On becoming proactive
Tom points us to a provocative idea for home builders. If you want to sell a new house, why not offer prospective buyers help in selling their old houses? Send your idle crews to their house to paint it or do other important cosmetic fixes. Fill the old house with the furniture you use in your models, etc.
Take it a step further. If your home building service is totally slack, why not get to work upgrading and selling older homes or even foreclosed ones?
Consider what a solo entrepreneur could do using eBay: instead of waiting for people to hold garage sales, why not distribute flyers offering to run a virtual garage sale for anyone who will open their home to you? Go in with a digital camera, catalog and photograph the top 20 most valuable items in the house and sell them on eBay… and split the money. Your proactive effort overcomes the seller's inertia and you both profit.
There are huge opportunities for this in the business to business space as well. Most companies would welcome a post-tax-day accountant who offered (on spec) to review bills or expenses in exchange for half the money saved. If they had time, they'd do it themselves, but of course they don't.
In my experience, much of marketing is a game of waiting for the other guy to go first. Well, if nothing is happening, you go first.