Marketing in the White Space

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June 2012
by Brian Jud

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You know that market segmentation is a fundamental marketing technique, and you probably classify sales opportunities in terms of time-honored categories. But looking at the universe of buyers in a new way is likely to increase your sales, revenue, and profits.

The figure to the right shows traditional segmentation of 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 buyers at associations for home-schooled children, for example. Within each segment, certain rules must be understood and accepted, and as any segment gets more crowded, your titles become less likely to thrive there.

What I call marketing in the white space may serve you well as an alternative to traditional market segmentation. It involves the undefined area surrounding traditional segments. In this territory, you can generate new sales, and competition is irrelevant. Demand is created rather than fought over, and growth may be profitable and rapid.

Tactics in New Territory

The approach is akin to observing the initially invisible aspects of the picture below. Obviously, it shows a tree, but if you look more closely you will see several faces. In fact, there are 10 faces.

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 four examples that show how I’ve used the technique.

Creating content

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, making incremental growth through conventional outlets even less profitable. So I decided to seek growth elsewhere.

I began by conducting basic research and found two significant areas devoid of competition. One involved people who knew all about cover letters, resumes, and interviewing, but who had been out of work for an extended period with damaging effects on their attitude. I wrote Coping with Unemployment for them. The other area involved people with a great attitude who also knew all about cover letters, resumes, and interviewing, but did not know how to find the names of prospective employers to send their resumes. For these people I wrote Help Wanted, Inquire Within, which described ways to target potential employers besides using newspapers and the Internet.

Adapting format

The format of the product that delivers your information is a variable, simply a means to an end. Form is an armature that may be modified to serve the greater purpose of communication.

As I gave talks to 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 colleges, which distributed them to students.

Serving more markets

Once I had the booklets, I adapted them to meet the needs of various other job-search markets.

For the parents of graduating students, I used the marketing technique known as bundling that entails packaging two or more associated products together and selling the package for less than the total cost of its elements purchased individually.

After a little rewriting, I also marketed the booklets to unemployment offices in all 50 states. With further changes, I sold them to corporations to give employees who had been, or were about to be, laid off.

Through additional research, I discovered an absence of career information for the Hispanic market. So I had Job Search 101 translated into Spanish. Published as Elementos basicos para buscar trabajo, it dominated an untapped, competitor-free, content-deprived, yet enormous segment poised for growth.

Repurposing

Job Search 101 and Help Wanted: Inquire Within describe the basic techniques for finding employment. Together, they explain where to find the names of prospective employers, how to contact them, and how to interview effectively.

These steps are remarkably similar to the steps authors need to take to arrange and conduct performances on television and radio shows. Even the interview techniques involving correct posture, eye communication, gesturing, and voice control are similar.

So I repurposed my versatile content and created an entirely new product line for authors rather than job seekers. I anchored it with a video program that I wrote and narrated, called You’re on the Air. And I created two companion guides, Perpetual Promotion and It’s Show Time, to extend the initial product offering in this new line.

Reaping Rewards

All these activities let my products compete outside the confines of traditional market segments for job-search books, which meant that they did not have to battle competitors for market share. It also meant that I could sell at higher margins and in most cases without returns. And it often meant that I became the recognized leader in segments that I had recognized and targeted. Your results may be similar in the white spaces around the traditional markets for your books.


Brian Jud is the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and now offers commission-based sales of books to buyers in nonbookstore markets.

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