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June 13, 2005

Worship Music is a business that started out of a bedroom, operates on nights and weekends and grew to see $2.2 million in annual revenues. In reality, the story of WorshipMusic's success story is about the effective use of e-commerce tools and carefully understanding e-commerce marketing in today's markets.

Kim Gentes was a software developer and a part time music leader in his church in Phoenix, Arizona. After running an online discussion list dedicated to religious music in the mid '90's, he launched WorshipMusic in 1998.

The home-based business started modestly. "My brother and I took our 401k's and emptied them," Gentes recalls, noting that they raised less than $20,000. The site sold the 100 most popular Christian CDs along with the accompanying sheet music. Early on, Gentes ran out of money and had to take on extra software consulting jobs to make ends meet.

In the beginning, his six-year-old son helped with packing and shipping. As the house got crowded with inventory "my wife was freaking out," he says.

Gentes promoted the site through Yahoo Shopping, which he credits as a key factor in getting the site off the ground. As he recalls, having the site associated with Yahoo gave it much more validity than if it had been hanging in cyberspace with no affiliation.

"Being integrated into a system that was trusted like Yahoo, that was really what helped us early on," he said.

WorshipMusic.com uses music reviews to boost exposure and credibility - which leads to more sales.

Since Gentes is a software developer, he could have built the site himself. Instead, he uses the Yahoo platform it's a major time saver, he says. "I'd rather pay for a service where someone else is upkeeping it, instead of taking the time out of my day that should be spent marketing."

As the business has grown, the Yahoo platform has allowed him to keep pace. From his original inventory of a few hundred products, he now carries around 8,000. Yahoo has been "really a scalable thing," he says.

And, hosting with Yahoo has enabled him to keep his business lean. "We don't have a technology staff," he says, "that's completely outsourced."

To increase WorshipMusic's profile, Gentes offers a full compliment of music reviews. "We started writing reviews and giving awards away, and that really gave us a lot of visibility with the [record] labels," he says.

These reviews also helped build the site's newsletter mailing list, which now goes out to about 50,000 subscribers weekly.

Additionally, the site's reviews helped WorshipMusic get listed in search engines, as people linked to the articles. The site continues to use paid search, but the free listings greatly magnify its profile on search engines.

Offering music reviews "was a whole snowball effect," Gentes notes.

Source: eCommerce Guide



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