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Open Wider: A Success Story About Broadening a Tiny Niche

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Thanks to a manuscript for pediatric dentists, I had a chance to put my own theory from Publishing to Niche Markets to the test, and I am happy to report on how it worked.

We knew we had a wee market for Standard Operating Procedures for Pediatric Dentists (at most 3,800), but the writer, Marsha Freeman, was a top dental consultant, so we prepped a one-sided 8 _” x 11″ flyer that described the book and its companion floppy disc and inserted a note that asked nth-selection recipients to respond via an enclosed postcard. Sent to 200, the mailing got a 22 percent buy rate!

The sales of that first book, in 1995, helped us refine the package, which evolved from a bound volume for pediatric dentists accompanied by a rather cumbersome disc to a loose-leaf, shrink-wrapped three-ring binder book (with a D-ring holder) and a disc for all dentists, with 256 SOPs, each in its own file.

Before developing that master book (eight times larger than the original), we tested the broader niche field again with a flyer, note, and reply postcard. Called Standard Operating Procedures for All Dentists, the master book now contains 487 pages. We are selling the fourth upgraded edition; the gross income for it alone is $800,000.

Money-making Ripple Effects

Several spinoffs made the project even more of a success.

Marsha was already an excellent, well-established consultant, so her bookings quadrupled, and she got speaking slots at the major national dental conventions, where we also displayed th.adpoducts.

Dentists wanted related topics to discuss at their staff meetings, so we produced four audiocassette programs, each with workbooks they could copy.

One dentist suggested that Marsha create a companion video to help dentists and their staff customize their in-office SOPs; a much-bought 80-minute video resulted.

Standard Operating Procedures for All Dentists covers about 75 to 80 percent of what dentists do in their practice, but the specialists have additional, unique demands, so we created five smaller specialized SOPs packets: a three-ring booklet and a disc for orthodontists, periodontists, endodontists, oral surgeons, and, yes, our first market, pediatric dentists!

We also added Standard Marketing Procedures for All Dentists, which I wrote with Reece Franklin, using the same three-ring binder and disc format.

Some dentists, particularly abroad, wanted the product in digital form to avoid the shipping time and cost, so all segments of it are now downloadable, even the chapters and single SOPs.

And we added four more dental books to the list.

On to MDs

But why stop with dentists? Fairly quickly we tested, then created, a similar book with disc–SOPs for All Doctors–plus specialized packets for ob-gyns, pediatricians, general surgeons, and primary care physicians.

With every sale or contact, we cross-sell, of course.

The results? The downside is the cost of direct mailing to dentists and doctors two or three times a year, though the risk is low because we test and the numbers are holding true. The upside is a seven-digit income. We use JIT assembly, print in lots of 50 or 100 as needed (this is critical with limited storage and staff), and benefit from the fact that lots of enthusiastic dentists keep sending colleagues our way.

Tips: Test first. Listen early to suggestions about improvements and additions. Create a high-quality but easily usable product. And provide strong support.

Three of Gordon Burgett’s most popular books–The Travel Writer’s Guide, Sell and Resell Your Magazine Articles, and How to Plan a Great Second Life–have recently been released in updated editions. For more on his presentations as well as his books, call 800/563-1454, fax 805/937-3035, e-mail info@gordonburgett.com, or visit www.gordonburgett.com.

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