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12. How do potential clients in ‘The Long Tail’ find a small business?

Some argue that, despite ‘the long tail’ that has been uncovered by the development of the web (the many minor niches that suddenly can attract a supplier to the niche because they can now find a large enough audience to make it sustainable), the market is getting ever more focused on the ‘big hits’ and blockbusters. That may be true, but what matters for the small business is how to exploit the niches which are now developing.

Chris Anderson in ‘The Long Tail’ talks about ‘aggregators’ for the long tail – one example he gives for physical products is e-bay. E-bay has created a focal point where people might go to search for any item, and for a lot of small niche new businesses this has been the ideal way to get started, with low investment and access to a very large number of potential shoppers – essentially aggregating a wide variety of demands – and an enormous variety of suppliers. This is on a grand scale what the department stores and catalogue sellers did for previous generations.

But the internet also provides many other tools which enable suppliers to find markets and markets to find suppliers – including blogging groups and forums (or fora if you prefer). Utilising all these tools has enabled many small and otherwise obscure businesses to raise their profile. One that has been so successful that it has been taken up in an advertising campaign by Google is WigglyWigglers.co.uk – a rural worm farm business which now has business all over the world. This would have been inconceivable before the web and its various tools and options had developed.

For a small business wishing to find a wider market for a niche product or service, this is a great example of what can be achieved. In some cases such as on e-bay, consumers interested in what you have to offer will find you by searching the site. But beyond this, you need to be proactive to enable your likely clients to find you. So WigglyWigglers undertakes a range of activities to help their interest groups find them. And so, I guess the answer to the question above is: with difficulty unless you help the potential clients find you.

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