We created the concept of StyleChicago.com and “Invitation Marketing” in 2003, and launched its parent company, INV Marketing Group, LLC, in May 2004. The website, StyleChicago.com, launched in December 2004. In this pre-Facebook era, we created an online portal and direct response marketing vehicle where professional women could “get invited” to the best events & places to go in Chicago. Our StyleChicago.com tagline: was “Your Invitation to Chicago’s Finest”. The revenue model in this pre-Groupon era (Groupon launched in 2008) was to sell “direct response” online advertising to high-margin businesses such as beauty salons, spas, health clubs, fashion boutiques, home stores, interior design firms, museums and art galleries.
Our primary content goal was to attract and reach an audience of higher-end professional women who lived or worked in the Chicagolandarea. Content created for our web site was related to promotional offers and events from local businesses ranging including both retailers and service providers All content, businesses and brands promoted were designed to reach a highly targeted audience of professional women and style-focused influencers.
Our initial metrics were web traffic & email list growth. These metrics drove rate card and revenue growth as the majority of income at that time was from online advertising. Each content category managers had goals tied to quarterly bonus payments based on “Page View Growth” in their category and “Client Retention”.
Company Goals – 3-Year Growth Trajectory:
Website traffic: We grew StyleChicago.com from -0- to 10 million page views in 3 years (Dec ‘04 to Dec ‘07) with an online advertising budget of only $1,000/mo. through a wicked awesome mix of SEO, paid search, email marketing, word-of-mouth and events.
Email List: We built a highly targeted list of ~25,000 upscale women in Chicago who were specifically interested in our content categories.
Revenue: We launched the website in December 2004 with an average rate card of $300/year for local advertisers. As web traffic and email list grew, we successfully raised our prices by $100/mo. for 36 consecutive months. By December 2007 (just 3 years later), our average rate card had grown from $300/yr. to $3,900/year ($300 + a $100 monthly increase for 36 mos.in a row!)
Events: In 2006, we expanded StyleChicago.com to include signature events, all of which were promoted through out digital media properties – and sold out in advance online – for 10 years in a row.