Selecting Your Market

Why water an entire desert if it only has 10 trees? Sandals and a watering can would save you a fortune, but first you have to find the trees. Fortunately, the world's market breaks down into national, regional, and local submarkets. Some are so small that marketing people describe them as niches.

As every market is composed of many small units, much hinges on your ability to know what you are looking for. The juiciest prospects rarely huddle in a forest together. So you need to be able to identify them individually, to consider their peculiar needs and then formulate a single widely popular product. A popular product, however, does not give you a green light for worldwide sales. That's very hard to achieve. There are hardly any products apart from codeine, two colas, and McDonalds that are marketed universally.

Obtaining facts and figures on these submarkets is largely a process of combing the Web, though you may find it quicker to visit a local reference. Specialized trade libraries, industrial associations, and top newspapers and trade publications also maintain useful information services. Together they enable you to hone in on the prospects with the best matching profile. Promoting your product with rifle accuracy is obviously less expensive than peppering everyone. For instance, if I want to test market a specialized intellectual property program in Houston, Texas, I might begin by discovering that there are around 283 million people in the United States, and that 155 million work, of which just over 1 million are in the legal profession. Further reference would establish that almost 65,000 of these are in Texas and more than 5,000 Texan lawyers work outside the state. By consulting local registers, I discover that 399 of these Houston-based lawyers claim to be experienced in Information Technology. I then obtain the address of every single one courtesy of the Internet. From soup to nuts, this search takes about 10 minutes. Now that I know I have under 400 people to contact, it gives me an accurate appreciation of that market's size and significantly more focused opportunities to make a sale. The odds are infinitely better than approaching 283 million people on the off chance of striking it lucky.

Establishing your market's real size can change an airy hypothesis into a heck of a sensible start.

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