13. More ‘Long Tail’ thoughts for small businesses
Much of the ‘Long Tail’ concept as Chris Anderson describes it is due to a process of democratisation driven by the web. Just as the democratisation of the ‘tools of production’ – the ready availability of PCs, digital cameras etc – has enabled users to create their own content, so the democratisation of the tools of distribution with the internet – E-bay for instance, and the availability of universal parcel services – has meant that the many can trade directly – or almost directly – with the customer.
In the same way the connecting of this supply and demand has also been based on a democratised process – Google search for instance does not purely work on categories and hierarchies but recognises ‘the wisdom of crowds’ and responds to what has worked for others.
Google, other search engines, I-Tunes recommendations, cost comparison sites, social networks can all work as filters to help drive a specific demand down the long tail to find its best-matched supply. So for the small business, it is about understanding where the customers might be, where their interests might lie and trying to proactively help them to find the business (which has aligned itself to be as close as possible to their ideal).
The idea that the clients find you in practice cannot be relied upon. The web makes it possible theoretically. But just like any other market place, if your stall is set up where the most likley customers do not go, you have still got to find a way of letting them know you are there.
So although in many ways things have changed, the fundamentals of marketing are not very altered.