Why I revised my business model


Revenue refuses to materialise - what to do next? Rethink the whole business model.

The challenge

This one goes back to the days when we were just a start-up. Back in early 1997, we planned to generate revenue by selling advertising on our website to PR agencies and by charging PR professionals to submit press releases to our online press release wire. While we had huge success in building an audience of journalists and PR people, people weren't ready for online advertising and the value of online press release distribution was yet to be realised (though the latter is now a huge success for us).

Nine months into the business revenue was poor and I was having to keep the wolves from the door by working two days a week as a freelance journalist. One part of the site that was proving very popular for PRs was a kind of media database which included forward features lists for publications - forward features lists are basically calendars that detail what a magazine is planning to cover in future.

The solution

One day I went to see a managing director of a PR firm and she said to me:  "I don't really want to tell you this, but you should charge for your media database - I'd pay for it."

I ignored her. My strategy was always going to be that the media database would be a 'loss leader', drawing PR people onto the site so that we could pitch revenue-generating services to them. That was my plan and I was going to stick to it.

But as I realised we were going to have to do something to make the business financially viable, I chose to throw my original strategy out of the window and turn the media database into a subscription product.

Two months later, after a flurry of web development and research, we launched the FeaturesExec Media Database. It took off straight away and effectively funded the company while we developed other services and entered new markets.

Key lesson

Be prepared to throw your strategy out of the window and try something else. Being stubborn can sometimes help as a business leader, but more often than not it's better to listen to others and be prepared to change course.

Top tip

Listen to your customers.

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