We’re often asked to promote new businesses (pro bono) on Richmondmom.com and when appropriate, when we have the space and our team isn’t super-stretched, we’re happy to oblige.
After all, I was a start-up five years ago with few resources and I’ve always felt compelled to pay the kindness I received from others forward. Here’s the thing that’s tough for us to verbalize to a brand-new business owner: one pro-bono ad on a blog with 150,000+ unique annual visitors sounds super-sexy, but truth be told it may not net you one sale.
True branding–staying power–takes an immense amount of investment, content, sources, links, and most importantly–relationships and proven customer service.
I’m not trying to be cold here; anyone who knows me knows I’m a bleeding heart. On this issue however it’s been a long time brewing in my message to new business owners: if you can’t afford to advertise or hire a sales rep (or be willing to market yourself), you likely aren’t ready to launch your business.
The first two years of my entrepreneurial journey were spent networking at women’s groups and Chamber of Commerce events, talking with small groups of parents at any (every) opportunity, and yes spending thousands of dollars on advertising, primarily on the web. Note: I’m not saying this because we derive our revenue from advertising. we’re a niche site and there are countless ways to market a brand.
I didn’t make a cent the first two years I was in business, and I was willing to make that physical, emotional and financial investment to make our blog polished, branded, stoic in the sea of come-again blogs that don’t stick.
I did everything myself at first from knocking on potential clients’ doors to mailing follow-up notes and business cards to standing for hours on end at children’s fairs in the hazy Richmond summer heat. Was I exhausted? YES! Was I frustrated? HELL YES.
If you’re not willing to do that, it’s like launching a business and going out for a swing. It may be a while before the breeze whips through your hair, but with careful investment of time and money + a boatload of passion, it’ll click.