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The 4 Simplified Steps of Market Research – Another Conversation with Gerimi Burleigh

Hmmm…I feel like I’m having deja vu here…Didn’t I just talk to this guy?

If Gerimi Burleigh were a woman with bad taste in men, I’d totally go out on a date with him. You see, out of the entire indy crowd out on the Internet, he is the only one who seems to be thinking, asking questions, annoying me and, most importantly, asking me to clarify things.

He nails it perfectly down below when he says “It may be blindingly obvious to someone who is a marketing professional how to do market research, but…” Sometimes I may have problems with that “but.” If I talk about something on here, or in a Twitter rant, and it isn’t completely clear, then ask me about it. Post a comment. Yell at me on Facebook. If it isn’t clear to you then it probably isn’t clear to other people. Sure, I may go off on you a bit, but I’ll sit back later and try to make my ramblings a bit more understandable. Then, I may mock you a bit more before addressing your concerns.

Don’t be afraid to call me on shit.

Ok, without further adieu, here is another bit of back-and-forth with Gerimi Burleigh, this time taken from Facebook. Take it away, Gerimi!

(begin conversation)

Gerimi Burleigh: Sounds to me like the question is more about a “For Instance”, rather than a disclosure of a massive amount of proprietary marketing information…

For instance, Let’s say vampires are popular, so you want to create a comic that “taps that par…ticular vein”

How do you create a vampire comic that stands out from everything else and targets a niche audience?

Ok, who’s consuming a lot of vampire media right now? Teenage girls. Ok, how do you appeal to a specific group of teen girls that aren’t being targeted right now?

Romance? …over-saturated

Sci-fi? Hmmm… possibly, a teen girl version of LIFEFORCE could work.

Nascar? Well, Danica Patrick is notable for being a rarity… a successful attractive young female race car driver. You could aim the comic at her young female fans.

How about a comic about a teen girl race car driver who gets bit by a vampire? Now that is a niche!!!

Gerimi's vampire racer idea -- I'm totally stealing it. Bwahahaha!

But the harder question is how do you do the reverse? If you have a concept for a comic, how do you narrow in on who that book is for? That’s where I could use some help, Mat. I know that you would need specifics (genre, tone, characters, format), in order to narrow it down… but is there an outline for a process one would use in order to narrow down who their audience is?

Kind of like the scientific method? A way of testing a hypothesis?

Mat, I know I asked this question before in other ways, and now, having written the vampire thing I just did, it is extremely clear to me why you prefer audience first, tweak the concept second.

What would be useful for marketing Luddites is a generic description of how to narrow down from “Aimed at comic fans” to a specific demographic, then going back to the concept for the “tweak”… like writing comics Marvel-Style, then coming back for the dialog-pass once the art is in.

It may be blindingly obvious to someone who is a marketing professional how to do market research, but obviously a large number of comic publishers need a step 1. step 2. step 3. step 4.

Again, the best equivalent I can think of is not a particular business’s proprietary methods and measures, but a restating of the “Scientific method” for marketing.

Mat Nastos: It sounds like what you’re asking, Gerimi, is for me to give you an entire post graduate marketing school in a few articles and for free, which isn’t possible. I can give you broad strokes.

Trying to answer your question: the only thing is,… in terms of researching your market, aside from what I detailed in a couple of the articles, there is no real “scientific” way beyond that. You can research by demographic (using things like CommScore, Nielsen,etc is one way, or by doing your own surveys) as a start. Or, you can come up with market ideas and then go find out more about them — the internet is the easiest place. I talked about that fairly extensively on the site.

It sounds like what you’re looking for is: for every market you go to these 5 places to do all of your research, and there is no such place. There are ways to “test your hypothesis” — they’re called “focus groups.”

For some reason, the concept of market research seems to be a bit confusing. Here’s it in as simple a description as my very verbose self can come up with:

Come up with an idea for your market (this is a starting spot — figuring out your final market may take a lot of trial and error). Go online and start to look for other product that may be similar — use the internet. Also, feel free to hit libraries, book stores or the mall to find thing that, in your head, is similar in nature to what you’re doing. Coming up with a list of phrases or keywords might help — vampires, Gothic music, Asian chicks who wear black and date white dudes in wheelchairs who are involved in their Glee club, etc.

Goth Asian chicks and wheelchair guys...anyone else watch this show?

When you come across items that match what you have in mind, use them to figure out who is buying and/or where they are sold. Talk to people involved in that market — customers/buyers, vendors, etc. Find out what they like, what sells, how their market is set up in terms of sales/distribution. Ask a lot of questions. Tell them about your product and see how the market responds (vendors and buyers both). Use that feedback to help mold your product into something that is sellable IF you decide to go with that particular market.




Do that until you find the market or markets that you want to work with and fit best with your product. It can be done Product first, it just may take a lot more work. Really, the best thing you can do is think about other product or services with bits in common to what you’re doing.

If you can’t do that — if you can’t come up with a list of similar products/services or phrases which describe your comic, then you’re probably in a lot of trouble for a number of reasons. Use that list as a base and start your Easter Egg Hunt.

The reason I talk so much about finding a market early in the product development cycle (before you’ve finished your comic) and using it as a check, versus doing a comic and then worry about the market is because not every idea/product/comic is going to have a market. You’ve got a square peg and you’re hoping to find a hole that matches in a sea of shapes. For me, the create & pray method isn’t a way to plan for success. It can be done, but you’re making it incredibly difficult for yourself.

I feel a bit redundant here because I’ve said all of this in the articles on my site already.

Also, I’m not sure you can “narrow it down from aimed at comic fans.” That’s about as narrow as you can already get. You want to widen your concept, not shrink it.

Oh…addressing your statement of “How do you create a vampire comic that stands out from everything else and targets a niche audience?

Content generation, specific product development or quality is beyond the scope of what I discuss. How …to create a “good” product isn’t something I’ll ever discuss, and “standing out” falls in to that 100%. My only advice there is “Show it to a focus group within your target market/audience and listen to what they say. If they don’t like it, start adjusting.”

(end conversation)

To pick things up here, I really thought my articles on market research were fairly clear. You can check them out and let me know if they address your market research questions. What I’d like everyone to remember is that every product is going to force you to approach the research in a slightly different manner, but the general method is going to be:

The 4 Simplified Steps of Market Research

  1. Identify your product. be it a previously done comic or an idea you want to test out. Sit down and tell yourself about what the product is, who it might interest and would other products/services/etc are similar to it.
  2. Take those lists and start searching online. Find where the product is sold, who is buying it, who is selling it, where it is talked about online and off. This can be a long process, with a lot of false starts. Get used to doing a lot of research…very, very boring research.
  3. Contact those people. Talk to vendors, dealers, distributors, customers, fans and even haters of the products and markets you come across. See what they want. Find out what their needs are. Then, tell them about your product and see how they respond. Feedback from your target audience is some of the best feedback you can get.
  4. Take another look at your product and see if it fits in to that market. Does it match what the market wants or needs? Did the market respond well to it. If your answer is a resounding “yes,” then you’re on the right track for picking your niche market.

There are other ways to start your market research if you have more resources. I mentioned CommScore and Nielsen. There are a lot of companies out there that will give you information on various demographics — middle class teen males, 24-45 year old females in urban areas, etc. If you have the resources to use them, they can help you track down the target audiences used by products/services similar to yours and give you a bit of information on them. They are valuable tools to help find potential target markets, but they can be dangerous to use on their own. Make sure to “check your work” with them by using the Internet as I’ve described above (and in my keyword research article).

Another shot of the Glee cast for no real good reason. Why are you even reading this text over pop-up? Focus on the genius of my damn article already. Sheesh. Although, that GQ spread on the Glee girls was kinda hot...wow. I'm a creepy old man.

The more footwork you do before you’ve got five thousand printed comic books sitting in your garage, annoying your wife, the better.

I hope that helps!

-Mat Nastos, Super Genius

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Mat Nastos
TV, Film, comic book, fantasy & steampunk writer/director, known best for bad horror movies about giant scorpions, killer pigs & dinosaurs in the sewers. You can find his work on Smashwords or at his Amazon Author Page.

2 Responses

  1. E. Stone says:

    another great article, or at least informative.
    If you are putting up pictures of glee, why not use the ones from GQ with Rachel and & Quinn are in their skivvies?

    Just a thought-

  2. Mat Nastos says:

    This is a family show…I’ll keep the “special” pics for my subscription-only site. ;D

    -Mat N

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