16. Long Tail Lessons for Small Business
Summing up all the ideas in ‘The Long Tail’ by Chris Anderson into a series of do’s and don’ts for small business is pretty straightforward as he concludes the book with 9 Long Tail rules for web-based businesses (and some of these rules are also relevant for non-web-based businesses that use the web in some way). But in order to apply these rules, I think you have to have done your homework research first. And that research is to understand:
- how the web has changed the rules for many markets.
- how to exploit niches, and that
- more than ever ‘something for all is ideal for none’ because now it is possible to find the ideal
- that you can make everything available – within reason, and
- how to help people find it.
Anderson’s 9 rules are:
- Target an opportunity that allows costs to be lowered through the process(e.g. Amazon on-line took out the costs of high street shop fronts and high costs of stocking)
- Let customers do the work – on line the client can do the admin, and answer their own queries etc
- Think niche!
- One product does NOT fit all
- Nor does one price
- ‘And’ not ‘or’ is the watchword – the Long Tail allows you to offer deeper, wider choices
- Share information
- Trust the market – measure and respond
- Understand the power of free.
Points 1-6 have previously been covered or are self-explanatory. But points 7-9 sum up many of the changes that new developments in the use of the web – web 2.0 – have driven.
Share information: people use the web to search and find out, so where in the past companies tried to funnel potential customers to why they should buy their product and get to the sale as quickly as possible, now on the web the customer is likley to go where (s)he gets the best information and help in guiding their decision. So it is increasingly paying dividends to give more help, to be more objective.
Trust the market: welcome customer feedback both good and bad – do something about the bad and encourage your champions out there to veto anything negative; respond to suggestions, deal with grievances. All of these things will make you a better business, and you will be seen to be better. Doing things that users suggest shows that you are responsive – build it into your strategy. Stay in touch with your market – the beauty is that this used to be something you had to spend a lot of time and money to do, but now your market is proactively staying in touch with you. So don’t ignore it.
The Power of free: A look around the web will show how much free ‘stuff’ is now available – most in the form of information or tasters. The more you can give away, paradoxically the more people will buy from you (as long as you do not give your whole product away!). You become the trusted source, the expert, reliable, lower risk etc
Look at how these elements apply to your business: are there opportunities you are missing? Are your competitors going to change your market place for you?