Interview between Melanie Hatton of BumpMagic and Jan Klin.

How would you describe your company and its mission?

Bump Magic is an online store, information centre and community forum for women who are pregnant, trying to conceive or new mums. Our goal is to become the preferred online resource for every pregnant woman in the UK.

Bump Magic was conceived while I was on maternity leave in 2005 following the birth my little boy, Ethan, largely due to the desire not to have to go back to work in an office while he was still young and the fact that the internet was my main source of entertainment and information while I was on leave! Every mum-to-be has a thirst for information about the changes affecting them during pregnancy, a struggle to source good maternity clothes and products, and an insatiable need to share their experiences with others, so I set to work creating Bump Magic based on my own needs as a mum-to-be.

How long have you had a website and what is its main purpose?

The Bump Magic website was launched in September 2006, and is an online presence only operated from my office at home.

Does the site work for you? ie deliver the benefits you were expecting?

Yes and no. I was initially expecting the online shop to be the major source of activity on the website. With so much competition in the market place however, it became clear that that was not going to be the case straight away. The forum on the other hand, was initially an after-thought which my web developer suggested to me a couple of weeks before the website launched. I was familiar with forums having used them on occasion in the past, but the Invision Power Board software which he demonstrated to me was so much more advanced than what I imagined that I agreed straight away to add it as a feature to the website.

Ironically it is the forum which now generates 90% of the website’s activity.

Originally the online shop was targeted at products required by pregnant women. The forum has however attracted a huge number of members who are trying to conceive, and so the online shop is expanding its product range to cater for that market also.

Whilst the online shop remains an important feature of the website, it is clear that the main attraction is the forum. This has opened up a potential new income stream for me and

I am arranging to have Google Adsense and other third party advertising on the forum pages as a means of generating income. The forum also has the functionality to require members to “subscribe” to otherwise “locked” areas of the forum, which only become accessible to the forum member upon payment of a regular subscription. Whilst I have no intention of introducing subscription payments to the Bump Magic forum members for the forum as it currently stands, I do have some ideas for new and optional aspects to the forum and for which it would be appropriate to charge a subscription payment and which I will be exploring over the next few months.

What is your online marketing strategy? – which methods do you use to attract potential customers?

At the launch of the website I followed the guidance detailed in your blog to and spent a month’s worth of evenings in September 2006 creating one way links to the website in the recommended search engine directories, creating articles to add to online article banks and also creating some reciprocal links. In order to keep costs down, I primarily listed the site in directories that didn’t require a payment, the few that did require a payment I only listed if the requirement was no more than £5 for an evergreen listing.

After a month, I moved away from search engine optimisation as other areas of the website required my focus.

Over the last 4 months I have focussed on advertising the forum aspect of the website through Google Adwords and Microsoft Adcentre, the response was phenomenal and the forum has taken on a life of its own. Today we have 386 registered members and over 14,000 individual posts. Although it was very labour intensive for me in the beginning (try creating conversations with yourself online and then remembering which conversation you have had with which of your other aliases) it now requires minimal time management from me– I now have 5 forum members who have taken on the responsibility of being forum moderators, and on a voluntary basis.

The forum is an amazing tool which generates rich content and search engine saturation relatively easily – the members create the content themselves. As a result my organic search engine listings are high and so I have recently been able to reduce the budget on the Adwords and Adcentre campaign by over 50%.

In February 2007, I was pleased to discover that the website had a Google Page rank of 3/10. An incredible achievement considering I had only focussed on search engine optimisation in the initial month of the website’s launch back in September and had paid little attention to it since!

The statistics speak for themselves:

Hits: September 2006 – 4,908 March 2007 – 628,701

Visits: September 2006 – 137 March 2007 – 17,276

Once I have the website in a position where it generates income from third party advertising, I then intend to place affiliate advertising for Bump Magic on third party websites and spread its online reach that way.

I have also yet to advertise the online shop aspect of the website via Google Adwords and Microsoft Adcentre, and so that is also a campaign in waiting too.

How does your online activity mesh with your offline marketing?

For the first 3 months I invested in advertising in the classifieds in the glossy magazines aimed at our target market, it was expensive and generated a poor response, and I have vowed never to go down that line again.

A particular product line which we have in the online shop is imported from the US, and the UK market is not yet fully aware of it. It will therefore be necessary for Bump Magic to spend some time and money advertising this particular product within the editorial section of the magazines aimed at our target market over the coming months, but that is a product specific activity as opposed to marketing the Bump Magic business generally.

How much business do you do on the web?

Bump Magic is an online resource only and so 100% of our business is online.

How do you see the future regarding your online activity?

Having seen the benefits of my initial search engine optimisation activity I am about to start another period of SEO activity to maintain and improve the website’s ranking, focussing on improving the presence of the online shop.

What is the single biggest lesson you have learned about your web activities?

Don’t be afraid to let your business idea change direction if the opportunities which open up to you are not the ones which you originally planned to follow.

Can you imagine life without a website?

Yes (I would probably have an early night once in a while!), but generally I couldn’t imagine life without the internet I would feel lost without it.

Anything else you want to add?

I often read that people who start their own business felt like giving up on many occasions but were pleased that they persevered. When your business is only a part time business/hobby then you really do wonder what you are doing it all for! But I’m pleased to say that I am persevering and beginning to see the results of the risks I have taken.