Critique a small side business idea

I had this idea the other day for a little side business and was wondering what ya’ll thought of it.

We all get those little ad/coupon books in the mail, I usually go through them and rip out one or two. They almost always have the same companies that advertise over and over again.

I had this idea to create something similar but simply put it in an email newsletter instead. The idea is to get subscribers who are all local, with adverts from local businesses. The difference is that this won’t be for “advertisements” per se, but for actual deals, coupons, specials, promotions, discounts, etc.

The attraction for a subscriber is that the deals are curated and unique to the newsletter. I would literally have to get local businesses to create deals just for my subscribers, for limited time frames.

The attraction for businesses is that it will be far cheaper than designing and printing and buying mailers. It should be cheaper by a long shot. And a newsletter like this is more targeted in that members actually want to get local deals, where mailers are sent at random and is less targeted.

The details of the business are not thought out yet. I imagine I would send just a few emails a month. Businesses would buy in for the entire month, or essentially buy a certain number of mailings. Like if they want to be in the next 3 emails (which are on a scheduled time frame) they would pay $X per email. Maybe I’d have a bulk qty discount.

Each email would contain maybe 10 to 20 deals.

Profit is low for this idea, because let’s say it costs just $5 to get in one mailing, and if I have 20 deals that all buy 3 mailings, that’s only about $300 for the month.

Labor involved is relatively low, because any deal which repeats is left alone, any new deal coming in, I should have the copy given to me so it shouldn’t take long to stuff into the template. I would have a simple database or even just a spreadsheet for tracking the ads and businesses.

The most labor intensive part, I think, is the sales part, and prospecting and cold calling and trying to get businesses to sign on. The other intensive part is trying to build the list, and what kind of advertising I have to pay for to get subscribers (Facebook ads seem the best bet for local list building).

There are fees for the newsletter service, and processing payments, recurring payments even. The rest of the design work, website, email design, database and tracking, I can do myself.
I could potentially build some kind of affiliate system so that members who sign up other members get something in return. Or businesses who sign up other businesses get a free listing. Or whatever.

So what do you think? It’s a relatively low labor, simple side business which could bring in $200 to $500 a month depending on pricing structure and other variables, and require maybe only 4 or 5 hours of work a month to maintain.
Also, having a large membership of local area residents also makes it easy to slip in my own affiliate ads, like say AAA membership, insurance companies, gym memberships, Costco, I don’t know, whatever I can find, which can increase income a little too.
I could have a section at the bottom of the email like a “cool thing of the month” affiliate link, books, audible affiliate, those sorts of things.

What are your critiques? Challenges? Thoughts? How would you solve the chicken/egg situation (if no members, businesses wouldn’t sign up; if no businesses, customers wouldn’t sign up).


Interesting idea, but I think you’re facing some tough competition.

For example,
MailChimp offers this for Free

Up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month



About the only real positive of your idea that I can see is that the recipients will be a targeted audience.

I think demonstrating that the cost for your “improved chances of conversion” is worth it compared to the no-low cost of bulk emails with a higher fail rate will be what you will need to sell for the idea to work.

MailChimp and SendGrid are not competition. Not sure what you meant there.

This will not be a blind bulk-mail channel. For the business, they would be buying into a targeted local audience who are interested in deals, not a generic email list, or snail-mail network.

I could provide other value besides deals, like events calendar (generally can just be copied from the city government site which probably no one visits anyway).

The idea isn’t new but there’s no reason why it should work as a localised thing. As you say the biggest hurdles are getting businesses signed up AND having a decent sized mailing list to start with. Start small and grow?

Bummer :wink:

It sounds like a lot more legwork that you’re describing. Could be quite laborious going out and convincing businesses to get on board, and that would no doubt be ongoing. And how will you get email subscribers? Where will they sign up? Hopefully you won’t spam people to get their attention. :stuck_out_tongue:

Ideally, you’d set it p so that businesses would come to you rather than you going to them. Perhaps you could start with a website that features local businesses and that has a signup form. Then at least you could point to the website when visiting businesses and argue that they can get exposure through this. Once the site has some rep, you would hopefully get businesses coming to your site to register for being featured. Still, sounds like a lot of work. :smiley:

Lol what I meant was start small (as in your local area) then expand gradually…

It is a lot of work initially. Once there is a decent sized mailing list, all that’s needed is a simple promotional flyer or something I can leave with the businesses. It would only have to say “reaches X00 people in the local area” and they can decide for themselves. Among other things.

The businesses I’m talking about are not likely to be Burger King and Best Buy. Small businesses and mom-and-pop shops would be my main market. Small businesses that don’t have huge marketing budgets but still need to get a little more exposure.

If you were a hole in the wall business and I told you “hey, I can share a deal with 1400 people for $10 bucks”, they don’t have much to lose. They lose nothing if nobody uses their deal, and they still get a little exposure that is far cheaper than direct mailers and print and so forth. And if their deal is a winner and does very well, they’ll be a client for life.

On the consumer side, I can find all online social networks to advertise it. Like local newspaper comment boxes, Facebook groups (and other social networks), local community websites. I can eventually use local FB ads since they will likely be cheap.

There is definitely a challenge of getting businesses to sign on (I might have to give them free space for a time just so I have something in my initial mailers). And a challenge finding consumers. They have nothing to lose signing up…if I fail at this, they never get an email and no harm no foul. If I do have enough content to share, there is no expectations on frequency of emails, so really I just send when I can.

The bottom line is this, supposing I have enough businesses and a big enough list, does it even sound viable as a small side business? I mean, would anybody bother if it’s just a few hundred a month but only needs a few hours maintenance to keep going and very little overhead?
Or what if the idea takes off and I get 5000 people in the list, how much is that worth? Maybe one business ends up paying $40 or $100 for a month? 15 companies times $100 is no longer chump change.

I guess the next step is to validate the idea!

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