For a growing number of products and services, reaching the underserved market is becoming the primary goal, and online marketing appears to be the way to get the job done.

Consider long-tail dynamics. Long-tail consumers are defined in part by a highly developed sense of individuality. From their perspective, they're outside the mainstream. This may be a perception ("we all wear black as a statement of our own individuality"), or it may be real. People who grow their own food out of concern for the earth are certainly a small subset of those who eat, and in many ways they really are different from the mainstream. Understanding those differences and serving them are the key to effectively reaching and converting these consumers to your brand. The driver for this is the second element of long-tail dynamics: small networks.

In many underserved long-tail segments, the presence of a physical network (a small community in the desert, for example) or virtual network (an online network of people with a very specific, uncommon illness) helps shape, define, and carry forward the community. This network forms a sounding board for almost everything that goes on inside that community. In particular, these networks are vehicles for validating new ideas, products, and services that may benefit that community. If you aren't represented in that network, you're invisible.

Marketers have, for the most part, been taught to do the opposite: ignore the fringe and concentrate on the mass. Measure the results in market share, and press for increases quarter after quarter. This approach served us well for the past 50 years, give or take.

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