The trusted advisor becomes a filter – the long tail of the service industry
Have you ever heard of or seen the “the long tail” below?
It’s a statistical phenomenon that has been popularised by Chris Anderson to describe the impact of the web on the business world. I’ve just finished reading the updated version of his book called “The Long Tail” (surprise surprise!).
To quickly illustrate the “Long Tail” concept, I’ll use Amazon.com – one of Chris’s examples in the book.
Amazon.com sells books (and many other things, but we’ll leave at that for the moment). It sells the bestseller titles (the “head” – green in diagram) that you’ll find in any of your local bookstores, but it also sells thousands of other titles (“the long tail” – yellow in diagram) that you will not be able to find in a store because:
- Stores have limited shelf space and therefore have to allocate this space to books they think will do well
- Demand for the book was small in comparison to the bestsellers (maybe it wasn’t fantastically written, maybe the topic was too specific, maybe the marketing of the book was terrible etc…)
Why then, is Amazon selling loads of these lesser known titles, the ones that hadn’t enough demand or were too specific for the book stores?
- Amazon is not limited by shelf space because all of its inventory is online and directly links to publishers’ and distributors’ shelves rather than its own.
- The web has enabled them to reach a market size that is simply impossible for a physical bookstore. All of a sudden the small demand that made it unfeasible in the market size of a physical store with restricted space, becomes feasible online with a world wide audience.
So that is the concept of the long tail. Thousands upon thousands of options, all previously unavailable to you, now only the touch of a button away… Feeling daunted?
The antidote for feeling daunted is one of the really interesting ideas from “The long tail” – the importance of the “filter“.
If you now have thousands of book options, how on earth do you decide what you would like to read? How do you sort through “the junk”? (Remembering that your “junk” might be your friend’s “treasure”!) How do you find something that is useful and relevant?
That is where search, social media and recommendations become so important.
What I love about Amazon is that when I login, it provides me with a whole host of recommendations filtered by what I’ve bought in the past and related purchases from all of Amazon’s customers.
By allowing me to search I can filter my results by topic, author, title, price, relevance, age of book…
By providing uncensored comments of others, I can filter my options by gathering other’s opinions and not just what a publicist thought.
I love this concept of filtering!!
When you are daunted by information overload, how do you filter it? If your customers are daunted by too many options, how do you filter it for them?
If you’re selling products, then learn from Amazon – they know what they’re doing.
If you’re in the service industry though, how is it relevant?
Here’s what I think:
Whether you are an accountant, lawyer or web strategist, your role is to be the filter. To take all of the inputs of your experience, knowledge and client circumstances and make the best recommendations and give the best advice you possibly can. Every client has a long tail of options – your role is to filter these options and help your client find the most useful and relevant for their situation.
The role of the trusted advisor is now very much the role of the filter.
It will be really interesting to follow this “filtering” concept. If anyone has any thoughts around it, please leave a comment or get in contact.