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Long Tail Marketing (and Your Minimum Viable Audience)

Long-Tail-Marketing Search Ranking

Read this site enough, and you know that the three topics I discuss here most often are business change, search engine optimization, and customer service. What may not be as obvious is that all three of those topics, in one way or another, really come down to discussions about marketing.

Recently, I was reading an article at Copyblogger, that asserted—as I have, and as have many others—that Advertising is Dead. You can phrase that a lot of different ways, and look at it from a lot of different angles; I’ve told you that salesmen have a problem, for example. But after you finish beating the topic into the ground, “advertising is dead” ends up meaning that you can no longer expect to send out a message and expect sales to magically happen. Today, sales is driven by trust.

Don’t try to figure out what trust really is, by the way; your head might explode.

If you start with the supposition that trust needs to be earned, though, the whole “advertising is dead” thing becomes pretty obvious. I trust that McDonald’s will make a hamburger that always looks, smells, and tastes the same, but I don’t trust their Wi-Fi to work reliably. And sadly, Panera Bread’s Wi-Fi is not really a viable alternative to that; every time I walk into the Panera Bread I frequent in Roxbury NJ I check their Wi-Fi before I buy anything. Much as I’d like to, I just don’t trust Panera enough to get past that.

What I’m saying is that for me McDonald’s, Panera, and Starbucks don’t sell food, they sell services that include both food and a hospitable mobile business environment, and I don’t trust any of them to provide that second part reliably.

This isn’t a problem for the Paneras, Starbucks and McDonald’s of the world, because a relatively small portion of their customers judge them that way I do; for most people, a Big Mac or an expensive cappuccino are all that’s “on the menu”. And it’s why “advertising is dead” doesn’t apply to them. But for smaller businesses, where trust matters every day to every customer and prospect, the problem is very different.

I often talk about advertising as having given way to marketing and marketing having become very specifically about long-tail marketing. I’ll stand by this; in the “advertising is dead” world, unless you’re grabbing people’s attention from many, many sources you have very little chance of finding your minimum viable audience.

So what is minimum viable audience?

The words are pretty obvious, right? I’d never heard them strung together before that Copyblogger piece I referred to above pointed me at this article at Entreproducer, though. So forget the title and forget the connection to advertising for just a moment. Certainly forget Micky D’s and the other huge retail guys.

Minimum Viable Audience is what any small business simply must attain to remain in business, and the only way to get there is by riding that long tail.

In other words, people have to find you, even though you aren’t advertising or employing an army of cold-calling sales-robots.

(Here’s the commercial for our SEO Consulting and Search Engine Optimization Services, reminding you of how easy is is to contact us)

It’s reality, friends: selling to small businesses is very hard unless you’re doing it from the long tail. Mommybloggers know this. And it’s the rationale behind my assertion that Internet Marketing Isn’t Snake Oil.

And by the way: as great as these long tail marketing numbers seemed at the time, they’re getting even better.


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