Positioning In The Long Tail

It is likely that you are not number one or two in your market. This places you somewhere in the long tail of the curve of opportunity.  Your share of the pie may be fewer than the top part of the sales distribution.  Aiming to be the hit may be difficult.  However, positioning in the niche has little comparison to acting like the mass distributor of your market.

The Opportunity To Be Special

If you are in the long tail, then the best strategy for your inbound marketing approach is to be special.  This means differentiating your offering to be the best.  If you lack clear thinking about who you are and, consequentially, how you should position yourself, the best choice is to be laser focused on a high fidelity position.  In the book Trade-Off by Kevin Maney, this is defined as “the total experience of something.”  It is the opposite of high convenience which is “how easy it is to get something.”

Being high convenience is a game of commoditization and efficiencies.  I believe it is a losing game.  It is a race to the bottom.  Whoever can be cheapest, fastest, ubiquitous and common wins.  There is room for a few of these players.  Furthermore, you will ultimately compete on price, which puts you continually into a jury situation with your competitors.  Your customer weighs you on the stand because you look common.

If what you offer is common but how you offer it is not, then you are in a different game.  You can be special.  BMW, Gucci, W Hotels and Learjet are in a different game.  Cars, handbags, hotels and planes are commodities.  There are many players.  These brands are not distracted by the masses.  They are in the long tail of transactions.  Thus, they are positioned with high fidelity and price is not the comparison point.  People who are their customer buy because they want the cachet, aura and perceived value.  The commodity fades into the background.

The advantage these brands have is that they are not trying to win the numbers, which are often multiples of their own transactions, of their mass production competitors.  They are focused on the few.  This is the niche market – the customers who get them and want them.

In your own market, you can apply the same principals.

It Starts With Clear Positioning

The first point of clarity is that there should be a definite number.  That number should focus on the few, not the many.  If you are always looking for a sale, then your lack of clear thinking will shine through.  If you are thinking about how to get 500 customers when last year your scale was around 50 customers, then the illusion of more will distract from the focus of being special.

Start with defining the number.  Take last year’s number and increase it by 50%.  50 customers means that you will need 75 customers this year.  75 is small.  It is not the economics of large scale.  It is the economics of the long tail.

Next, work backwards.  Who are these 75 people that you have not met yet?  Profile your buyer and describe them.  These are likely your past buyers.  What are their tastes, demographics, personalities, etc.?  They are a subset of the mass market.  If you only need 75, then your message needs to connect precisely.

Inbound Marketing With Small Numbers

Small numbers with high transaction cost is a high fidelity, niche market play.  Your strategy for connecting should be intimate and one-to-one.  The content you provide, in essence, should be a parable.  It should resonate with the few that matter.  The masses who don’t will disqualify themselves.

Let your content tell stories of your buyers that are similar.  Through story, the buyer can identify and envision themselves with your product or service.  They see themselves within the context of the high fidelity offering you have packaged, positioned and presented.

Your marketing automation should be set up to nurture the few through the personalized process which appeals to the emotions of your buyer.  Connecting precisely and with relevance is critical.

The Niche Strategy

We find that there is great opportunity for a niche strategy when the following are in place:

  • Low volume
  • High transaction cost
  • Specific buyer profile

Your systems and your content can be set up to create a continuous sales pipeline by cracking the code of how to position your offering with the few that matter.  All of your focus and content should be less about popularity and more about connecting with your true fans who will pull out their wallet because they perceive high fidelity and connect with your message.

Don’t get cluttered by the game of traditional positioning and marketing in your market.  Instead, be the winner in your niche by creating the unique value proposition of your offering within your market recognizing the long tail customers who are few and relevant.

Feel free to comment below on your own experiences in the long tail.

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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