Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Intuition, not market research, the crucial factor

I'm deep in the most enthralling book I've read in several years.

Swimming Against The Stream [sub-titled Creating Your Business and Making Your Life] by Tim Waterstone, hb Macmillan 2006, pb Pan Books.

Although the paperback was published on 19 Jan 2007, I'm the first person to borrow it from Guernsey's Guille-Alles Public Library.

Maybe it wasn't displayed on the face-forward shelves at the top of the staircase. Had it been, I'm sure it would have been grabbed long before now. The island is awash with ambitious young businessmen and women. Though perhaps they don't use the library in their lunch breaks.

On page 5
Tim Waterstone
writes – "My own logic behind Waterstone's, when, with just £6,000 of my own left in my pocket, I founded the business in 1982, lay in the fact that as a devoted reader I found it inexplicable that a city as great and culturally diverse as London had within it barely a single stockholding literary bookshop, and certainly not one that was open past noon on Saturdays, let alone in the weekday evenings. New York had great bookshops open at every hour, and Paris too. Rome also. San Francisco. Boston. All the civilised world over. So why not London?"

He goes on, "It was intuition on my part, and intuition only. What else could it be? The business schools teach that the four hallmarks of good new business launches are these: sound market research, skilful planning, a strong customer focus and a dilegent execution performed in line with the plan. Well, I'll tell you what I think. It is difficult to argue with an orthodoxy of that sort at first glance – and yet a reliance on these classic maxims is not in the least how an entrepreneur actually operates. It certainly was not how I was thinking at that moment. And the fact that I was not gave me one of my points of advantage against the overwhelming market leader of the time, WHSmith."

"It was always so. The big corporations' simple, blind, safety-first reliance on these classic maxims is invariably a severe mistake. It disadvantages them against the entrepreneur. For what is the weakest link in it all. Market research. It always is...It is not market research but intuition that is crucial if a corporation is to enjoy continued growth in the future, find new markets, and exploit them. Intuition, and nothing else, will have to find those markets. But big corporations do not do intuition. What they do is safety. It is the reverse of entrepreneurs, who are all intuition and have contempt for safety…So, at Waterstone's we used not one jot of market research in deciding our action plan. We just did it."

This is good advice for writers as well as entrepreneurs. Today many authors and would-be authors are writing to a market defined by editors rather than following their own instincts. Sometimes the editors are influenced by the reactions of panels of readers.

Within the limits of the genre they're aiming at – crime, romance, adventure etc. – writers should write what they long to write, not what other people tell them will sell.

Boyd Tonkin review

Reviewing the hardback in The Independent Boyd Tonkin wrote -

"Tim Waterstone himself sprinkles plenty of romantic anecdotes about the early days of his chain through his handbook for entrepreneurs, Swimming Against The Stream (Macmillan, £16.99). He offers bold advice about trusting to intuition, and spurning market research: "Waterstone's was aimed at me." He delivers splendid broadsides against "the current state of capitalism". Yet the exiled bookstore Bonaparte says little about the current state of his creation.

The unromantic truth is that British chain bookselling - with Waterstone's as its battered figurehead - now looks suspiciously like a murder victim who has decided to speed up his demise by committing suicide. The pincer movement executed by the likes of Asda and Amazon has made the cut-throat discounting of a few sure-fire bestsellers the norm - with all of its risks to future diversity. Far from resisting this assault, the retail chains - and the corporate publishers whom they now bully - have opted to act as their own Sweeney Todds. At Christmas, stores worked frantically to teach shoppers that the true value of a much-publicised new book with a cover price of £18 or £20 is, let's say, £6.99. It amounts to voluntary death by a thousand cuts."

Re comment button

This seems to have disappeared. Only temporarily, I hope.


At 22 May, 2007, Blogger Richard Havers said...

I feel passionate about this and I've posted on several other blogs over recent weeks about this sad state of affairs. The fact is that publishers have a hard time understanding what marketing is - they confuse it with selling. Until, and unless, publishers get to grips with marketing then the whole thing is going to go even further downhill.

Trying to publish books "that cross all markets" is like trying to write only songs that will go to No.1 in the charts - it ain't never going to happen. That is what publishers all too often want; as that is what they perceive is what the supermarkets desire.

I worked for many years in the airline business and not that long ago if you had said that an airline should market and sell its seats directly to the travelling public and avoid travel agents (and particularly bucket shops) you would have been considered barking mad. The internet has changed all that. Publishers look to the internet and see the success of Amazon and think they should be getting on board; the problem is they don't know how to do it. It's a cliché but what publishing needs is thinking outside the box when it comes to marketing. Not that this does a lot for Waterstones et all. I think things are going to go further down hill for the big chain retailers.

At 04 August, 2009, Anonymous Ricky said...

I appreciate the labor you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

At 07 September, 2015, Blogger oakleyses said...

michael kors outlet, uggs on sale, nike air max, michael kors outlet online, replica watches, louis vuitton, tiffany jewelry, ray ban sunglasses, replica watches, nike air max, nike free, uggs outlet, louis vuitton outlet, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet, jordan shoes, burberry handbags, longchamp outlet, christian louboutin uk, michael kors outlet store, polo ralph lauren outlet online, prada outlet, polo outlet, longchamp outlet, ray ban sunglasses, prada handbags, burberry outlet, ugg boots, nike outlet, oakley sunglasses wholesale, ugg boots, louis vuitton outlet, christian louboutin outlet, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet online, tory burch outlet, tiffany and co, oakley sunglasses, christian louboutin shoes, gucci handbags, oakley sunglasses, christian louboutin, louis vuitton, uggs outlet

At 07 September, 2015, Blogger oakleyses said...

michael kors outlet, michael kors, north face, north face uk, louboutin pas cher, vans pas cher, sac longchamp pas cher, air max, coach outlet store online, nike tn, michael kors pas cher, converse pas cher, nike blazer pas cher, timberland pas cher, burberry pas cher, new balance, hollister pas cher, polo lacoste, polo ralph lauren, chanel handbags, kate spade outlet, hogan outlet, coach outlet, true religion outlet, nike air force, guess pas cher, hollister uk, jordan pas cher, nike free run, sac vanessa bruno, lululemon canada, true religion outlet, nike roshe, oakley pas cher, michael kors, true religion jeans, ray ban uk, sac hermes, coach outlet, true religion outlet, coach purses, kate spade, longchamp pas cher, ray ban pas cher, nike air max

At 07 September, 2015, Blogger oakleyses said...

mulberry uk, jimmy choo outlet, wedding dresses, asics running shoes, vans outlet, bottega veneta, nike trainers uk, longchamp uk, abercrombie and fitch, insanity workout, nfl jerseys, hollister, hollister clothing, soccer jerseys, giuseppe zanotti outlet, herve leger, nike roshe run uk, ghd hair, nike huaraches, ferragamo shoes, reebok outlet, mont blanc pens, north face outlet, new balance shoes, chi flat iron, nike air max uk, babyliss, valentino shoes, hermes belt, nike air max, nike roshe run, north face outlet, celine handbags, lululemon, baseball bats, beats by dre, nike air max uk, mcm handbags, nike free uk, ralph lauren uk, p90x workout, abercrombie and fitch uk, instyler, mac cosmetics, soccer shoes

At 07 September, 2015, Blogger oakleyses said...

replica watches, marc jacobs, doke gabbana, louis vuitton, timberland boots, ugg pas cher, coach outlet, michael kors outlet, links of london, louis vuitton, michael kors outlet online, toms shoes, lancel, iphone 6 cases, gucci, converse outlet, louis vuitton, hollister, karen millen uk, ugg, swarovski crystal, pandora uk, ray ban, thomas sabo, pandora charms, supra shoes, ralph lauren, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, converse, swarovski, louboutin, juicy couture outlet, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, montre pas cher, juicy couture outlet, oakley, vans, nike air max, louis vuitton, ugg uk, pandora jewelry, pandora jewelry, louis vuitton, michael kors handbags, hollister, wedding dresses

At 17 July, 2018, Blogger jeje said...

coach outlet online
true religion jeans
yeezy boost 350 v2
christian louboutin outlet
cheap ray bans
true religion outlet
christian louboutin shoes
louboutin shoes
off white shoes


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home