As marketing professionals and experienced publishers know, success is a function of figuring out where your target market is, how to develop and design your books and other information products for that market, and which channels to use to reach the people in it. The following steps will help you through this process and increase the likelihood that you’ll hit the bull’s-eye.
Define Who You Are & What You Know
The most successful businesses possess (or develop) a core competence and differential advantage and serve a particular group. In plain English, this means they gravitate towards their strengths and focus on developing products that emphasize those strengths. For example, if you spent seven years working in a mortgage department in a bank, you probably have a deep understanding of mortgages and the application process. Maybe you have a new model for selecting the optimal mortgage and new techniques for refinancing. What’s more, you probably know what borrowers need to know to select and apply for a mortgage.
Define the Market You Serve
The most important questions to ask yourself are:
- What business am I in?
- Who am I trying to serve?
- What do these customers need?
- What do they buy and why?
The more precise your answers are, the more successful you will become.
Let’s follow the mortgage banker example further. Perhaps you served single mothers who work and you can develop a book specifically geared to their special needs. You’ll want to study the demographics of that target market, including current and emerging trends, and then identify the problems its members face and the information they need to solve those problems.
A good starting point is http://www.census.gov. After that, be creative. For instance, if you’re targeting skiers in New England, you’ll want to research the local mountains and their features, hotels and lodges, equipment stores, and restaurants. You can find this information on the search engines such as http://www.Google.com. Once you find out the possibilities, analyze what types of people visit these spots; this will help you hone in on your market.
Read, Look & Listen!
To understand your market’s needs–and to discover which ones aren’t being met and how you might meet them–you should read, or at least skim, vast quantities of material.
- Visit a major newsstand and browse through the periodicals that appeal to your target market.
- Speak with the reference librarian at a nearby library; study The Reader’s Guide to Periodic Literature there, and look through relevant periodicals on the library shelves.
- Try to find cable TV shows–or channels–and radio programs–or stations–that cover your topic.
- Frequent the Web sites in your field. Join relevant online communities. Participate in chat groups so you can follow your customers’ needs and interests.
- Join an appropriate book club. (You can locate these clubs through ads in magazines your customers read as well as through popular search engines.)
- Assess comparable books by studying best-seller lists in Publishers Weekly, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, leading news magazines, and your local paper. Also, note the best-sellers along with the used books and out-of-print titles at Amazon, and the best-sellers at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million. And pull books off the shelves at local bookstores.
- Get to know the leading journalists in your field. What topics are they covering? What issues do they address? What problems do they see that are not being solved? Follow their work. Contact them by letter or telephone to exchange information. (Establishing strong relationships with journalists will not only help you serve your target market better; it will also increase the likelihood of your getting media coverage.)
Play the Pay-Per-Click Game in Reverse
“Pay-per-click” or “PPC” advertising is a big driver in Internet marketing today. With PPC, you agree to pay a search engine a certain price whenever a visitor to the search engine clicks through to your site. But you can also use PPC technology to zero in on your target market and collect data and topics for developing your books.
For example, you can get a sense of the most popular topics in your genre at Overture.com by clicking on “Advertising Center,” then scrolling right on the tool bar and clicking on “Tools.” Experiment with the “Term Suggestion Tool” and the “View Bids Tool.” Once you type in your keywords, you can begin to see what terms and information your target customers seek and how much your competitors pay for click-throughs. The more times people search for a given term, the more popular it is and the more important it is that you include those topics in your book. If you select a target market and find that relatively few people search the Web for information on it, you may be fishing in the wrong pond.
Keep Gathering Data
When you speak to groups, even after your book has been published, hand out index cards attendees can use to provide you with feedback and questions. Develop a detailed evaluation form that asks which topics interest the audience. In your books, insert a note that solicits letters from readers. Do the same if you publish an e-zine. Offer a prize–perhaps a special e-report–to those who respond. To conduct a more formal survey, visit: http://www.SurveyMonkey.com.
Every step you take to discover the needs and goals of your target market will help you succeed.
Eric Gelb is the Founder and President of www.PublishingGold.com, Inc., a marketing and publishing firm. He is also the author of “Book Promotion Made Easy,” and the editor of the “Publishing Gold” e-zine.
Copyright © 2002 Eric Gelb