The reading level for this article is Novice

Have a new idea or new product? Here’s how to find the markets for your invention, and what to do when you find them.

But before I show you how easy it is, and the best tools available to find your markets, take a piece of paper and write down all the markets to which you think your product or invention would sell. A market is any group of people you can define that has the potential to buy your product. Narrow it down as tightly as you can. This is step one: Figure out exactly what group or groups are the most likely to need,want, and be able to purchase your product. You’ve got to define exactly who your market is before you’re able to figure out how to reach it.

The tighter the specifications to find your markets, the lower your marketing costs will be. If you are selling books to middle school teachers, most of your money will be wasted if you advertise to all teachers. Your market is teachers, grades 7 through 10. Any material you send to anyone else just shows up on the red side of your balance sheet under "expenses."

Let’s take a few examples. Your task would be simple if you developed a new camera lens for Canon’s line of professional cameras. Find a list of all the owners of Canon professional cameras and you’ve done all the homework you need to do—you’ve just found your entire market. Your advertising would have no wasted expense when you mail to them, because every person in that list is a potential buyer for your lens. If this list isn’t available (and a list this tightly qualified usually isn’t), your market could be found in the readership of several magazines whose subscribers are a group of people defined as Professional Photographers. Although there is some wasted expense in advertising to this group, it is still pretty easy to find this target market.

Suppose you’ve invented a new tripod to hold any type or brand of camera. Here, your task of finding the specific markets—groups of prospects most likely to purchase your product—is more complex. Surely if your tripod is of good quality, the professional photographers market is a good place to start. But how about the consumer photographic market?

The consumer market is much broader, as well as a little more elusive to reach: consumers don’t all read the same dozen or so photography trade magazines the pros read. Since there is a large number of consumers you must reach with the message that your new tripod is available, it’s vastly more expensive. Still, sales can be brisk, and you can make big money with a consumer product if you’re good and focus tightly on the camera market. Camera? Focus?

Maybe your tripod could also be sold to the video camera market, which is a totally different group of professionals and consumers, who own a different classification of products, who need your tripod. These folks read a totally different group of magazines and shop in vastly different stores and catalogs. But these folks, these video camera owners—they have a lot of money. Now you’re going to have to choose which market is better for tripod sales. Who are the more likely users—or better yet, the more likely purchasers?

Hey, how about sales of your tripods to back yard astronomers to mount their telescopes? Or how about selling to the security market, where people need sturdy stands for surveillance cameras? Hey, how about&ldots;well, you get the idea. These are all separate and distinctly different markets. All the people in these markets can be reached through the magazines they read, but each group reads a completely different set of magazines. Now you’re learning about the finesse of marketing. Think about all the market niches where your products would sell. In a minute you’ll see how to reach them.

Take another example. For a while I owned a company that manufactured I.D. tags. It wasn’t too exciting, but we did some nice numbers—we placed about 25,000 pounds of mail a year into the mailstream. For a quick study of in-depth marketing, take a one-minute look at where we marketed our I.D. tags.

First, the pet industry was a big market for us—we marketed pet I.D. tags to the owners of 54 million dogs and 57 million cats, give or take a few million. In a completely separate industry, we made emergency medical I.D.—personalized identification bracelets and neck pendants for the medical community, specifically for the subspecialty markets of people with diabetes and people taking heart medication.

To the child care industry, we sold I.D. tags to parents, to lace onto their child’s sneaker so young children would have some sort of identification on them. To the running industry, we sold them as runners’ sneaker identification tags. We marketed through runners’ magazines and through race directors of marathons.

Besides these industries, we marketed our product to laboratories and laboratory equipment manufacturers as permanent, indestructible name plates for equipment.

To the machinery industry, we marketed the same product as valve tags; to the luggage industry, as baggage tags; and to golf bag manufacturers and through golf and pro shops, as golf bag identification. To the woodworking industry, we personalized plaques for woodworkers’ custom cabinetry and hobbyists’ handmade wood projects. To zoos, we marketed our I.D. tags as name plates for animal cages; to the equestrian industry, as horse halter, tack, and saddle identification tags.

To medical and veterinary doctors, we marketed the same I.D. tags as identification tags for their stethoscopes; to art museums, for photo and picture nameplates; and to the commercial fishing industry, as identification tags for lobster and crab pots—as required by law. So what other markets did you say your product fit into? By the way, we manufactured only five shapes of tags and offered only one style of engraving.

Here’s the Plan

Think of all the markets where your product can be sold, then rank them—starting with your primary market as number one. Exactly what groups of people will be most likely to buy your product? As you can see from the examples, if you came up with only one group, you can probably go back and find several more.

Figure out all your markets, then find all the magazines that go to these markets; then, finally, create and send a press release to all those magazines. A press release is a one-page document you send to magazines describing your product and its benefits. The magazine then publishes it for free. Simple plan, isn’t it?

From the response you receive from your press releases, you’ll be able to see exactly which markets have the most interest in your product. If you’re not familiar with writing press releases and sending them to magazines for free write-ups, see the article in this book on writing press releases. Or buy my first book, How To Market a Product for Under $500 (ISBN 0-9642879-2-7), and read the first chapter: almost fifty pages on writing press releases and how to submit them with the best possible chance of having them published. OK, so I plugged my book, sue me. It’s a great book.

Step 2: Finding Your Markets

There are several great reference books found in most libraries that list all markets and the magazines that are sent to each. All the reference tools are easy to use, and you will be able to use them after this five-minute introduction.

The main players are the directories of magazines. Big, thick, 1,000- to 1,500-page books of easy-to-use information. The best ones are Burrelle’s Media Directory/Magazines and Newsletters, Bacon’s Newspaper/Magazine Directory, the Oxbridge Communications National Directory of Magazines (also their National Directory of Newsletters and the Standard Periodical Directory), and the SRDS (formerly Standard Rate and Data Service but now officially called by just their acronym) Business Publication Advertising Source™.

Each of these directories has a similar setup, with easy-to-use features. Why do I say they’re easy to use? In the front of each book the publishers have a single page of instructions. From this you can understand that using these marketing tools is quite easy—quite a contrast to using your VCR, for which you received a 30-page instruction manual! All the directories group the entire universe of people into about 90 to 110 distinct markets or industries, and they’re all listed alphabetically by subject in the market classification section: two or three pages that are found in the front of each book. How convenient. If you can remember the alphabet, you can perform the marketing function.

Examples of industries you can look up would include everything from accounting, banking, firefighting, or heating, to tourism, veterinary, or woodworking, to name just a few. Any profession or industry you can think of has one or more magazines published for it, and larger industries may be served by hundreds of magazines. All the industries and markets and all their accompanying magazines are listed in these directories.

For example: If you were marketing a product to the motorcycle industry, you’d pick any directory and look up "M" for "Motorcycles" in the market classification section. Then you’d turn to the main section of the book—the magazine data section—where all the motorcycle magazines are found in a single location under "M" for motorcycles. There you’d see all 38 magazines sent to the motorcycle industry, along with their data: circulation, ad costs, publisher, phone and fax numbers, and other miscellaneous information.

Another way to use these books to find the markets you’re researching (and the magazines that serve them) is to know the name of any one magazine sent to that particular industry. Each reference book has an alphabetical title directory; if you know the title of a magazine, look it up there.

While American Photographer would be listed under "photography" in the market classification section, in the title index you’d look under "A" for American, and scan down to American Photographer. The directories then show you the page in the magazine data section where the magazine is found. Turn to that page and, lo and behold, American Photographer is grouped with all the other photographic magazines.

Fast and easy; and you thought marketing was hard. Nope. Just time consuming: some industries have dozens of specialty magazines, and the lucrative markets have even more.

While the lawn and garden supplies industry may have only a dozen magazines, the computer industry has over 450 magazines that go to every niche of the computer market. Man, those computer geeks must like to read. But you don’t have to worry about reading all of the magazines now. You only have to read them if you’re going to place an ad in one. Right now, you’re just going to be exploring the markets with press releases.

Finding a single market would take you about five minutes, if you’re a slow reader. Once you’ve found the markets you’re prospecting to, and you see all the magazines sent to those industries, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how you can reach your prospective buyers through those magazines, and of how large each market is.

Here’s an optional step, but I recommend it. If you think your product will really fit in well in a particular magazine, call the magazine publisher and ask for a media kit. It’s free. Ask for a couple of recent samples of their magazine, too. Media kits contain the magazine’s ad rates and are always sent free to potential advertisers. If you’d like to get the annual directory the magazine publishes, ask for a sample of that, too.

There’s never a charge for any of this material if they think you’re serious about advertising. If the directory is normally expensive, here’s your chance to get it free, by mentioning how you may take out an ad in it and would appreciate a sample copy for evaluation. This is also a great way to get the directory if it’s published at a different time of the year and is no longer attainable through normal channels.

If you don’t want to call, you can also write to the publishers and ask for a media kit. Use business stationery so they know you’re a serious player and have the money to place an ad. The magazine publishers are pretty good about getting their promotional material right out—it means revenue to them to have an ad come in, so they strike while the lead is hot.

The media kit contains all the hype about the magazine and why you should spend all of your advertising money in that publication. All kinds of information about the industry are also included. While most of this package is usually fiction, there are always some industry insights that will help you with your marketing.

Now that you’ve found the magazines that serve the industries compatible with your product, create a press release and cover letter and send them to the magazines with a photo of the product. In about three months you’ll start to receive inquiries from the readers of the magazines who saw your published press release and are interested.

This article is ©

This Marketing Contributed Content article was written by Jeff Dobkin on 3/1/2005

Jeff Dobkin is the author of How To Market a Product for Under $500 and Uncommon Marketing Techniques He is also a speaker, writes response-driven sales letters, engaging web content, persuasive catalog copy; and exceptional direct mail packages. He also is a marketing analyst for direct marketing packages, ads, catalogs, and campaigns. To place an order, or to speak with Mr. Dobkin call 610/642-1000. Visit him online at
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