Marketing in the White Space: A different approach to market segmentation
Maket segmentation is the process of dividing your overall sales opportunity into unique, defined, manageable groups of people. You know this as a fundamental marketing technique, but if you look at it in a new way it is even more likely to increase your sales, revenue and profits.
Figure 1 shows the result of segmenting the market for a children’s title. Each segment has its own needs, procedures and sales opportunities. Buyers at toy stores purchase in different ways and for different reasons than would parents purchasing the same book for home-schooling purposes. Knowing this difference makes your sales efforts more effective, efficient and profitable.
But look closely at Figure 1. Segment boundaries are defined and limited. Competitive rules (such as “pay to play”) are understood and accepted. Your book must have a knock-off factor for a retailer to replace a book already on shelf. The content of books has become less differentiated and people increasingly base their purchase decision on price. And as a segment gets more crowded with competitive titles, the potential for profits and growth are reduced.
Look for what others do not see
Some publishers see all the opportunities in Figure 1, but they miss what is not visible immediately—the area surrounding the segments. Locating opportunities that are not immediately visible is what I call “marketing in the white space”—the undefined area surrounding the segments, the places where you can create new sales in uncontested market space where your competition is irrelevant. Here, demand is created rather than fought over, and growth may be profitable and rapid.
Marketing in the white space is not about technology innovation, nor is it about line extensions or dividing up existing segments in a different way. It is about creating value for your content among new buyers in places where there are no competitive titles. Here are five examples of how I made this transition.
Create content for new consumers
When my first title ("Job Search 101") was published, it went head-to-head with hundreds of other books about writing cover letters, creating resumes and participating successfully in interviews. For several years I fought valiantly—but ultimately unsuccessfully—with the perennial market leader ("What Color Is Your Parachute"), making inroads, but with steadily reduced profit margins. As the economy worsened, bookstore shelves became saturated with competitive job-search books. Incremental growth through conventional outlets became less profitable so I made a strategic marketing decision to seek growth elsewhere.
I conducted basic research and found two significant opportunities devoid of competition. One was for people who knew all about cover letters, resumés and interviewing but who had been out of work for an extended period and were struggling with a concomitant erosion of attitude. I wrote "Coping With Unemployment" for them. The other opportunity was for people who had a great attitude and knew all about cover letters, resumés interviewing, but they did not know where to find people to whom to send their resumés. For these people I wrote "Help Wanted, Inquire Within." This described where to find target employers in places other than newspapers and online.
Provide your content in a different format
The form of the product that delivers your information is a variable, simply a means to an end. Form is the shape of the product, the armature upon which your content carries the message. It may be modified to serve the greater purpose of communication.
As I began speaking to more college audiences I found that students wanted job-search information, but they did not want to spend the money for a book. In response, I used the content of "Job Search 101" to create a series of eight, 32-page booklets, each devoted to one traditional job-search tactic such as writing a resume or interviewing. I sold these to the colleges who in turn gave them to the students.
I adapted the booklets to meet the needs of other markets. With a little rewriting, I marketed them to unemployment offices in all 50 states. With further changes in content and strategy, I sold them to corporations to give employees who had been, or were about to be, laid off.
Locate new users for your existing information
Continuing with the "Job Search 101" example, I conducted additional research to discover an absence of career information available for the Hispanic market. Hence, I had "Job Search 101" translated into Spanish and published as "Elementos basicos para buscar trabajo." I dominated an untapped, competitor-free, content-deprived, yet enormous segment poised for growth.
Find new uses for your basic information
"Job Search 101" and "Help Wanted: Inquire Within" describe the basic techniques for finding employment. Together, they explained where to find the names of prospective employers, how to contact them and how to interview effectively. Fortunately, these are the same steps required by authors to secure and conduct performances on television and radio shows. Even the interview techniques of correct posture, eye communication, gesturing and voice control are similar.
I re-purposed this versatile content and created an entirely new product line anchored by the video program, "You’re on the Air." I also wrote its two companion guides, "Perpetual Promotion" and "It’s Show Time" to extend the initial product offering. This three-piece media-training package helped authors get on and perform on television and radio shows.
Implement creative promotional campaigns
The marketing technique of bundling occurs when two or more associated products are packaged together and sold as one product, the cost of which is less than purchasing each item individually. This tactic proved successful in a direct-mail campaign aimed at parents of graduating college students. I offered a bundle of several of my titles to this target segment at a discounted price.
In all cases I was able to compete outside the confines of the traditional job-search category without having to battle a competitor for market share. I could sell at higher margins and in most cases without returns. Additionally, I became the leader in segments that I created. You can do the same with a little creative marketing in the white spaces surrounding your conventional markets.
Brian Jud is an author, book-marketing consultant, seminar leader, television host and president of Premium Book Company, which sells books to non-bookstore buyers on a non-returnable, commission-only basis and conducts on-site training for publishers' sales forces.
Brian is the author of "How to Make Real Money Selling Books (Without Worrying About Returns)," a do-it-yourself guide to selling books to non-bookstore buyers in large quantities, with no returns. He has written many articles about book publishing and marketing, is the author of the eight e-booklets with "Proven Tips for Publishing Success," and creator of the series of "Book Marketing Wizards." He is also the editor of the bi-weekly newsletter, "Book Marketing Matters."
Brian is the host of the television series "The Book Authority" and has aired over 650 shows. In addition, he is the author, narrator and producer of the media-training video program "You're On The Air."