Ponds, Oceans, or Wells of Water

June 21st, 2013 by Rich Christiansen

As I mentioned in a previous post this week I had the opportunity to fly down and meet with Ray Bard who is just a brilliant mind, to put it mildly. Ray is known as the grandfather of the publishing industry and has orchestrated the success of many books and it’s largely because of the models and structure he has created. Today I’d like to share two of them with you, and although they were crafted for the book industry they actually relate well to any product or service.

To determine the sales potential of the opportunity at hand Ray uses the above diagram. Along the horizontal axis there’s the market depth also known as the “felt need”. You must identify how much “felt need” or motivation exists in order for someone to act or do something meaningful. The vertical axis is the market size, or the number of potential customers.

When it is shallow with a very small felt need you end up with a swamp, placed in the top left-hand quadrant. In a swamp there’s a lot of people there but it’s not interesting enough to gain sufficient momentum or traction and so obviously it’s not a real great place to fish. To continue that train of thought the worst place to fish is a puddle. From a publishing standpoint a puddle would be a little book of interesting thoughts. They may be kind of fun, but there’s not a great felt need and the market size for them is not really high.

In the middle of chart where there is a middle-market depth and some felt need is a lake. It is composed of general interest type topics, but nothing super, super compelling or motivating. Then there are areas where there is very broad interest and strong felt need, this area is similar to the ocean! The difficulty in fishing in the ocean is that it is SO broad and SO vast you can’t focus.

Ray’s premise is that the best place to fish (or the best place to create a book) is in a well. A well is very tightly defined, very easy to access and you can quickly identify with a strong “felt need” market.  Although the size may not be as significant as the ocean, picture yourself fishing in a well or, even better, a fish hatchery. It’s much easier to catch fish. The market is tightly bounded, confined and easily targeted.

Anytime you’re looking at a market opportunity, whether it’s in Ray Bard’s perspective of books, or whether it’s selling widgets or gadgets, try looking at your task in this context – aim for a very tightly well-defined market with a very strong felt need, and you’ll see a high probability of success.

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