Chris Anderson used the term long tail in 2004 to explain that businesses mostly focus on massive hits to generate revenue whereas a huge number of products go unnoticed because they are only average hits—some not even that.
According to him, if businesses focused on selling and promoting these niche products (the long tail of products on the graph) they could create a much more profitable market. The idea has since gained popularity and can be applied to a variety of business models and markets.
Personal branding is no exception to the effect of the long tail as catering to niche markets can help them have a clear starting point by defining a target market and serving that audience rather than targeting a huge market using an overblown marketing budget and attaining disappointing ROI.
Here is a YouTube video that explains the concept of Long Tail concisely. The high head of the graph shows a huge number of sales for the popular mainstream products/services. The long tail is other less famous products/services. Despite the fact that the head region of the graph shows a huge number of sales, when you consider the overall sales of long tail items, they outperform the sales of the popular items (the head) by a huge margin. If you use this theory for personal branding, you should focus on defining a niche market rather than trying to appeal to everyone to make your brand successful.
Looking at the tail section of the graph, you can conclude that items in the long tail are often underserved. Business and personal brands have been relying too much on mainstream markets that no one paid much attention to the niche markets and the fact that there were so many of them. You could say these are more like abandoned kingdoms where if you manage to reach first, you will be the king. When you try to serve the mainstream market, almost every idea you have in mind, every word you want to speak and every analogy you wish to make has been used, spoken and done. In short, it is much easier to become the expert of a niche market.
According to An Infinite Number of Niche Markets: The Long Tail and 21st Century Economics article on Singapore Management University website, what makes the long tail so attractive is the fact that it consists of “infinite” number of markets. Therefore, even if there are people who are already serving the niche markets, there are so many niche markets that most of them are still underserved.
You can serve as the go-to person in a niche market because there are very few or no other entities that will have the same level of knowledge, unique ideas and understanding of the marketing as you. This will earn you a huge number of referrals.
Niche markets are less diluted and saturated. Since there is no crowd, it is easy for you to identify good partners and work with them. Not to mention, the partners in a niche market are more willing to help each other since one of their aims for serving this audience is to educate more people, spread awareness and increase the market size.
Fewer people mean less competition. Less competition means faster recognition and quick return to your efforts. When you don’t have to fight the giants that have dominance in the industry already, you can focus your marketing efforts completely on targeting your audience rather than competing with your competitors and proving that you are better than them.
Irrespective of how small the demand is, there are going to be people in every region of the world who can be your target audience. This niche audience always feels the lack of a thought leader, a role model for them. You could serve them and become that thought leader.
Managing marketing costs for a starting personal brand can be intimidating. However, when you have only a small market to serve, you can make big savings on your marketing costs. First of all, there is much less competition, so you don’t have to go out of your budget just to be better than your competitors. Secondly, since you are advertising to a niche audience, which is means nearly every customer is an interested/potential customer, your return on investment is high. On the other hand, mass marketing targets a huge number of people irrespective of how many of them are uninterested in the product/service.
Ella Mills, famous known as Deliciously Ella, has over a million followers on Instagram. She has a blog she started in 2012 that talks about healthy eating. While “healthy eating” is a huge market, Ella has been serving the genre of “natural foods” within this market. She promotes eating plant-based foods and whole foods. This helped her recover from a serious illness called PoTs—Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. She capitalized on the idea of introducing whole foods without additives, and it worked like a charm for her. She also does a great job of tying her niche market with a more popular concept of recyclability by choosing recyclable packaging for her products.
Jeremy Dean runs this blog all on his own, and he was clever enough when he started this blog to find a niche market within psychology. His aim with this blog is to find the latest and the most mysterious psychological studies and research and convert them into information that every layperson can understand effortlessly. In addition to blogging, he also writes books about depression, anxiety, and motivation. Jeremy Dean’s PsyBlog is a great example that you don’t necessarily have to think of a completely unique idea rather you can find a niche within an established and mainstream market. For example, in a market for women who like to buy beauty creams, you can target the ones that are looking to get fair skin only through natural ingredients.
The idea of long tail applies to SEO too. With one-word keywords, you are targeting a generic audience. If you want your website to rank for a keyword as generic as “design,” you know you will be up against website designers, interior designers, fashion designers, etc. However, a long tail keyword like “interior design in ABC city” is the one that makes the search specific, filters out the unnecessary competition over generic keywords and yields a very limited number of results that match with the long tail keyword. Marziah Karch’s What Is the Long Tail and How Does It Apply to Google provides substantial reasoning as to why long tail is relevant to Google and resultantly to SEO. The article also advises as to why you should have multiple web pages serving a variety of niches rather than having just one for all.
Neil Patel also has a detailed blog post for bloggers to learn how they can integrate long tail keywords in their blogs. According to him, some bloggers have increased their organic traffic on their blogs by up to 80% by integrating long tail keywords in their posts.
If you are someone looking for ways to create a personal brand and make an impact on the market, you will first have to learn the art of niche marketing. Look at the various niche markets and search within yourself to find out how you can be of value in any of those markets. If a certain niche market seems upsettingly limited, try it with another niche market targeting two different audiences at the same time. For example, if you sell a book of recipes, you can have those recipes prepared by animated characters to target people who like anime. Do whatever it takes but find a niche where you and your audience find your presence valuable.