Five Steps to a Successful Lookup Offering

Posted On: March 15th, 2010 | Posted by: Dean


We’ve gotten a bunch of new lookup offerings submitted for our approval by potential providers over the past few weeks. Some of them we look at and immediately say to ourselves “Wow…this [guy/gal] gets it!” Others give us a little more pause. In this post, I hope to share the things we think make for a highly-appealing lookup listing — one that will get potential clients clicking “Add to Cart”. Here goes:

1) Offer to Lookup Records That Aren’t Available Elsewhere Online

Genlighten is about helping people find offline records from local repositories. Try to avoid offering lookups for documents that your clients could easily find online at Ancestry or FamilySearch. Of course, if a record is offered online for $40 and you can profitably offer to look it up offline for $10, go right ahead!

2) Craft a Concise Headline Referencing the Locality

Here your goal is to get clients to click on “Get Details” from our basic search results page. Limit your headline to about 50 characters so it doesn’t get truncated.

Good examples: “Jefferson County Kentucky Probate Records”, “Bloomington-Normal Obits from the Pantagraph”. You don’t need to include the date range covered in your headline. Just put it in the “date range” field and we’ll insert it at the end of your headline automatically.

3) Don’t Forget to Put Details in Your “Detailed Description”

“Key Lookup Details” should include these elements:

  • The archive or repository where you’ll perform the lookup
  • How often you visit (and the resulting turnaround time clients can expect)
  • How you’ll perform your search (including the information you’ll need from the client)
  • An online index the client can search to obtain an index entry or certificate number for you to reference (if available)
  • What a “found” and “not found” result will mean for the client
  • What information the client is likely to obtain from the record
  • Limitations on the scope of the search you’ll perform (a single individual, a certain range of years, etc.)

4) Set Realistic Yet Affordable “Found” and “Not Found” Prices

Pricing your offerings is difficult, we know. Only you can decide what your costs are and what you need to earn for the time and effort you’ll spend. Set a price that seems fair to both you and your clients. If in doubt, ask yourself, “What would I be willing to pay for this lookup?”

5) Use the “Client Instructions” to Spell Out Exactly What You Need

Your job as a lookup provider will be easiest when you can reduce the process to a repeatable algorithm that takes specific known inputs and produces the desired record on a consistent basis. This obviously won’t work in many cases, but it’s a goal worth striving for. As you compose your instructions to the client, reduce the data you ask for to the absolute minimum necessary. Tweak this based on the queries you receive.


The main thing that sets the best lookup offerings on Genlighten apart from others is the level of detail they include. Details show that you’ve thought through the lookup process and that you know what you’re doing. They also inspire confidence in potential clients and yield requests that you can successfully fulfill. We’ve had site visitors tell us that they’ve seen lookups they’re interested in but they haven’t ordered because the descriptions were too vague.

We’re happy to offer suggestions and guidance with this process. Please feel free to contact us for help by e-mailing support@genlighten.com.

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