How do you launch a brand as a niche publisher? Guts, risk, timing, funding, content – even geography – play a role. The chances of launching a successful new niche publication of course depends on these things and more. Moreover, the famous “four P’s” of marketing play a role, too. If I was to add a few more “P’s” – plan, preparation, proposition of value, public relations – you’d have an even higher success rate.
As a niche publisher in both the corporate and entrepreneurial world, I have found the following things play the highest percentages in a successful launch. Here’s my “Top 12.”
1. Market: Identifying and catching a market on an upswing, not at a peak.
2. Revenue mix: Ad based? Subscriber base? Mixed? Decide.
3. List of subscribers/traffic creation: To me, this has always been the hardest to do, but in some markets it’s not. I have experienced both. My most recent launch, that I monetized a year ago, offered me their lists because they were so thrilled to have a “real” publication (as they called it) in competition with a brand that had been the 800-lb. gorilla and had started taking advantage of that fact by boosting rates by double-digit percentages.
4. Content: This is a big cost in launches, but hiring a great editor with industry connections is one of you best moves. Trying to do it yourself, or aggregating content can work, but is risky and sucks a lot of time. Take the leap. And remember that not all investment is revenue based. You can always offer equity or ownership to protect your funding and burn-rate.
5. Competition: Did someone beat you to it? How are they funded? How long have they been in existence? What’s their revenue model? How’s their social media following? Who owns them? Having a competitor often justifies a market. If there is a competitor don’t let it be a barrier right away.
6. Plan: Setting the world on fire in Year One is a unicorn. There’s a high chance of only a break-even or a small loss unless you have really hit the home run and caught a market at the right time, with the right media mix. Plan out 3-5 years.
7. Partnerships: Can you get an association on board as a partner? Become an official “member benefit?” Many small publishers overlook the power of partnerships.
8. Research: One of the best tricks I use is to investigate the existence in any spare of trade shows and conferences and count the number of exhibitors and sponsors, and look at the announced show dates and venues for the following year. If a show/conference is in San Antonio one year but New Orleans the next, you’re onto something. The more expensive the city, the chance that the market and show and enthusiasm for them are high. Reach out, make a partnership.
9. Proximity and geography: This is often overlooked. Often a customer/advertiser base is clumped geographically. This creates a big savings in T/E and can also accelerate attendance for any show or conference you plan.
10. Start small. Establish a beachhead first. You don’t need to enter a market with a huge media mix. You can cherry-pick three-four media opportunities and build from there. My last launch I started simply with a website and a Twitter feed.
11. Good design, killer materials: In media, like anything else, first impression is everything. Website, logo, branding…the list goes on. Hire professionals.
…and last but not least:
12. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Entrepreneurs fall into this trap often. Don’t. Use contractors. Try to get barter, call in favors, but be the manager as much as possible. By trying to be Superman(or Superwoman,) you undercut your potential for revenue. Only do the things you excel at. Are you a sales person? Great, do sales. Marketing/designer? Do that. But delegate everything else.
13. (Baker’s dozen) Use LinkedIn. Use it to the right person for what you need, from the right person at a potential client to a job posting for an editor.
These are some things that have helped me in my launches. Good luck with your next great adventure! And let me know how it goes!
More about Tim: Tim Hermes is the Principal at Hermes Media. A veteran niche publisher, he has launched, grown, and monetized several niche properties as well had a thriving corporate career in publishing. He is also an expert in video monetization and consults with several b2b publishers. Oh, and he has a really great launch idea if anyone is interested.
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