To Fredrik Hammarqvist the long tail was a clear opportunity – he opened Grand Shoes, an online retailer based out of Sweden that only sells Euro 47 – 52 shoes. His success started with a recognition that the long tail of customers needing oddly large shoe sizes was a huge opportunity– but he didn’t stop simple with a supply chain and a website, he sent letters to all the basketball teams in Sweden (more than 300!) and used Google AdWords to promote his store in online searches. Today, nine years later, his company continues to expand and thrive. It is one of many stories of opportunities hidden in the long tail.
For B2B technology providers, tapping into the long tail of potential customers requires shifts from relationship based selling to industry specific mastery and products that meet the unique requirements of customer verticals. Actually finding and attaining customers requires a deeper understanding of customer strategy/success, along with partner led and direct marketing tools.
Cadillac products that meet all needs for all companies are being replaced by custom, specialized solutions. What were formerly features are becoming products and microservices, and B2B vendors are becoming agile solution providers that can integrate these new products for customers. Today’s winners are able to show how their product provides industry specific solutions and helps the business leaders (not just their IT departments) “connect the dots” with a clear, compelling success story.
The returns to effectively mining the long tail can be immense—as Amazon and others have shown, there can be as much customer demand and incremental value in the long tail as in the fat “traditional” customer segments that businesses targeted before. Moreover these customers are usually underserved, with lower satisfaction and a higher propensity to switch to an offering that is tailored to their needs and industry.
The irony though is that many companies don’t understand how these potential future customers differ from their traditional enterprise customers and don’t know how to reach them– they literally don’t have the data on this vast new market that has always been just out of reach. They’ve only ever sold shoes up to size 12 (Euro 45) to conventional customers.
So how does a company shift to begin selling to this new group of customers?
- Obsess about potential customers and identity opportunities based on the pain points you discover in their experience
- Explore establishing a direct sales (web) presence, partner sales models, and independent internal sales teams.
- Research the small and medium sized customers that are buying your competitor’s offerings and what defines/motivates them
- Test/pilot new slimmed down product offerings at reduced price points to gather the data on what the potential market is
- Rely on your traditional sales team to shepherd customers through the process, smaller deals require less costly sales motions
- Be afraid to fail in low-cost structured tests and trials that produce data to guide your eventual strategy
- Stop iterating. It is rare to get it right the first time, especially in new markets. Measure, tweak, rinse, repeat
Also, read our last Tech Forecast here.