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While at the library looking over the magazine directories, head over to the reference desk and drag out the SRDS Directory of Mailing Lists (SRDS List Source) along with the Oxbridge Communications Directory of Mailing Lists. Look up the industry you are researching and find out how many lists serve it. Then note the size of each list in that market. This will give you a few more numbers to think about. While there, see if you can find out if the numbers are increasing or decreasing for that marketplace. That will give you an idea if the market is growing or declining.

Next, get the catalogs of some of the major list vendors. These vendors can be found in the direct marketing trade journals: you can get a free copy of each of these trade journals by calling the publishers and asking for a media kit, or a sample copy for advertising evaluation, the magazines will go right out via first class mail. The publishers’ phone numbers of said direct marketing magazines can be found in&ldots; the magazine directories, thanks for asking. Call all the list vendors who have ads and ask if they have a catalog.

When you get the list catalogs, look up the industry you’re researching. Here, you’ll be able to see the statistics of how many businesses there are in this particular industry in the U.S. You’ll also be able to find out business size by income or number of employees. In some instances you’ll be able to get the names of individuals and their positions. If you’re really savvy, you can get this information on the web, and then click-in some overlays to find out size (and wealth) related questions, like how many businesses are in each income range, how many have over 100 employees – or over 50 employees, or under 10 employees – or whatever marketing segment you’re looking for. You can get breakouts by demographics, by geographies, zip codes, living clusters, or any which of 50 different ways – and you’ll be able to find out this information in real time, er&ldots; sort of. Look up lists on the Internet. If you need immediate counts, this can be the fastest place to get them or at least the first round of them anyhow. There’s nothing like calling the list vendor for real information and more articulated breakouts.

If you’re researching consumer markets, or even industrial markets that are fairly large, you might check the catalog directories of Oxbridge Communications or Woodbine House. These will give you an idea of what is sent to that segment of the population. So if you’re marketing a particular type of blue jeans, you’ll know right away there are hundreds of apparel catalogs, and your market is indeed huge.

Finally, look in the reference books of associations – such as the Gale Encyclopedia of Associations, the Columbia House Book of Associations, and the Leadership Directory of Associations. The size of the association will give you an immediate industry assessment. But then, call the association for that industry – the folks at the association headquarters will be very knowledgeable about the market, its size, its strengths and weaknesses, the magazines and all the major players. You can probably also get a list of the major players – often the association directors – and call them for still further information. These heavyweights are usually exceptionally helpful – that’s why they are directors of the associations in the first place.

To me, establishing market size isn’t the amount of money spent in an industry. For example, to say the motorcycle industry is a 4 billion dollar industry doesn’t tell me very much. This figure is meaningless to small businesses — and it’s especially harmful to say "This market does 4 billion a year, if we can just get a 1% share&ldots;." As far as I know, no marketing plan correctly takes the industry figure and figures a percentage of what they will receive in revenue. Of course I’ve only been in marketing for about 25 years. When I look at a market I need to know how easy or difficult it will be to introduce a product or service to that industry. So I need to see how entrenched my client’s competition is, what the entrance barriers are, and…

Here’s some of the other stuff I look at: is the industry product intensive? Are there tons of magazines? And do all the magazines continually show huge groups of new products? I know it will make my client’s products harder to get noticed and thus harder to bring to market. Lots of magazines, lots of ads, make an industry very product intensive, and with our product we’d be just one of the pack. While it might make it very easy to get our first press release featured, subsequent releases will be difficult to place.

Are there huge competitors in direct competition with our own products? If there are, they may have all the major distributors tied up distributing their products, so they won’t be able to distribute ours. Additionally, we may need to address their strengths in our marketing plan and stay away from those areas — or figure out their weaknesses and attack them. We may also need to adjust our price or our warranties to align with theirs.

If it looks like we can attack the industry with a reasonable budget, if we can find and reach the major players and alert them of our products and services, if we can test the media with press releases before committing to an ad schedule, if there aren’t hundreds of people marketing the same product – or something close enough that our product can’t be realistically differentiated from the pack, if the competition isn’t big enough to cut their price in half so that we must meet their discounted pricing (allowing us no profit) hey – I say we take a shot.

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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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