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So What Does The Concept of "LONG TAIL" Mean To Your Business?


A few years back, I had the opportunity to work with my (now friend) Thomas Mangum for the first time in a real estate workshop.  He was helping a group of new investors connect with their passion and identify a niche to serve within the field of real estate investing.

I didn’t know it then, since “long tail” was not a buzz word yet, but he was helping these investors identify a niche within a niche that they could dominate and serve well.

Since that wonderful day with Thomas years ago, I’ve heard the theme of “long tail” repeated often.

I believe it is a powerful marketing strategy, no matter what your field of expertise.

What is the LONG TAIL?

To understand the basic concept behind the long tail, think of a bell curve representing consumers across the world. 

Traditionally, businesses have only been able to afford to market to the robust and beefy middle part of the bell curve – the part where the mainstream consumers hang out.  These are the people who drink Coca-Cola, eat french fries, and find stuff they want to buy at Wal-Mart. 

This is the most high-volume part of the consumer market.  It is also highly competitive.  Everyone wants to have the best fast-food franchise in town.  Everyone wants to have the best grocery store.  Why?  Because EVERYONE consumes these types of items.

In contrast, the skinny little ends of the bell curve graph don’t represent mainstream America.  The ends or “tails” of the bell curve represent the odd ducks, the ones-in-a-million, the arcane hobbyists, and the other members of deep and narrow niches to whom it has been historically too expensive to market.

Even there there are only a few people in any given obscure niche, most of us are members of some long tail or another…

These are (but aren’t JUST) the folks who wear spectacles, and hunt in bogs for rare plants and birds on the weekends.

I know people who are in the following “long tail” niche categories – Lutheran Youth Pastors in the Pacific Northwest, Acoustical Guitar Teachers in Bellevue/Mercer Island, Female Professionals Working In Commercial Real Estate in the Seattle area, Chicago-Area Backgammon Players, People Who Brew Their Own Beer At Home, etc.

Although there are not as many people in any of these niches, as there may be who are shopping for hamburgers on a given evening, they are now – given the capacities of the Internet age, potentially a lot more profitable to market to, in many cases… at least for the small business owner?

Why Does It Make Sense To Market To “Long Tail” Consumers?

Small business owners can profitably sell to “long tail” consumers because they are easier to find, and their needs are very specific and often hard to satisfy elsewhere. is the classic example of the long-tail resource.  Of course amazon sells the best-sellering John Grisham novels and Suze Orman books, but that doesn’t set them apart.  Even airport bookstores with limited shelf space stock those tomes.  Amazon really thrives in the long tail.  It can stock books that only sell a few hundred copies a year because it has a world-wide audience coming through its “virtual doors” and looking for those books.  They don’t have to justify the shelf-space (which is always limited in a phyiscal-location retailer) that a low-volume seller would occupy.  They can sell obscure items.  And a large volume of their business is, from what I understand, comprised of the unusual or hard-to-find books, CD’s, etc.

Therefore, if you have a product, rather than trying to sell it to the masses, try selling it to a niche.  Instead of being that real estate agent who helps buyers, sellers, out-of-town transfers, military families and seniors, as well as first time home owners and new-construction builders, (e.g. All things to all people), try to be the realtor who works on helping condominim owners sell their property if it’s located in two targeted zip codes.

You CAN become the big fish in a small pond if you Self-Define your “small pond” and dominate it.  Think how much more affordable and cost-effective it would be to build a website, create a mailing campaign, or cold-call a list iwht the purpose of dominating second niche I mentioned (neighborhood condo sellers) rather than the first (everyone the eye can see…)

When you use long-tail marketing you can find your prospects more easily and recognize them when you run across them.  Even more importantly – they can recognize you because you’re speaking their language.  Everyone wants to work with an expert who is interested in “just them” rather than a “generalist” who kind of knows the area.  Be the expert, know your niche deeply, and you can win it.

More Information On How the Long Tail Works In Your Business

For further explanation of what the long tail is and how it works, I encourage you to read this article by Dr. Ken Evoy and listen to his audio interview with Chris Anderson of WIRED magazine.  Chris wrote the book on Long Tail.


TAKE ACTION: How can you stop trying to serve the masses and create a narrower and deeper niche for your business?  Listen to the interview and read some of Thomas’ blog for further insight on this topic! Your goal – “niche” yourself deeper into a better place in the market!

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[…] Read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson.  I recently got a copy of this after learning more about long tail and small business. […]


[…] may be less transaction volume in a niche or "long tail" type of market.  But the good news is that you can OWN that segment of the market and […]

About Emily Cressey

Emily Cressey is a real estate investor and licensed real estate agent living in Seattle, Washington. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with an Economics degree from UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Tarheels!) her focus has been on building business for cash flow and investing in real estate for wealth. If you have questions about real estate investing, personal finance, or would like some flat-rate, affordable advice on one of these topics. Please fill in the Contact form.