhead, which means a higher price to customers to cover it.

I could see this initial cost barrier being a reason that some providers might skip using RedBeacon altogether or charge higher prices to those who find them through the service.

The concept is very good, though, and I think RedBeacon is definitely on to something.  For smaller businesses that can’t afford $500/month payments to keep a Yellow Pages ad or do billboard advertising, I could see this as a great venue.  Definitely something for the one-man shop that services pools, cars, does handyman work, babysitters, and so forth to try, though.

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