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Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, October 27, 2006

(Marketing) Score!

How about a marketing success story, for a change? A few months ago, American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines, hired my wife to write a story about cool USB devices. Since I’m familiar with the subject, I did the research for her. We included Curio City’s USB Computer Fan among the other offerings I found, and disclosed our relationship to Curio City. American Way used the item in spite of that.

The magazine hit the planes on October 15, and goes off distribution on the 29th. To date, the article has moved 37 of the 60 fans that I had in stock. That’s zero-cost advertising – in fact, they paid Anne to write the story! Even better, the USB fan is one of the few things I carry with a markup comfortably exceeding 50%, which makes up for “loss leaders” like the Neverlate clock. And perhaps best of all, the article directs people to my front page, rather than landing them on a specific product page as my pay-per-click ads do. That means shoppers have to hunt a bit to find what they’re looking for. Five of those customers did indeed make additional purchases.

This is easily my single most successful promotion to date. I exceeded my sales goal for the last week of October, and came within striking distance of making the month (which would be a first). It’s my second-best week ever, and there's still a day and a half left in fiscal October; if I use calendar accounting instead, I’ll almost surely show my first-ever monthly profit. If it weren’t for October’s “web development” expense (which comes from startup cash, and should have been paid in September), I would already be in the black. Even my open-to-buy has a positive balance…although I won’t sit on that for long!

I wish I could repeat this. With ample help from my wife (I mean, my "vice president for marketing"), I’m creating a media kit for distribution to about 100 newspapers in major cities and college towns. The objective is to get my products included in their holiday gift guides. If I can get even half a dozen mentions comparable to the American Way insertion, success will be assured.

In another marketing development…one shopper, who found my pay-per-click ad for novelty golf balls, is organizing a Spring 2007 golf tournament for 200 ladies. The event will have an “wild and crazy time” theme, and she wants 200 sleeves of animal print golf balls as gifts to the participants. Cha-ching! But she can’t afford to pay $10 apiece for them, and asked what kind of quantity discount I could offer her. She mentioned ad space in her magazine as an incentive.

The magazine is called Gentry. It circulates to 77,000 wealthy older readers in the greater San Francisco area. I’ll sell her the golf balls for my cost and pay the shipping charges out of my pocket, actually taking a loss on the sale. In exchange, she’s giving me a one-time ¼ page four-color display ad valued at $1300. I still need to actually make the ad. I should be able to get it into their February issue, for Valentines Day.

This is how I will grow Curio City – one media placement, one ad insertion, at a time. Nothing that I’ve done up to now has paid off in any substantial way, but I feel like I’m on the verge of figuring out cost-effective marketing – and that is going to be the key to success.

Other Forthcoming Topics:

  • What Does Success Look Like?
  • Credit Card processing fees
  • Possible Futures
  • Planned features
  • O, Canada

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