A little over a year ago, I announced that I had reached an agreement with Fred Mercaldo and his team to utilize the City in the Box platform his company created and operates. This would allow me to focus on other areas of my business while Fred and his team managed Burbank.com.
In subsequent posts, I’ve promised to provide an update about working with Fred and his team, and I am happy to do that today. Burbank.com officially launched on the new platform in June of 2010, so it’s been a little over 7 months so far. Fred provided the comprehensive update below, although I asked him not to use the actual numbers since my business finances are private, and I have no need to share them publicly.
Before getting into that, I want to mention that the site made only a couple hundred dollars per month when I was managing it. I did a good job of growing traffic, but selling advertising has never been an interest of mine, and I didn’t do a great job at it. Also, in addition to any revenue mentioned by Fred below, my company is also making mid $xxx a month on the job board and hotel reservations.
Elliot, I’d like to share with you and your Blog participants about the progress and monetization of Burbank.com. Last summer, we completely changed the platform over to our City In The Box software solution. Additional time went into the project, as your existing site was indexed very well, and we did not want to lose any of the optimization that was present.
Marketing Burbank.com became part of our Citiesplanet overall marketing efforts that support close to 60 City.com websites. Our monetization goals at first mirrored our successful game plan that built Scottsdale.com, including the following:
- Developing exclusive relationships and partnerships within certain verticals, such as Real Estate, Hotels, etc.
- Building a “Premium Listing” strategy allowing business to upgrade their listings on the Directory Pages.
- As an incentive to do business with Burbank.com, offering businesses Feature Story and Feature Interviews on the Home page….which gives them excellent exposure, but also provides much needed unique content for the site.
- Partnering with local media to promote and publicize Burbank.com with trade deals, such as local newspapers, magazines, radio, etc.
We knew that marketing from a central location in Scottsdale, rather than having a strong local presence directly in the Burbank area, would not be as effective, however we would also not have the expenses and overhead necessary in staffing a local office.
We developed custom Media Kits and email presentation templates for use with Call Center personnel, utilizing Exact Target as our email partner, and SalesForce as our CMS software. While waiting for the Call center to begin, I entered discussions with many potential advertising partners that would benefit from national advertising on our network. This was new territory for me, as all of our past success was based on LOCAL, however with a good national base of 60 cities, I thought it was a natural and obvious move.
While we were successful in signing some decent contracts, my production fell short of my goals, and the #1 reason was traffic; since most of our sites launched in the past 2-12 months, traffic was in the 250,000-300,000 uniques per month range.
I then began communicating with the many large “local directory….city guides” types of companies in the market, and was successful in forging a relationship with LocalGuides. During the “getting to know each other” phase with LocalGuides, the Call Center I contracted with started and stopped within 2 weeks. This had nothing to do with the process or feasibility of marketing the Premium Upgrades from a central Call Center; it is being done successfully every day by many companies; but nevertheless this Call Center failure was a setback. It turned out to be a poor choice of partners on my part.
Meanwhile, we were slowly but surely increasing revenue each month across the network from various sources. National network advertising deals were providing $4,000-$6,000 per month in revenue. Recurring advertising contracts made by my sales staff were totaling $17,000 per month across the network…..some of which are split evenly among the 60 sites; some are split via a percentage of monthly traffic, and some are exclusive to a specific site.
We have signed numerous advertising deals for Burbank.com….a few restaurants, some premium directory upgrades, etc. We have implemented numerous monetization platforms such as YP for the Directory (and we still can sell Premium Upgrades), an Employment partner, an Apartments partner, hotel deals with IHG and Priceline, and take advantage of Google Display advertising. LocalGuides provided numerous partnerships for us, and we were able to take advantage of their 4 million monthly visitors “buying power” and I’m convinced our deals are the best.
We have finally convinced Universal Studios to give us a serious look, and this relationship looks promising. A relationship with the local paper also looks promising, and we have been pursuing this since last summer. We are adding additional deals onto Burbank.com, such as GolfNow for tee times, and others in negotiations right now…all of which will contribute to the monthly revenue. We have been successful in working with the City of Burbank, as they regularly contribute to articles and our Calendar of Events.
Next month, CitiesPlanet is launching a Syndicated Featured Columnists section that will appear across over 120 city and state.com brands, along with the entire LocalGuides network of over 4 million viewers per month. There will be 16-20 weekly articles on features such as ARTS, FASHION, GREEN LIVING, HEALTHY LIVING, TECHNOLOGY, etc. and our list of participating partners, writers and sponsors are impressive. Since this is about Burbank, I will only say that this feature will generate Burbank.com $500 to $1,000 per month in the 2nd quarter, with the potential to be much more as the year progresses.
We have another Call center we are in discussions with, and we will see how this goes. We continue to search for the right Real Estate partner for Burbank.com, and I am disappointed that we have not been successful on this category. Overall, things have taken longer than expected, however the progress is real.
Between local advertising, YP, Employment, Paid Content, national advertising, Apartments, Hotel, Google display ads, and other various initiatives, we are generating $x,xxx per month….on our way to $xx,xxx per month (numbers omitted per Elliot). We also plan on hiring a direct salesperson full time to service and build from the base we have created…hopefully by the 3rd quarter. I know many people have been asking, and I’m glad to share this update.