The Market Place in Action
I just returned from an industry conference that attracted over seven thousand interested attendees. I recently developed a new educational product and my main purpose for attending the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teachers was three-fold: to confirm the viability and interest in our product, to build a highly targeted mailing list and to meet other companies with which to partner. Pretty standard stuff.
I’ve been to many, many trade events over the years, but something else struck me right betwixt the eyes as I stood in the middle of the beehive of humming commerce. This trade show was the true embodiment of the free market. If it were in a temple, Jesus himself would have thrown us out unceremoniously and deservedly so. It was exciting. It was vibrant. But mostly it was pure. Sellers and buyers coming together to do what they do. Even the competing companies were friendly and realizing that everyone needed each other to succeed.
But there was something else that was greatly affirming. The power of a truly unique, well executed product to cut through the noise (as glorious as it was) and grab the target audience’s attention. In fact, our offering literally stopped prospects in their tracks as they walked by our booth. While the booth was expertly designed (on a budget) the true attraction was the utter uniqueness of our offering – they had simply never seen anything like it. The overall feedback was overwhelmingly positive – thus giving us the confirmation we sought.
Another thing that became apparent is that we learned that anecdotal evidence is not to be trusted. Over and over I heard that our niche was “too small” and “too difficult”. Elementary science curriculum was saturated with products and schools “have no money”. However, markets are created by disruption – and these folks had made their assumptions based on flawed logic – they did not have a unique product AND they fail to realize that the market is not “too small” it is emerging. The disruptive element is that schools have only started to test science in elementary grades – this was not the case just a year ago.
And schools don’t spend money on anything that doesn’t improve testing scores. Our path will still be challenging but the feedback we received from the market contradicts the anecdotal evidence we’ve become accustomed to hearing. “Me too” products will always be at a disadvantage to break through. Failing to recognize the dynamics of an emerging market will adversely effect marketing decisions and ultimately success. However, if you understand these dynamics, you can adapt and carve out a position – if you do it well, you can create and lead a new category simply by being first.
As for schools not spending money, the very vibrancy and size of this state conference is testimony to the fact that any “business” invests in what helps them achieve their goals. Schools are no different. Certainly there are schools that are strapped for cash – but, overall, there is a large, vibrant market for a huge variety of products that support the system. Anyone that believes otherwise should check their premises.
Please comment on this post – I’m not sure it makes sense. Does it?