Total market potential is the maximum amount of sales that might be available to all the firms in an industry during a given period under a given level of industry marketing effort and given environmental conditions. A common way to estimate total market potential is as follows: Estimate the potential number of buyers times the average quantity purchased by a buyer times the price.

If 100 million people buy books each year, and the average book buyer buys three books a year, and the average price of a book is $10, then the total market potential for books is $3 billion (100 million x 3 x $10). The most difficult component to estimate is the number of buyers in the specific product or market. One can always start with the total population in the nation, say 261 million people. The next step is to eliminate groups that obviously would not buy the product. Let us assume that illiterate people and children under 12 do not buy books, and they constitute 20 percent of the population. This means that only 80 percent of the population, or approximately 209 million people, would be in the suspect pool. We might do further research and find that people of low income and low education do not read books, and they constitute over 30 percent of the suspect pool. Eliminating them, we arrive at a prospect pool of approximately 146.3 million book buyers. We would use this number of potential buyers to calculate total market potential.

A variation on this method is the chain-ratio method. It involves multiplying a base number by several adjusting percentages. Suppose a brewery is interested in estimating the market potential for a new light beer. An estimate can be made by the following calculation:34

Demand for the new light beer = Population x personal discretionary income per capita x average percentage of discretionary income spent on food x average percentage of amount spent on food that is spent on beverages x average percentage of amount spent on beverages that is spent on alcoholic beverages x average percentage of amount spent on alcoholic beverages that is spent on beer x expected percentage of amount spent on beer that will be spent on light beer

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