A PMA ROUNDTABLE
Target Market Tactics
Health, age, livelihood, enthusiasms—target markets for PMA members cover a wide range of categories. That’s one conclusion based on the reports that follow, plus those that ran last month and others that will run in July. You might be tempted also to conclude that niches involving animals and children are especially popular. Because the sample is small, that inference is iffy, but there’s no doubt that members have found good ways to get to both those markets, among others.
Drive, They Said
Our target market comprises schools that train entry-level tractor-trailer drivers through public, private, and carrier-based programs.
Our textbook, Bumper to Bumper: The Complete Guide to Tractor-Trailer Operations, originally published in 1988, is now in its fourth edition. It’s available in Spanish, and there is an edition for diesel mechanics students who work on tractor-trailers. We also have an Instructor’s Guide in bound and electronic editions. Our latest publication is El Glosario: The Bumper to Bumper Spanish/English Glossary of Trucking Terms.
We offer translating and editing services to other publishers in the industry. We provide expert-witness testimony. And we have consulted with start-up schools in our niche. (When we’re not busy with all this, we are the art director/senior designer for a quarterly magazine in a completely different field, and we edit novels.)
Our sales and marketing consists of staying aware of and in contact with those who are training entry-level drivers, and making sure that they are aware of our products and services. We do this mainly by phone, sometimes by mail, and by attending industry events such as truck shows and school-association conventions. We have never paid for advertising.
Over the 21 years we’ve been in business, we’ve sold hundreds of thousands of books, most directly to target-market customers but some to wholesalers and retailers, to online customers, and to customers who also serve the target market, such as trucking-accident litigators.
Before we became publishers, we were already in the target market as consultants helping truck driver training schools maintain their accreditation. We brought out our first publication in response to a change in the industry that seemed to create a need for a textbook. We already knew who our customers were going to be, and many of those people are still our customers today. We’re on a first-name basis with them; we know what their programs are like; we’ve visited their schools.
The advantage of dealing with a well-defined target market is that you can have personal relationships with the customers. For us, that and a product that truly meets their needs have been key.
Mike Byrnes & Assoc., Inc.
Stories to Listen To
We target children and families; our CDs (folktales with music) are designed for listeners age 3 to 10 and their parents and grandparents, as well as for school and public libraries. I am also attempting, so far unsuccessfully, to reach the homeschool market.
We have a Web site designed especially for teachers who use the CDs in their classrooms; I seek reviews on blogs (especially parent blogs, a goldmine) and in magazines and newspapers and on Amazon (I’ve had great sales there because I targeted the top Amazon reviewers and received raves from them). In addition, I use PMA library mailings (after last year’s mailing, sales climbed, steadily), and I advertise through PMA and Combined Book Exhibit at book fairs, toy fairs, and library meetings.
Friedman & Danziger
Yoga to Go
As a commuting mom and certified Yoga teacher, I wrote and teach Drivetime Yoga. The book and CDs were put together with ergonomic consultant and physical therapist Julie Garner. Our primary target market consists of professionals and parents who drive more than 30 minutes daily. Demographic: 25 to 55 years, mostly women, health conscious and college educated.
I had no idea that I was going to be a publisher when the inspiration to write Drivetime Yoga came. I only knew that I’d discovered something that was helping me survive and thrive when I had to commute regularly.
Along with the book and CDs, we have a bimonthly YogaNotes e-zine, and we promote with speaking engagements, classes, and presentations. Plus we market with the Web site, blogs, and magazine articles. We network with women’s professional entrepreneurial groups plus at corporate events and expos.
Recently I signed up with the Baker & Taylor Wholesale Partner program through PMA. Currently a few bookstores carry Drivetime Yoga, but increasingly specialty businesses stock the products. Some doctors and coaches give them to clients, and some local businesses— including Quick Lube, car-wash gift shops, senior centers, Yoga studios, and spas—carry them.
My best results come from personal relationships. My tips:
Systematize follow up.
Submit advance publicity months before your products are in hand.
Keep momentum going and leverage your wins.
Keep in touch with your clients regularly.
Don’t give up, and expect a cycle of ups and downs.
Keep adapting, and trust in your initial inspiration and research.
Test and analyze what’s really working; then focus and shift to grow.
Learn to delegate.
Keep breathing consciously, stretching often, and live well.
I decided to self-publish rather than invest the time and money in courting publishers. I was impatient to create the new niche: helping everyday drivers be more healthy and happy. It’s been a long process, but I feel very fortunate to have made most (!) of the choices that I have.
The YoGo Project
Changing with the Times
Children, especially toddlers to age 12, and—as the company motto says—the adults who care for them are our target market. We offer books, leader’s guides (for use in parent education, whether led by an instructor or a volunteer), card decks (e.g., “The Self-Calming Cards,” each with a different calming strategy), a free monthly newsletter for parents, teachers, youth group leaders, and others, and a quarterly available by subscription for parent educators, early childhood education professionals, social workers, extension agents, and the like. Also, we have a content-heavy, advertising-free Web site.
Sales are direct (mail order, phone, Web site, exhibits, book fairs, back of the room), through catalogs (many therapeutic), through wholesalers, and to some extent through distribution by other publishers.
Since the company’s establishment in 1979, when direct sales were very, very significant, many sales have shifted to bookstores, especially chain stores. This has created challenges, with inventory (stores may advertise a book on a Web site as available within a few days when the book won’t be on the shelf for a browsing customer to find), with hand-selling (which has diminished asindependent stores have closed), and of course, with returns.
Parenting has never been a popular topic for bookstore appearances, which limits the number of appearances in retail outlets that our authors make. And attendant publicity doesn’t generate the sales that it once did, now that bookstore appearances are typically listed in miniature type in newspaper calendar sections instead of being mentioned in feature stories with photos.
Another significant challenge today arises because many parenting education programs are now government funded; as social-services budgets are cut, these programs have less money to send people to conferences or to buy books. Some—think Head Start—close down or consolidate sites. Back-of-the-room sales still occur at conferences, but many conferences require speakers to register (at significant fees), and many allow book sales only at vendor booths (another significant fee).
We depend on email announcements and press releases to reach mass and specialty media, booksellers, and prospective and past customers, which requires constant (as in daily) database development and maintenance. In March of this year, we sent an announcement to about 3,000 extension agents using a list built in-house, and were delighted to have only about 200 emails returned because of bad addresses. That’s 200 contacts that have to be replaced by researching. In December, when we hadn’t used the list for six months due to a personnel change, we had 1,000 returned emails.
Using a variety of specialized lists, we’ve come to know that it’s more important to have an extension agent mention one of our books in her newsletter to families than it is to get a blurb in a suburban weekly read mostly by retirees. Identifying the groups for which you should develop these lists requires knowing your markets and who serves them very, very well. (For example, who would have thought that there were companies that license content for school newsletters? And how do you find these companies and convince them to mention your products?) Testing lists also requires careful tracking of sales.
Parenting Press, Inc.
Savings Offers Spur Email Sales
As academic publishers, we target academic libraries, professors, and graduate students in humanities. Besides books, we publish two peer-reviewed journals, monographs, and series in various fields.
Our sales are mainly direct via email to targeted groups, catalog mailings to college and research libraries, and attendance at various academic conferences. I find that the biggest return comes from direct email campaigns, especially when they include huge one-time savings offers.
Gorgias Press, LLC
A Cautionary Tale
Our Let’s Go Visit series targets children ages 8 and up, educating them about animals. That target market includes kids and parents possessing slightly twisted to fully inflamed funny bones.
We offer books. Just books! If we admitted that we were subversively offering people an education by disguising it as humor, that would undermine our sneakiness.
Until now, we’ve tried doing everything on our own, from mass mailings to independent bookstores, to bumbling along on social networking sites. Our results could not have been seen with an electron microscope. Having recently joined PMA, we hope to do better by utilizing several of its programs. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, I offer one tip: Don’t do any of the things we have tried so far.
Nola Lee Kelsey
Dog’s Eye View Press
Fueling Double-Digit Growth
YMAA reaches for one primary audience—martial arts practitioners—and a variety of crossover audiences, including natural-health practitioners.
There are so many ways to test and enter a target market. We like common sense, leads from PMA, ideas from John Kremer and Dan Poynter; our own distributor can help too. We don’t usually take big risks. We work our markets in a steady and sustainable way, without betting the farm on any one product. When we sell into a target market, we sell our entire list—martial arts books and DVDs, meditation books and DVDs, massage books and DVDs, Qigong books and DVDs, martial arts fiction, and Tai Chi silk uniforms—and we publicize our titles energetically.
Customers include bookstores, gift stores, and Internet stores along with martial arts schools, martial arts stores, health food stores, and holistic healing clinics, to name a few.
Year over year, we’ve seen double-digit growth in direct sales via our Web site and sales via our in-house reps, as well as sustainable year-over-year growth in sales via our distributor.
Stick with it; this takes time.
Set goals and measure them (sometimes measurements will be difficult, but nonetheless progress toward a goal needs to be measured).
Don’t jump around willy-nilly. Pick a target market and work it. In time, it should be obvious that your plan is or is not working. Adjust or abandon the plan according to your reasonable measured results.
Make sustained effort in a target market once you determine its worth. It’s very easy to get bogged down testing too many markets at one time.
Stick within your budget.
YMAA Publication Center, Inc.