I was lying awake last night, trying to figure out quite a fundamental problem that many online start-ups will face. I think I had a few good ideas, which I’d like to share with you.
The past two weeks have been quite a flurry of activity.
On Sunday evening two weeks ago, after a couple of beers, I said to Sally,
“Here’s an idea… How about having a website where people could sponsor a day?”
The idea stuck.
A couple of days later, I had a design…
By the following Friday, we had a working WordPress site, complete with live auctions using an auction plugin.
Let me tell you a bit about the concept, and then I’ll tell you the problem I’m facing.
How “Sponsor the Day” Works
The idea is very simple. Anyone (businesses, non-profits, or individuals) can bid at auction to be the “official” sponsor of a calendar day.
The winning sponsor gets their large graphic at the top of the site’s home page for 24 hours, plus a text link back to a webpage that they specify.
Why Would Anyone Sponsor a Day?
Great question! There are a few reasons:
- Bragging rights. “Sponsor the Day” is unusual, it’s original, and the concept is fundamentally left-field and cheeky… I mean, who has the right to make someone else the official sponsor of a day?
- Building awareness. My current goal is to generate 100,000 followers for Sponsor the Day within 12 months. That means sponsors will get their promotion seen by a lot of new people, through a unique channel.
- Relevance. Every day of the year has special relevance, for many reasons. It might be a festival, anniversary, or special day of remembrance. But there are also lots of launches, sales, and promotions starting at any time. Being able to bid to own this channel exclusively for that day could really help reinforce the point of a campaign.
- SEO benefit. Of course, every sponsor gets a permanent backlink from http://www.sponsortheday.com. But the site is brand new right now, so links don’t have much value — yet.
- Free to Good Causes. Oh, and I’m also giving away every Sunday to a good cause. They won’t pay a penny.
Why Would Someone Follow “Sponsor the Day”?
Another great question!
Of course, pure curiosity isn’t a very reliable motivator. We’re surrounded by so many messages that we have to be cynical. The marketing that gets through tends to be either extremely straightforward (offering the solution to something we need), or it’s so original that it bypasses our usual filters (like the Million Dollar Homepage, or One Red Paperclip).
Now, Sponsor the Day is original and fresh, but that’s not enough. When the Million Dollar Homepage launched in 2005, it was so unusual that it became a hot talking point.
So I can’t rely on pure originality taking Sponsor the Day viral today, at the end of 2012. And I want real followers, not just momentary mentions.
There has to be WIIFM. To get 100,000 real followers, people need to believe there’s some real benefit in following.
So my idea is to persuade the sponsors of each day to provide a cool giveaway, which followers could have the chance of winning. Maybe followers will be required to do some kind of stunt to help promote the cause of the day, and post on the Sponsor the Day Facebook page.
However, there’s a problem…
In this context, “Web 2.0” refers to the way the site is a meeting point between two groups. Like eBay’s buyers and sellers, or Match.com’s singles, Sponsor the Day has sponsors and followers.
Clearly, there has to be something in it for both groups. But the core problem comes from the fact that sponsors are attracted to large numbers of followers, and followers in turn will be attracted to the giveaways that the sponsors provide.
At the time of writing, Sponsor the Day has just 37 followers on Facebook — a long way off my 100,000 target!
So what sponsor is going to be drawn to that market? Who’s going to give away an iPad, a vacation, or something else that’s so cool it will attract hundreds and thousands of followers, when there are only 74 eyeballs likely to see it?
That was the starting point of my challenge. Followers are drawn to sponsors, who are drawn to followers. It’s chicken and egg. How can you get the cycle started?
Let me take you through my thought process on this.
Solving the Chicken and Egg Problem
Obviously, you can apply brute force to this problem. If I had a big pile of spare cash, I could by a year’s supply of iPads, and give one away each day to a lucky winner. That 37 followers would certainly rise pretty fast!
Or, I could spend every hour of every day on forums, emailing friends, and blogging, trying to coax people to follow or sponsor.
But neither of those routes is feasible, so I need to find a way to attract followers and sponsors, where everyone still wins, and doesn’t take all my time or resources.
Let’s break it down.
- Sponsors want good exposure, hopefully in a way that will spread virally. The bottom line is, they need a good return on any investment.
- Followers want to be entertained, and they’ll only remain as followers if they get a steady flow of fresh, appealing offers.
I would always approach a problem like this by looking at the resources available. What about the resources available to me?
- Sponsortheday.com is already up and running.
- I have a popular website, with around 35,000 weekly visits.
- Plus a mailing list with nearly 22,000 names, at the time of writing.
- I have a good reputation in the web design world.
Looking at these assets, if there is a starting point to this chicken-and-egg problem, it’s the sponsors. If I can get an interesting enough sponsorship, and if it’s relevant to my audience, I can promote their promotion to my followers.
That’s part of the key.
The other one is to look at the concept of added value.
Another great tip for problem solving is to look for where the added value comes from.
This is something I have been thinking about recently.
Over the past few weeks, Sally, Marie and I have also been setting up a new local business, selling sweet bouquets (see Sweetopia.me on Facebook).
When we make one of these bouquets, we take candy (bought at trade prices), and arrange it into something that is more valuable than the component parts, which we then sell at about 50% mark-up over what it cost to make.
Customers love these, because they get something far more impressive than just the chocolate and candy. They get a great gift. See how we’ve added value to the candy? That’s the way all business works.
Now, in theory, we could approach another provider, who also adds value to their raw materials in some other way, and do a trade. If we gave a £30 sweet bouquet (which cost us £15) in return for a £30 meal in a restaurant (which cost the restaurant £15 to provide), everyone wins again! We get something that’s worth £30 to us, in return for giving something that only cost us £15. And the restaurant does the same.
Let’s take that principle and apply it to my Sponsor the Day problem…
What I need to find is someone who has something that has a downstream, external value that is far greater than its cost of production.
iPads are out of the question. They’re expensive for everyone to buy!
What is cheap to produce, but worth a lot more to the consumer?
One classic example is digital products. Once created, they cost practically zero to distribute.
Another may be time. Let’s say you’re a talented web designer, who could make a day of spare time each week. That time could be worth hundreds of dollars to a client, if the client could find you and hire you. The time actually costs you nothing (unless you would be doing something else profitable in that time).
That’s where I need to look for my first sponsors, at the intersection between:
- the area where I already have influence (web design and marketing), combined with either
- digital products, or
- valuable services provided by talented people who need more exposure and have spare time.
That’s my solution: great offers, which may be offbeat and unusual, but actually deliver incredible value.
I can help promote someone’s ebook or video course, or a smart service provider who needs the exposure, at very little real cost to them.
Plus, I can gain broader exposure using my existing channels (Web Design from Scratch and/or my mailing list). This is appropriate, because it’s offering real value in the sector in which I already operate, so I would not expect to piss off my followers.
So I’m putting the call out NOW for business owners or professionals who are crazy enough to bid $5 – $100 to get the opportunity to trade some of their assets in return for outrageous exposure!
Ideas for Crazy Promotions
Here are just a few things, off the top of my head:
- You have an ebook to promote. You offer 20 free copies to the 20 people who come up with the most original Facebook shares to promote your book.
- I could do similar with my Pro Web Design Course! At full price, it’s worth $1200, but costs me nothing to give away a place in return for additional exposure.
- Offer to redesign a the winner’s homepage, write them a sales letter, or give them a free month’s link building, which you could publish as a case study. Only costs you a few hours, but could get you a lot more business.
- A web pro could put on a webinar, where you analyse the websites of three winners. Or do it jointly with me!
All these ideas seem crazy-good. But maybe you can come up with even crazier ones?
Are You Crazy Enough?
I keep thinking about two essential elements that every marketer needs…
I’m convinced that original marketing needs to be really original to get through all our bullshit filters. So let’s come up with something crazy — together.
Another vital trait is cheekiness. Balls, moxie, guts, chutzpah, cohones… whatever you want to call it, if you’re in business, maybe you should do one thing every day that’s out-of-your-comfort-zone cheeky! You never know what’s going to work.
I need crazy people right now!
I need you to:
- Think about what you could offer the world, that doesn’t cost you too much, but will really get people talking.
- If you want to partner with me to deliver something insane, try me!
- Head over to http://www.sponsortheday.com/and bid to be the “official” sponsor of a day.
- I’ll help you craft your offer into something that’ll appeal to the market.
- And, if it’s crazy enough, I’ll help by publicizing your offer through my contacts and channels!
Come on, let’s do something crazy together.
If you accept my challenge, comment below, leaving your email address.