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Who Is Your Market-and What Do They Want?

Before you get set on one target market, figure out if there are any others eager for your product or service.


Q: I am putting together a memory improvement course for college students and eventually plan to tie this in with seminars as well. But, for now, I'm a bit undecided about what kind of finished product to sell. My choices are as follows: a) Write the course up and present it in printed workbook form; b) Write the course up, copy it to CDs and sell it in that format; or c) Offer the course in both workbook and CD formats.

My way of thinking is that the CD format is better because of the following presumptions: 1) Most college students own or have access to computers; 2) Students would prefer learning from CDs than from printed workbooks (although the students may want to print out a few pages of learning material from the CDs); and 3) It's less expensive to produce and sell CDs. Of course, regardless of either or both these formats, I will have a Web site. Any thoughts on these presumptions and how to go about researching these concerns? I have a college degree but do not go to college presently.

A: Before I address your question, I have one of my own: Why is this course only for college students? Keep in mind, college students are just that-college students, and many of them already have full schedules of classes that they're taking for college credit. Plus, they've already paid their tuition and/or fees-will they be willing to fork out additional cash to take your course? Some of them might be interested, but if they're not getting any college credit-and they're paying extra money to boot-they might pass it up in favor of classes that meet their graduation requirements.

As such, you would be wise to extend your course to your community as well. You could of course market it to local college students, but don't leave out business professionals, elderly individuals and others who might need a memory boost.

As for how to present this course-on CD or in a workbook-you'll find that this depends on the individual. Personally, if I'm studying something or reading something longer than a few pages, I prefer looking at it on paper rather than on a computer screen. But others might not care about that-they might prefer a CD-ROM.

Your best bet is to make it easy for students to decide which method they prefer. Your Web site will come in handy here-you could put all the course material online, making it easy for anyone with Internet access (which, let's face it, is everyone, given the proliferation of home PCs as well as public places by which to access the Internet) to download and print the information. You might not even need workbooks or CD-ROMs.

Of course, you'll need to test it out. You could start the course with the course material strictly online and see how students respond. If they overwhelmingly prefer to access the information via your Web site, that might take care of your question about whether to offer the material in a workbook or CD-ROM. If, however, they overwhelmingly want a tangible product, you could make workbooks and CD-ROMs available.

You can start your research as soon as you have a Web site ready, even if your course material isn't ready. Post an application form on your Web site, and include a question on the form about whether they prefer a tangible product (and what kind) or online material that they can browse and print out at will. Market the Web site to your target groups--see what kind of response you get. Good luck, and happy teaching to you.

Karen E. Spaeder is editor of and managing editor ofEntrepreneur magazine.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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