FORTUNE Small Business
The FSB 100 2007 Full coverage

Till death do us part

A bridal website aims to keep its customers for the long haul.

By Carlye Adler, FSB contributor

(FSB Magazine) -- The knot, a fashion-forward media company, has thrived by bucking business fashion. While other dot-coms spent millions on Super Bowl commercials, its wedding site (theknot.com) bought no ads at all. As competitors blew their VC stash on $800 Aeron chairs for every employee, The Knot ordered three. And when pundits declared the death of deadtree media, The Knot - now run by two of its four founders, husband-and-wife team David Liu and Carley Roney - bought magazines.

FSB followed The Knot throughout its successful IPO ("48 Hours With theknot.com," February 2000). It was one of the last dot-coms to go public before the sector crashed. Since then The Knot (Charts) has seen its share of dark days. The stock tanked to 42 cents and was delisted from Nasdaq. But the founders never lost heart. Entering the FSB 100 for the first time this year at No. 15, the New York City company posted 2006 sales of $73 million.

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The knot founders David Liu and Carley Roney hitched their star to the wedding industry.

The key was spending money where it mattered. Instead of buying ego-boosting ads, The Knot promoted itself by producing quality wedding content. The creative force was Roney, 39, who launched The Knot magazine and has published books on various wedding topics. Today theknot.com draws three to four times more traffic than its leading competitor, Condé Nast's brides.com, according to outside analysts.

The Knot took full advantage of the Web's interactivity. "We let brides run the show," says Roney. "They were allowed to say anything on our chatrooms - even crummy things about The Knot." And when brides started asking one another for pictures of dresses, cakes and the like, the site posted a library of sendable images.

The company has a history of making smart acquisitions. In 2000, The Knot spent $10 million to acquire Wedding Pages, an Omaha-based publisher of regional wedding magazines. For the first time the firm could sell local advertising in markets across the country. In 2006, The Knot bought the Wedding Channel (weddingchannel.com), its biggest competitor, thereby capturing 80 percent of online bridal traffic.

Challenges remain, of course. The newly acquired Wedding Channel site is a separate business from theknot.com, and it's not clear whether advertisers will buy across both sites.

Meanwhile, Roney and Liu aren't standing still. They recently launched The Nest, a Web site (thenest.com) and magazine for newlyweds. And in May they spawned The Nest Baby (thenestbaby.com). Says Liu, 42: "We'll know we're in trouble when we start running articles about arthritis." Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.