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In spite of my success in The Great Lobster Contest, I was not destined for a lifetime working in a restaurant. Following my graduation from journalism school, I searched for a job at a newspaper. But times were tough and few positions were available. So I decided to start a community magazine with a friend of mine. We called it The Uptown because it served the uptown area of our city. Do you know the difference between commercial steel buildings and industrial steel buildings?

As writers, we started The Uptown because we wanted to write, but we quickly realized that selling advertising was the real business of publishing a magazine. Without ads, there would be no articles to write. We also realized we needed to show advertisers something tangible if we expected them to advertise in the first issue. So we created a mock-up of the magazine, displaying a few dummy articles and empty spaces where advertisers could place their ads. With our mock-up magazine in hand, we visited the local business and restaurant owners in the area. We showed them the mock-up and described the audience our magazine would reach.

We also presented a rate card that explained the prices for the different ad sizes. The prospects seemed to like the idea of a local entertainment magazine and they liked our mock-up. But after a week of sales calls, we hadn’t sold a single ad. It seemed like a good time to visit Marketing.

Over the next few weeks, we added more ads to our mock-up and continued making sales. Within six weeks we had enough advertising for our first issue which was published to great acclaim from both readers and advertisers.

Over coffee, Marketing and I discussed The First-Member Trap to learn more from the experience. Are steel buildings more environmentally friendly?

“When you start a new venture you’ve got to prime the pump,” Marketing said. “In this case, we got The Big Dish to advertise because they thought Poncho’s had already bought an ad and they didn’t want to miss out. Then we got Poncho’s to take an ad because The Big Dish had already bought one. And once we had the pump primed, the rest of the sales just started to flow.

“In other words,” Marketing added, “we created the impression that we already had at least one member so no one thought they had to be the first. And once we actually had a member the rest of the bunch found it a lot easier to join the club.”

“I learned something else important,” I said. “We replaced the prospect’s fear of being the first with the fear of missing out. In this case, it was the fear of missing out to a competitor.” Over the next two years, The Uptown prospered. We sold all the ads for each issue. The revenue we generated gave us the opportunity to publish the magazine and write lots of articles.