I'm preparing to launch a marketplace that will promote SaaS products and services. This marketplace is an extension of an existing product that launched a month ago and is slowly building up. Our site doesn't have much traffic yet (1k unique a month), but we expect this will go up significantly over the coming months. Is it silly to think I can sell some early advertising packages to SaaS vendors (pre-launch), to help bankroll growth of the marketplace? I had mulled over the idea of offering something like 2 to 3 months of prominent product placement in their respective categories for really cheap (e.g. $250 - $500) while we work to build up traffic. Since the traffic is low right now there won't any ROI guarantees, but I wonder if sharing the product and marketplace vision with them (which I believe will resonate) and offering a cheap package might convince them it's worth taking a chance? Or is this a pipe dream?
It's not a pipe dream.
Startups convince investors to give them money for all sorts of reasons and with all sorts of potential ROI. Advertisers at this early stage could be regarded as investors of a kind. If they believe in your project and your game plan, then they might want
(A) to support you
(B) to lock down cheap long-term rates for their own advertising
By supporting you, they help build the audience that gives them exposure. And if they're able to guarantee a lower advertising rate now versus later, then they may see the payoff as worth the risk.
Very similar to pitching a startup to investors. It's only a pipe dream if your rates are too high, you can't identify the right prospects, or you can't present the case effectively. But if your early-bird special is a bargain and if you can find the right people to talk to ... and convince them, then go for it.
Perhaps you could sell them X months but start the clock only after monthly traffic reaches Y. That way, they'd get the preceding months for free, and they'd see that you're properly incentivized to build traffic early.
It's unrealistic to expect anyone other than personal connections to consider your offer at this stage.
I don't recommend any advertisers at this point.* Building traffic should be your only priority. An ad-free site is more likely to gain traction in the early phases - so focus on that. The time wasted seeking advertisers now will just steal time and progress from your efforts to build an audience.
If you want help building the audience, let me know - www.clarity.fm/ryandraving
*If you are committed to pursuing advertisers, offer free ad spots to big name advertisers in order to show social proof to other prospective advertisers you pursue at full price. Bonus here: if the trial advertisers see high ROI (relative to the full price you waived), they are likely to renew at the full price. Additionally, you can offer guaranteed pageviews at a cost that is a fraction of what they are paying now. However, you are so new that most advertisers are not going to take the risk that your site never reaches that volume of visitors.
I would offer them the deal for 4 months with the option to get the same deal for the next 8 months. In the first 4 months they won't be getting a great deal but in the second and third periods they would be getting a really good deal since you would have more traffic and so there would be more value for them
Example: 1st Period (4 months) @ $100 with a total of 4k views based on 1k per month. Avg 2.5 cents per view.
2nd period (4 months) @ $100 with a total of 8k views based on 2k per month. Avg 1.25 cents per view.
3rd period (4 months) @ $100 with a total of 12k views based on 2k per month. .Avg 0.8 cents per view.
They would not be obligated to purchase the 2nd or 3rd period but I would make sure they have to make that decision 15 days prior to the end of period 1.
I hope this helps you. Feel free to contact me for more details. I have done ad sales from $100 to $50k ad contracts.