I have increasingly been hearing about Long Tail Marketing recently and made a point today to check it out. If this is a term that is unfamiliar to you stay with me. If you know what Long Tail Marketing, is but would like to know more I have added some links and resources to my Small Business Marketing Lens, including an interview with and presentaton by Chis Anderson the editor in Chief whose Article in October 2004 started it all, and a link to his lens.
So what is Long Tail Marketing and why is it so important for Small Businesses.
First there is nothing new about the Long tail. It is a statistical term derived from a distribution scattergram. If we plot numbers of people up the left axis of the graph and number of products along the bottom, the Long Tail is the section with lots of products being purchased by small number of people and is represented by the yellow section of the graph.
Imagine you go into a book store to buy a Harry Potter book – the chances are you will find a copy in most stores. It is in the red section of the graph – “The Head.” It is produced in huge quantities and stocked by all leading stores. But what if you wanted a copy of a Spell Book for Wizards and Witches. The chances are you are going to have to find a small specialist shop or search online. Now you are in the Long Tail where products appeal to a small number of specialist buyers.
Large companies have generally not been interested in the long tail because they cannot afford to stock everything and the cost or reaching small numbers of people is uneconomic in tradition business models. But they are waking up because Amazon now achieves more sales in the long tail than it does with the blockbusters. Why? Because it does not have to hold the stock. Either a specialist supplier advertises in the markeplace or Amazon orders the book for you when you buy it.
But more than this – the internet now has over 1 billion users worldwide and search engines make it easier to find a niche product supplier in the long tail than in the head. Type “Marketing” into Google and you are going to get 1.5 billion responses. Search for “marketing for voluntary organisations” and there are about 700 responses. If you are targeting that market the chances of being found are quite high because there is little competition – whereas getting seen at all in the mass market is increasingly difficult for new small businesses.
Large companies simply do not have the resources to deliver to many niche markets so they don’t bother, but increasinlgy we as consumers are deciding that we are not prepared to put up with the general mass market products – we want unique, customised, focused products that exactly meet our needs.
Understanding the long tail is critical for all small businesses, yet when I am networking I constantly find that people with small businesses are trying to reach everyone. When I ask who are your customers I hear, “everyone.” If you try to appeal to everyone – you will lose the niche markets. Small businesses cannot serve everyone – there is a limit to how much business you can manage, so why not become THE supplier to your niche and work the long tail, instead of trying to compete with major corporations in the head.
Do visit my Small Business Marketing Lens on Squidoo for links and information on this important strategy.