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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Niche market expansion


The Official Show Guide for the Home Renovations Show (from Caneast Shows) represents a significant "jump" in our market focus, but the initiative shows how businesses can effectively expand into new areas without compromising core values and priorities.

Last year, through a client referral, we made a big business stretch -- from publishing purely business-to-business regional construction newspapers (and websites), to producing a large-circulation local home renovation magazine, Ottawa Renovates.

This task represented such a major shift from our market focus and model, I had real fears about the impact of the expansion on my business, especially because I appreciate the risks of diversifying from your primary focus and the dangers of expanding into untested spaces.

Nevertheless, we proceeded, with the risk reduced through a joint venture initiative, and the new publication has been a success.

Ironically, Ottawa Renovates started as an initiative of the Renovators Council at the Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association, where we have published their internal newsletter, The Impact! for close to 20 years. And they sought out the magazine idea initially to produce a publication to be distributed at the Home Renovations Show, produced by Caneast Shows Inc.

Caneast didn't entirely like the Ottawa Renovates magazine idea, especially since as publishers we are not constrained to promoting only show exhibitors. This creates a challenge for any show operator, who rightfully wishes to restrict marketing activities on the show floor to anyone who does not exhibit at the event. Working with the GOHBA Renovators Council, we found the logical solution: Ottawa Renovates is only distributed from the Renovators Council Exhibit Area at the show. (This complies with show restrictions, but still proved to be effective as most show visitors head to the GOHBA area, which is prominent at the event.)

Fast forward to this year, and discussions between Daniel Smith of our organization and Caneast. Caneast wondered if we could produce an Official Show Guide, this time complying with the show's wish that advertising be restricted only to exhibitors.

I raised the possibility with my joint venture partners at Ottawa Renovates and they declined to participate. However, looking at our business/production schedule, the idea fit perfectly to create some non-conflicting revenue for the slow (in our business) pre-Christmas/early New Year period.

So we have started the project.

The publication is differentiated by its own website, produced using easy-to-use template design resources at jimdo.com (which we can host under our own name without third-party advertising for $60 a year).

This initiative is something of a marketing and business irony. It originates from an existing client request, which morphed into a significant joint venture partnership, and now has evolved back to a niche product operated separately from the joint venture, but appealing to the same market as the joint venture.

(If your head is spinning from that description, so is mine!)

2 comments:

Daniel Smith said...

Mark - one small note: I believe the original Ottawa Renovates was produced for Caneast's Home and Design Show in the fall, not the Reno show, wasn't it?

Another point of interest is that the joint venture actually evolved out of my relationship with Ian through Strokes of Genius: when I went to pay my deposit for the January show I had asked about advertising in the show guide and his reply was that they weren't doing a full show guide this time round because of the conflict-of-interest issues with their previous publisher partner. Immediately, my wheels started turning and the conversation that started with "Well Ian, I actually wear two caps..." ended with an agreement in principle and a handshake. I point this out only because it further reinforces your point here about how expansion and joint ventures into other arenas can actually reinforce each other. So instead of having had to approach Caneast as "The guys who published that magazine we weren't too pleased with distribution-wise", we were able to approach him as "here's my check for $1000 to appear in your next show, how about you let us do the show guide - it won't cost you a cent." Kind of turned the relationship into more of a Be a "Member, Do Business with a member" relationship, rather than a cold call one (hearkening to your most recent post.) Anyway, should be interesting to see where this takes us!

Daniel Smith

Mark Buckshon said...

Daniel, thanks for your observations and explanation about how this project came to be.

Ottawa Renovates, in fact, traces its roots to the GOHBA Renovation Council's planning for this show. It is a long story but validates the importance of relationship-building in the business-to-business marketplace.