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Phantoms of the Market

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Market research is an excellent tool if the information is interpreted correctly. Raw data may not always give you an accurate picture of your market. Your analysis must go beyond the numbers to understand the people they represent. If this is not done, the process can come back to haunt you.

Discovering the Phantoms

Several years ago, I performed research among the country’s 8,000,000 unemployed people. A typical bell-shaped curve evolved pointing to an opportunity for 6,400,000 unemployed people who needed help with interviewing and writing a cover letter and resume (Market A). The research also uncovered two fringe segments comprised of people who did not need that information (Market B and Market C).Given the option of selling to a potential market of 6,400,000 or 8,000,000 people, I chose people who needed help with interviewing and writing a cover letter and resume. I wrote and published, Job Search 101, which described the traditional job-search skills sought by the majority of unemployed people. That decision, based upon erroneous analysis of accurate research, proved disastrous. The numbers which appeared so real on paper were only hallucinations in reality.Phantom demand. The masses may have the desire for certain information but not the resources to pay for it. Unemployed people, like most people, are unwilling to pay for any item they can otherwise get for free, and job-search information was available at no charge from libraries and state unemployment offices. That was my first indication that market potential can not be determined simply by counting heads.Phantom consumption. Additional analysis proved that the total market was actually divided into many sub-markets, partitioned demographically, geographically, and psychographically. For example, people seeking white-collar jobs approached their search differently from those seeking blue-collar work. The same principle applied to college students and senior executives. And there was also a segment of Hispanic people which presented a completely different set of needs.Phantom potential. My competitors were looking at the same numbers and thinking they could also sell 6,400,000 books. The potential market was now divided among 400 books. This yielded an average opportunity of 16,000 units per publisher if we each achieved 100% of our fair share.

The Exorcism

My response to these phantom opportunities was twofold. First, I implemented a strategy of market segmentation to exploit Market A. I sold my full-length book, Job Search 101, to the general public through bookstores and libraries. Next, I created a series of 36-page booklets, each on a different job-search function. These were easily adaptable to different market segments and continue to sell well among colleges and state unemployment offices. Then I approached corporate executives with the video program, The Art of Interviewing. Finally I had Job Search 101 translated into Spanish as the book, Elementos basicos para buscar trabajo, to address the Hispanic market.During this time, Markets B and C became much more attractive, creating a virtually noncompetitive market of 1,600,000 people. Those in Market B knew the requisite job-search skills but did not know where to find prospective employers. Consequently I wrote and published Help Wanted: Inquire Within to satisfy that demand. People in Market C had the skills and contacts, but had poor attitudes. Prolonged unemployment, family pressures, and financial problems eroded their self-esteem. Therefore, I wrote and published Coping With Unemployment to help them triumph over the grip of these negative forces. By concentrating my efforts on these smaller markets, I was able to increase my sales dramatically.Proper analysis of market research will get you past the mirages and help you create successful marketing strategies. Look beyond the numbers to learn the needs of people in each segment. Do not market to the number of people but to the needs of the people. You will find this to be a more lucrative long-term strategy.Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant and author of 17 titles, including the video, “You’re On The Air,” and its two companion guides, “Perpetual Promotion” and “It’s Show Time.” He hosts the weekly television show, “The Book Authority.” Contact Jud at PO Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715; phone 800/562-4357; fax 860/676-0759; email: BJud@marketingdirections.com. His Web site address is http://www.marketingdirections.com.

This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor August, 1998, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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