Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Borrowing The Long Tail rules

Chris Anderson closes his wonderful book, The Long Tail, with a set of rules he says comprise the secret to creating a thriving Long Tail business.

Please read the book. Don't rely on my summaries. Because Mr. Anderson is the Editor at Wired and is a Silicon Valley guy, a fair amount of his text relates to enterprises he's familiar with. These often represent really cool breakthroughs in the world of digital commerce.

With self-appointed artistic license, I'm going to cite Mr. Anderson's Long Tail rules and fill in my own take on why these concepts are vitally important for us micro enterprise, citizen entrepreneur types.

Big picture (1): Make everything available.

My take: Within your niche you need to be as open and transparent and as educational as you can possibly make your enterprise. It is in your self interest and the self interest of your enterprise. It also provides the first steps to providing appropriate solutions for the right customers... where all your marketing and commercial efforts should be taking you.

Big picture (2): Help me find it.

My take: Your enterprise and your web site need to glow with usefulness. Make yourself easy to do biz with in every aspect of your organization or perish. This isn't hard. Obfuscating and trying to trick people is far harder, as well as dumber and less efficient.

Then we get the Long Tail 9 rules.

Rule 1: Move inventory way in...or way out.

My take: Knowing what you need to handle and what you need to outsource is mission critical. Surely this will change over time, but it needs to be in the front of your brain at all times. Keep asking yourself, "What is critical that I handle and what can others do better?" What value added piece do you bring to the table? Focus your resources there.

Rule 2: Let customers do the work.

My take: In the digital world they get huge numbers by crowdsourcing. Micro enterprisers can use the same phenomenon to get customers to educate themselves on our web sites first and then provide testimonials after our enterprises have provided them with value.

Rule 3: One distribution method doesn't fit all

My take: Your distribution channels and methods significantly define how you market your enterprise. Draw it out on paper. Think through the consequences. That said, I believe you need to go to market through as many non-competing sales channel as are appropriate. Be transparent and honest with everyone. Start your marketing and distribution research yesterday.

Rule 4: One product doesn't fit all

My take: Make your offering available across a range of needs. Some people need a little bit of your stuff. Some need a truckload. The Long Tail uses the term "microchunking" for breaking up your offer into appropriate pieces. It will help you, and it will help your end users self select their own appropriate entry point.

Rule 5: One price point doesn't fit all.

My take: See above. Making yourself easy to deal with on price and content increases your chances of selling stuff. Multiple price points for entry invite the widest range of potential customers available. You can sort them and grow with them once they are in your world.

Rule 6: Share information.

My take: Your job is to make your end users wish they had more waking hours to absorb all the good info and help you want to share. Do it through every venue you can use, many of which are free or close to it.

Rule 7: Think "and", not "or".

My take: "And" is easier to choose from than "or". Once your new customer has chosen your solution, there are additional benefits you want to be able to offer. Do not pile on here. Just have a good, short list of upgrades to your basic offering available.

Rule 8: Trust the market to do your job.

My take: Society rewards useful solutions. The world is wired up to instantly deliver information, reviews, alternative solutions, and all the other digital word-of-mouth conversations taking place on every subject all the time. You will be put out of business if your offering does not make a valuable contribution to your customer. As you launch, carefully note where those contributions are having the greatest impact. Follow those results, not your assumptions.

Rule 9: Understand the power of free.

My take: Understand that you will do many demos, presentations, product placements, life juggling heroics, distributor circuses, and seminars, all for free. This is your entrepreneurship hazing ritual. Welcome, and get over it. We all do it. Free stuff is a component of what we all do at the beginning of new enterprises. That said, remember that smart marketing leads to cash flow, my friend.

Chris Anderson is in fact, working on a new book tentatively titled, 'Free'. It's a really intriguing concept. The most popular working subtitle discussed on the Long Tail blog is 'Free: How Companies Get Rich By Charging Nothing'. The scuttlebutt I've heard on the radio is that Mr. Anderson may be giving this new book away to people who will accept advertising placed in the book. Copies without advertising would be sold through traditional channels. Not sure if that's true.

That's it for The Long Tail for now. Read or listen to this book.

Chris Anderson's blog announcement about Free with great subtitle suggestions. May 20, 2007

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