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CafeMom, one of the top sites in the US (ranked 196 on Quantcast) was founded four years ago by two unlikely founders — middle-age men.Michael Sanchez and Andrew Shue met when they were 10 years old at a soccer game. Both went on to play professionally, and Shue later became a Hollywood star as one of the lead actors on Melrose Place.
Years later, they reunited and created CafeMom, a site that averages 70 pages per visitor, 8 million monthly uniques, and generated $30 million in revenue last year.
Beyond having a famous founder, CafeMom has a brilliant strategy: it targets the CEOs of families.
“It’s incredible when you become a parent, have a family, and see that mums run the world,” says Shue.
“They drive the economy, they drive media consumption, they drive word of mouth. When you talk about aggregating and creating real value with the gatekeepers and CEOs of America’s families, it’s a huge, exciting opportunity.
“Every dad has to recognise this, and every media company is starting to recognise this.”
We sat down with Sanchez and Shue to find out how they’ve created one of the top sites in the US, and how they’re reaching the CEOs of families.
Community first, content second. “For a couple of years, we were really a community site,” says Sanchez. “Pregnant mums want to talk to other pregnant mums. There was an immediate connection, and our users were instantly giving advice and making friends on the site.”
With the community aspect in tact, Shue and Sanchez leveraged those relationships and implemented expert content too. They hired an editorial staff to begin writing original content on CafeMom’s blog, The Stir, last year.
“mums do three things: connect, talk and shop,” says Sanchez. So once both the open forum and expert blog were successful, Shue and Sanchez launched daily deals. “Our partners get repeat customers [unlike Groupon] because mums will talk about their experiences in a way that 20-somethings won’t,” he says.
mums trust other mums. “mums help create content about brands that we then spread on our network. In that way, they’re also co-creators in our marketing for advertisers,” says Sanchez.
“We do dozens of influencer programs with brands like Proctor and Gamble. We send products out, mums willingly write and vlog about them, we package up the best testimonials, and then we do a ton of quantitative measurement to see the impact.
“mums have an all-time low trust in corporations, but they trust other mums.”
“mums can sniff bullshit a mile away,” says Sanchez, which is why using mum reviews to promote advertisers’ products works. “We tell advertisers what’s going to work with mums. And if a mum writes a bad review, it’s ok. If some of the mums don’t like it, chances are someone else will jump in and defend the product. It all tends to balance out.”
Create a site for both readers and advertisers. “When we started out early on, we thought we could build something symbiotic between brands and content,” says Shue. “Getting the mums involved was one of the smartest early decisions we made. Just being a media company wouldn’t have been enough. But if you can figure out how to get other mums to spread your message, you’re going to score points. And advertisers will pay for that kind of direct involvement.”
“Guys need to listen more and talk less,” says Sanchez. Listening is the whole reason they’re launching a new site for Latina mums.
“We had all these brands saying, ‘Did you know that one in four mums will be Latina by 2014? How can you help us reach them?'” says Sanchez. “That got us thinking that maybe there was a need in the marketplace for a Latina mum site.”
Sanchez and Shue polled users and asked what the mums thought. “92% of the Latina mums polled said there was nothing out there that met their needs and 94% said they’d be very interested in a Latina-mother focused site,” says Shue.
The new site has yet to be named, although they’ve contemplated calling it MamasLatinas. By getting advertiser and reader interest pre-launch, Shue and Sanchez have upped its chances of success.