How much of a market is up for grabs?

In my last blog post I showed you how to use Google search volume to estimate future market share within a product category using Insights for Search, a free Google tool. This time I’ll show you how to estimate how much of a market is composed of consumers looking for a reason to switch brands (i.e., consumers who want you to win them over).

But first a little marketing theory. Most marketers believe that making their customers extremely satisfied is their goal. Customer satisfaction surveys have generally been replaced by one question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to friends and family? This is known as the net promoter score (see “The One Number You Need to Grow” in Harvard Business Review Dec 2003). Customers near the middle on the net promoter score (i.e., 7-8) are generally your customer only until they can find a vendor or brand they like better. Often when consumers are thinking about making a purchase about which they are not fully satisfied they will update their knowledge of alternatives by making a Google search. Lets look at an example.

Market Share Reporter (MSR) aggregates market share information from a variety sources for the major product categories. One example is the toilet tissue market, shown in Figure 1. Use the instructions in my last blog entry to find the Google search volume for each of the top 5 toilet paper brands over the last 12 months. You will use Google Insights for Search and probably should use settings similar to those in Figure 2. Figure 3 shows results I recently received from that search.

Figure 1. Toilet tissue market share.

Figure 2. Recommended Insights for Search settings.

Figure 3. Sample results.

If you add the market share percentages for the top 5 brands in Figure 1 you might conclude that they have a lock on 76.5% of the market, leaving little opportunity for another toilet tissue manufacturer. However, no matter what market you name its always possible to estimate the not-entirely-satisfied part of the market by checking the search volume for a phrase like “best toilet paper,” or “best tires” or “best NYC barber.” Note the quotes around the example search phrases. Using quotes around your search phrase will ensure your results are not inflated by search phrases that happen to contain those words in a different order, with a different meaning. What’s the significance of knowing that the “best toilet paper” search phrase happens more often than 46% of the searches in the Hygiene & Toiletries category? If Charmin’s brand attention of 72 reflects market share of 23.2%, then “best toilet paper” attention may reflect 14.8% (23.2/72 x 46) market share “in play.” A less conservative estimate could be gained by averaging the results of the same calculation for the top 5 brands (41.1%). Even the conservative estimate of 14.8% represents substantial opportunity. If one new brand could capture it all it would grant instant entry into the top brands of a multi-billion dollar market.

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