Does our business model work?

We launched with a simple concept. Let a journalist or editor know about some news that is relevant to their publication or programme, and you have maximised the chance of getting your story in the news. Our business idea was to enable a journalist to work directly with a small business to help identify what is newsworthy about their business, and who the story is relevant for. This is only a small part of what a full service public relations firm might do, but for a small business seeking publicity, its one of the most important parts. So we figured if we could make it easy for a small business to get a journalist working on their publicity, we’d be offering a valuable service.

Well, I’m pleased to report that our fledgling idea has survived its initial forays into the world of small business. Ideas aside, asking a small business to part with money for a service is a great test of whether that service is of value.

The experience we have had from clients has been interesting. Our very first engagement wasn’t all that successful. We started out with a focus on news releases, but it turned what our first client (Curtin Advantage) needed was a news feature. So we started off on the wrong foot, and the feature we delivered wasn’t a great fit for the actual publication it was sent to. So not a failure, just not that successful. Our second engagement however, was a proper failure. This also was a request for a news feature, and we knew the publication in advance. Well, our journalist wrote what we thought was a great news story. But the client didn’t like it – in fact, they hated it. The story they wanted had a much stronger marketing flavour, and they thought our story missed critical elements of their story. Ouch!

Having to pay our freelance journalist even when we couldn’t bill the client proved a useful reminder on the value of staying focussed! We also decided that we would never, ever send a journalist to do a marketer’s job!

After these two mis-steps, we found our footing with Tsar. The basic idea – find the most newsworthy aspect of a story and help get it in front of the right media – worked extremely well. Our client was happy, and we were very happy. The message – that publicity matters for small business, and that our ‘journalist led’ model is a good fit – has been repeated with multiple client engagements since then – notably ILABC, AIPP, World of Worlds, SurfWest and Clear Vision (see our Client Gallery for more details).

Mardon logoMost recently we got positive feedback on our business model when we met Angie and Shelley from Mardon Recruitment, a boutique recruitment company. Its always great to get good feedback, but it was particularly rewarding to hear Angie and Shelley describe their experience of talking to a number of public relations companies (and not find what they want), and then to come across our service and see a lot to like!

This is fantastic validation for our original business idea – if we can provide a valuable service for small businesses like Mardon, then our busines model is working. We’ve yet to earn the right to say they are a satisfied customer, but we hope to be able to report positively soon.

So, after 5 months we are getting more and more confident that our business model can work, because our clients are telling us that it does. A good plan only gets you so far, real validation can only come from satisfied clients.