Now that we've discussed the Target Customer here and here, it's time to move on to the first P in the Marketing Mix - the Product. Or, for the customer, the first C - Customer's wants and needs. For the most success, we should develop a Product that specifically meets our Target Customer's needs and wants. We identify the gap between what they need/want (their problem) and the products (solutions) that are currently available. Then, ideally, we develop a product that fills that gap.
*Aside: In marketing, a service is considered a product - there is no distinction between the two. So when I say "product," that includes any service, as well. And often, actual tangible products include some kind of service, as well, which we'll get into a little bit later.
So, say you are really good at organizing spaces and time management. Your friends, family and neighbors frequently confess to you that they wish they were as organized as you are. You know there are such things as professional organizers, but apparently there is a reason the people you know have not used one. If you identify that reason - that gap in what is available and what these people you know want - you can develop a Product that better meets their needs and desires. Voila! You have a new Product and business that should be successful (if all else goes well) because you know you're filling an identified gap.
But many of you are writers and your Products are your books and we get to the question that many of us face, especially if unpublished. Do we find out what agents, publishers and readers are looking for, what they're not finding in all the other stories out there, and then write that book? Do we write for them or for ourselves?
The advice is conflicting. Agents may say a book is not marketable, meaning that they will have a hard time shopping it to publishers because publishers don't think readers will be interested enough to spend the money publishers need to recoup their investments. So, to increase your likelihood of being sold, it's better to find out what's already out there (including what's not yet published but will be in the next couple years), recognize what's been overdone and underdone and identify what publishers wish for, then write that book.
Of course, no one has any idea what readers really want, especially in a couple years, when your book will finally be available if you publish through traditional routes. So it's still a crap shoot. But at least it's an educated crap shoot. If you can write a book based on what others, the "experts," want, then you may have more success doing it this way.
But what if that's not the book you want to write? Do you force yourself to write it anyway? To me, it's just not worth it. There's just not enough money in this career to write for these experts, if it's not something I want to write. I honestly believe the best books are those written with intense passion. The ones the writer felt compelled to write, that they can't not write. If we're forcing ourselves to write something else, it comes through in the story and the writing. And then you have a poor Product and poor products are not marketable.
So there is the other side of the coin of advice: write what you want, the story you want to read. Write for yourself, not the money. If it gets published and you make money, so much the better. But at least in the meantime, you have loved what you're doing. And here's my take: if you love it enough, if you've put enough into it, even if it takes a lot more work and time than you expected, your passion will shine through. Your story will be excellent. And if you enjoy it, chances are, there are others out there who will, too. After all, you know there are other readers out there who like the same books you do. You do have a Target Customer you're writing for, starting with yourself.
By the way, the same applies to book bloggers/reviewers. If you're looking to get paid to write reviews, then you'll probably have to read books you have little interest in, especially in the beginning. So just like the novelist, decide if your goal is to have fun and if more comes out of it, great...or if your goal is money.
If your goal is to enjoy reading and sharing your thoughts with others, don't worry about what genre is hot right now or that there may be hundreds of book blogs focusing on your favorite type of read. Your Product - your blog - will be successful because it displays the passion you feel for reading. You are unique, so your blog will be unique. Don't try to fit your square self into a round hole or vice versa.
There is much more to say about Product, so we'll continue with it next week. It's especially important because for writers - whether novelists or bloggers - Product is the one P we have the most control over.
In the meantime, what do you think about what I said about writers/bloggers and their Products? Is your goal to be published (paid), even if that means writing (reading) something others want but you don't love? Or do you write (read) what you want, because you love it, and hope that others will, too?