Fans of the Forums

Behind the Curtain Bicycle Biz Economics

I don't much like advertising. That's not necessarily my personal opinion - it may be, but that's irrelevant. Most advertisers don't give a crap what consumers think about advertising in general, only what they think of their ads in particular (which is often very different than caring about what consumers think of the products featured in the ads). Rather, I am offering my professional opinion here. As a guy who spent the last decade and a half making a living in the online advertising industry, I fully support growing this business without spending a single dollar on measured media. 

When advertising works - and works means actually contributes to the sale of products - it's usually because the products or company themselves are worth talking about. Advertising just jumpstarts those conversations. Advertising then becomes part of the formula for growth: spend this much on advertising, generate these many sales you wouldn't have anyway, repeat until (a) growth targets are reached or (b) cash is gone. To my experience, the companies who end up at option (a) are those who have a pretty interesting story to tell, and who probably could have seen some growth with little or no advertising support. Most companies aren't as patient as we are though, so use advertising to accelerate growth at a pace well beyond organic. 

Armed with this belief (defensible or not), Dave and I decided to build November to be as word-of-mouth friendly as possible, hoping people who do stumble across us will be more inclined to point us out to their teammates and training partners. That's not to say that the way we present ourselves on the site and this here blog is manufactured. Rather, it's just the opposite. After a couple decades in marketing, I can honestly say that this is the first work I've ever done that is truly authentic. It's all the other marketing and advertising and positioning I've worked at that is contrived. The way we write here is just about the same way we do in our emails, our personal blogs, and our holiday cards

Once we decided our content strategy would be to talk like normal people would to other normal people, we were then left to decide what our content distribution strategy was. We've got all these here words on the site - how do we get people to read them? We weren't so naive as to think we would automatically go viral like some laughing baby video (you did NOT just click on "laughing baby video", did you?), but we didn't have a clear idea where we'd find an audience. We tried tweeting @lancearmstrong and were relieved that it didn't work, so we then did what we do best - waited patiently to see what happened.

The Forums happened. They're all over the place - big ones with tens of thousands of members, and smaller private ones attended to just by members of individual clubs. Right now, in fact, we're seeing traffic coming from conversations on BikeForums, SlowTwitch, Weight Weenies, Bike Journal and Reddit. In the past, we've been included in conversations on sites as targeted the VeloNews (Competitor) forums and as unexpected as The Fountain Pen Network. 

(Curiously, we have yet to make an appearance on Road Bike Review, even though their parent company is HQ'ed a half a mile down the road in downtown Bethesda, MD. If anyone from Road Bike Review wants to meet for a beer at Mussel Bar and take a look at our bikes and wheels, just let me know. Actually Dave, why don't we just go to Mussel Bar every evening this week for a beer just in case RBR shows up?)

All of which is to say that we're fans of the forums, and fans of our fans on the forums. Thanks for talking about us out there. Every time you do, it helps us grow and makes it easier for us to keep charging our absurdly low prices. More importantly, it allows us to avoid trying to film and promote our own viral video


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