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The Vow Factor

How one dotcom survives--and thrives--in the ultracompetitive wedding market

Beth Drucker, 46, and her husband, Lou, 49, have found eternal wedded bliss-not only as husband and wife, but also as founders of a tremendously successful Web site, NewYorkMetroWeddings.com. Back in 1996, after the couple launched the wedding supplier referral service with just $3,000, the site became an instant hit. Today, with front page listings on every major U.S. search engine, their site averages almost 300,000 visitors per month. We asked Beth what it takes to make it in the competitive dotcom world.

Many wedding-related Web sites fail. How have you kept yours going for five years?
Because of my [design and illustration] background, I was able to design something with a sophisticated New York look, rather than the pink hearts and flowers of other wedding sites. I spend about 50 hours per week working on the site-that includes interviewing vendors and experts to get site content. We also send out e-mail newsletters to remind people we're here.

But most important is search-engine placement. We did a lot of research on each engine and asked around about who was good at customizing submission forms. The easy route so many dotcoms take-paying a service a flat fee to submit forms-doesn't work well. You end up as No. 632 when people call up a keyword. If you do it right, you'll get a reputation for results, which will attract vendors.

So your site is making a profit?
We started turning one last year. About 50 percent of sales go to promo and 30 percent to freelancers. Too many dotcoms spend too much money trying to grow fast and fizzle out quickly. Slow and steady wins the race if you're committed and willing to sacrifice free time in the short term.

How did you get the idea for the site?
Lou is a band leader and has been playing at weddings for 20 years. After spending 10 years doing art for ad firms, I took some time off to rear our children and started learning computer skills and going online.

We had been frustrated by the lack of results from print ads for [Lou's music services], and I saw these fun [banner] ads with video clips and sound on Web sites. We started thinking about how dynamic ads could produce a better response for the music business and [wondered] what subject would draw lots of visitors to a Web site. Putting together weddings is complicated, and too many people want to get married in New York without knowing which vendors are good. We decided we could be their guide and profit on advertising, while getting a new audience for Lou's music.

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This article was originally published in the February 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Vow Factor.

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