Dear Norm,

A business partner and I run a virtual garage sale website called I got the idea from my work as a Manhattan real estate agent. I had many clients looking either to reduce the clutter in their apartments or to furnish their apartments on a dime. Since launching the site in May 2008, we have signed up nearly 12,000 members, developed four iPhone apps, and published a guide for doing yard sales. But although we've received great publicity—including articles in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal—and have done promotions through social media, our growth rate is disappointing. Short of launching a major ad campaign, how can we attract more people?

Jonathon Papsin

I sometimes think the Internet has robbed us of the capacity for patience. If your Web-based concept doesn't go viral overnight, you think you must be doing something wrong. But building a business takes time.

In talking to Jonathon Papsin, I was struck by how much he and his partner had done right. For openers, they hadn't made the mistake of generating publicity before being prepared to handle the response. Their site was fully functional by the time the articles began appearing. But the publicity hadn't produced the expected surge in traffic, probably because the articles weren't targeted at specific markets. I suggested Jonathon make a list of the 10 categories of people most likely to want his services, along with ideas of how to reach each category. One type, for example, might be people planning to move—and thus looking for furniture movers. Jonathon could talk to moving and storage associations about getting on their websites. They might also let him contact their members to link with company sites as well.

It turned out that he and his partner had already begun doing something similar: They'd created space on their site in which consignment stores and estate-sale companies can promote their services. I suggested he arrange to get on the websites of those businesses as well. I doubt will ever go viral, but who cares? In business, slow and steady often wins the race.

Please send all questions to Norm Brodsky is a veteran entrepreneur. His co-author is editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. Their book, The Knack, is now available in paperback under the title Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs.