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#16
burwelbo

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Then here is a question for all you small mappublishers and consultants. What market research did you do before you started up your chosen cartographic niche business? I have done some with respect to my future business but probably not as much as I should. I am using alot of "Gut Feel" right now. Once I have a prototype map completed I will probably do more to see what kind of a demand I will get. At this point I was more wondering what marketing strategies people were using and what type of volume I could expect if I did have a product or line of products that were in demand.

#17
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One thing I have noticed from the paper map industry is the lack of advertising. With one commercial Garmin was able to destroy the credibility of paper maps. Quite amazing. Personal navigators are IN. Why? Advertising and marketing. How many paper products where advertised as really cool Christmas gifts? when in fact they could be. OK, most of us don't have millions to spend on advertisement but I think you get the picture on the power of advertising.

Having been mostly on the services side of the GIS-Mapping business for the last 20+ years I found it impossible to develop map titles (or any Product for that matter) at the same time as offering services. The service side always took all my energy. Obviously I am not a business gourou and risk was always a factor in my decisions. Services pay, while products 'might' pay. So IMO if you want to make a living out of publishing maps ... your taking a risk. But hey, risks can be fun.

Here are some Ideas that I put together.

Plot a finished map title and show it around. I mean show it to everybody you know, to all potential retailers etc... Their comments, suggestions, opinions might surprise you and most likely help you.

When your product is ready. Launch it. e.g. at the public library, with friends and family.

Consider a print on demand approach until you have the confidence level to go to print (if a large run is required).

Even if you don't have a large number of titles, show your stuff on your site. Consider a online store.

On your site, offer FREE maps to print. No pdf's. Use a Flash printing approach.. so costumers NEED to go to your site to print these free maps.

Build your reseller network, one at time and seal every agreement IN Writing. Standardize the way you showcase your reseller network on your site. (No favouritism).

And of course advertise your product. Local community newsletters, outdoor magazines etc... and a 30 second commercial on Super Bowl Sunday... will most likely help your business (and ours).

Dedicate 100% of your business time to the products your publishing and to its success. (If you plan to make a living at it).

As for market research... I think that the price for a good market research probably is prohibitive for small mapping firms. In my case I just asked my friends. They said if you make such a map I will buy one. (Maybe there just good friends).

I think that your idea of a product line is a good one. Make your maps unique and recognizable to your business.

Estimating revenue is hard. But I think Eric's numbers are reasonable and I really like some of his ideas. Make a business plan! (Work from a local or regional perspective first).

Unless you have 30K to waste on your venture stick to the basics and control your costs.


Merry Christmas to all!
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#18
Derek Tonn

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Bruce,

Related to market research, I've done two things that ended up being absolutely essential to our firm's operations:

1. I filled a need in an industry (higher education) that I knew needed help. I worked from 1993-2000 in higher ed (special events, summer conference and facilities scheduling) as the person on the OTHER side of the desk...the person being asked 20+ times per day if we had a good map of campus to hand out and being approached by lots of ad agencies, graphic designers or the occasional custom cartographer regarding the potential for designing better maps of the campuses I worked at. I knew there was a better way to do it, so my core "market research" was nearly eight years of OJT. :)

2. Taking advantage of EVERY free opportunity for acquiring data out there and getting to know our prospective customers better. A key way for our firm to do this was to set ourselves up with a "dot-com" business model...then drive as many leads and inquiries through our web site as we possibly can. One of the key reasons for doing this is the fact that numerous tools such as Google Analytics exist which allow you to learn a wealth about "who is looking" without any out of pocket cost. If I could only tell you how many times I just happened to cold-call an institution within a day or two of seeing someone at their institution was surfing our web site (I usually will guess Admissions, Public Relations or Facilities Management staff)...only to have them tell me "Wow! What a coincidence. My assistant was just telling me about your web site the other day." :) Those types of interactions and introductions often-times lead to sales, and I would bet that in the past 18-24 months, our firm has landed an additional 15-20 clients from that very scenario playing itself out.

I had it a bit easier in the sense that I knew my primary industry cold...and had a few hundred people I could immediately call upon to say "I'm in business for myself" to secure my first 8-10 clients to get the ball rolling. After that though, it's all been effort and a good bit of luck along the way. I certainly haven't had $30,000 to "throw away" either...but I also am a firm believer in "nothing ventured, nothing gained." If we play it ultra-safe or conservative as an entrepreneur, we'll probably ensure that we'll be around for the long-haul. However, we probably also ensure that we won't ever realize our full potential either...as if it were ALL easy with little/no risk, we'd have 20-times as many people doing what we're doing for a living. ;)
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#19
burwelbo

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Derek

I haven't been as diligent as you on the demand side. I have looked more at visitor statistics and whether there was a product all ready on the market that would be a competitor. My next step is to do up a prototype and show it around. I want to outsource as much as I can and concentrate on just design and marketing. I still need to nail down the business model a little tighter. Again, I have shown a few concept maps to my target audience with very positive feedback. I guess I am looking at it from the "I want to make the style of map I enjoy" and "where does that seem to be lacking" approach. I may be wrong but I am going to give it a go. Thanks for all the experience tips. Again, any good advice on the sales side would be gretaly appreciated. It is definitely an area I am lacking but have done lots of research.

I think we need to petition for a business group. Who is in charge of the complaints department :lol: .

#20
Hans van der Maarel

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I think we need to petition for a business group. Who is in charge of the complaints department :lol: .


Me (but not just me, fortunately).

I'll bring this up with the other mods and we'll see what happens.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#21
Derek Tonn

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Bruce,

Yeah...people don't have to twist my arm hardly at all to get me talking about this subject...I LOVE the "business of mapping" almost as much as the "art of mapping," so getting a chance to talk about the business-side of things is something I very-much enjoy. :)

Two other thoughts today, as I slowly ease back into the work routine:

1. Either develop the best web site that you possibly can (or can possibly afford to hire someone to build on your behalf), OR join-up with others (consortium/co-op) to build a collective web presence...which is essentially "mapformation." SO many people like to quietly and casually browse content instead of being cold-called or receiving "Dear Sir/Madam" letters in the mail. Make sure the site tells people what you do...but even MORE important, make sure the site does five-times more to SHOW people what you do (lots of eye candy)! A picture is worth 1,000 words in our industry... :)

2. Print maps. The one thing I have REALLY wanted to try with a few other CartoTalk members is getting some of your absolutely fabulous maps into pop-up/-out forms of printed maps that people can fit inside their pockets. We have a great partner we are working with that is in the process of helping us on the higher education side of things...but their services would easily translate into many forms of street/road atlases and a wide variety of other "custom" mapping applications. I've always been fond of the pop-up/pop-out maps...as I think it is just different/clever enough from most typical printed applications that it could infuse new life (sales/$$$) into existing and new map titles. If we could ever talk a few of you into working with us and our existing partner along those lines, it could be very interesting.

Not sure if that is useful at all, but those were a few more thoughts I had related to this thread. Have a great day!

Derek
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#22
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... My first map have only about 50% of the roads, costs twice as much as Jimapco road maps but outsold their map by 10 to 1 in most stores. It's all about the product and what info it contains. I get tons of e-mail from peaple thanking me for making this map and that my map is what they have been looking for. Same goes for store owners. At first they weren't sure about the map but later it became the best selling item in their store. It was my first map which I made many mistakes on and the next few will be much more successful.


Beaver,
Just curious,
Do you think they sold better because they 'complemented' GPS units? Or because it was a complete different product (e.g. wall map).

and Thanks for your comments on the subject.. I found them very useful.
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#23
bruce

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Hello Forum

This is a question for all the small business owners selling maps. I was wondering what marketing methods were being used and if there was a general consensus on what would be the best methods for marketing map products. I have looked into web based marketing (PPC) but it doesn't look like the most practical method for a small start up. Any thoughts or general advice on this topic would be appreciated. I also think this forum needs a dedicated section on the business of GIS and cartography.

Thanks and Merry Christmas

Bruce


I look at many map products in the stores here in Maine. Because our economy is heavily dependent on tourism my observations may be skewed, but here is what I see around my state. There are many specialty, information-rich, value-added maps oriented to hiking, biking, walking, hunting, fishing, kayaking, and motorcycling. Although DeLorme is the giant around here, I am not talking about their products. It looks to me that the best maps are made locally or regionally by small shops. These maps sell in corner stores, gift shops, Barnes & Noble, and Borders. The ones that sell are high-quality, information-rich, value added products, often printed on plasticized material, and reasonably priced.

Also on the shelves in these stores are some of the worst cartographic products you can imagine, some made locally. I know of one map that uses out-dated USGS topos as the base and you can tell where they brushed out features, perhaps with Photoshop, but it really looks like they used correction-fluid. This folded, paper map was of Mt. Desert Is./Acadia NP/Bar Harbor and sold for around $8.00 US at a Barnes & Noble. It appears this particular map has been around for years, as this was an updated edition.

As stated by someone else here, maybe a small, regional cooperative (or consortium) could produce and market quality maps (digital or paper) if they added information that people absolutely need. Knowing about an existing need is great, but without that knowledge you must do the research, even if it is only as basic as asking questions of oil-delivery truck drivers, firefighters, police, tourists, contractors, etc. Finally, I think you have no choice but to consider offering digital or web maps.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own a map business and never worked for one so take my comments accordingly. ;)
Bruce Hensler

#24
BEAVER

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... My first map have only about 50% of the roads, costs twice as much as Jimapco road maps but outsold their map by 10 to 1 in most stores. It's all about the product and what info it contains. I get tons of e-mail from peaple thanking me for making this map and that my map is what they have been looking for. Same goes for store owners. At first they weren't sure about the map but later it became the best selling item in their store. It was my first map which I made many mistakes on and the next few will be much more successful.


Beaver,
Just curious,
Do you think they sold better because they 'complemented' GPS units? Or because it was a complete different product (e.g. wall map).

and Thanks for your comments on the subject.. I found them very useful.



I think the main reason my maps sold better than the other maps is the lack of outdoor related information my competitors have on their maps. There are also maps out there that have hiking stuff but not fishing, others have fishing info but not hunting or camping or boating and some of those maps are 25 years old and hand drawn. I made a map that has info for all outdoorsman. Also the look of my map was a huge help when it comes to sales. I laminated 30 wall maps and placed them in the most popular campgrounds where thousands of potential costumers were able to see my new map witch they didn't know about. That doubled my sales in first month. It's so easy to make a nice looking map these days with all the data available on line yet I still see maps from big guys without hill shading on their recreational maps. Their maps look just like they did 20 years ago with the same mistakes. Compare to New York, New Hampshire and Main has almost too many high quality recreational maps but again they are oriented to only one type of outdoor activity.




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