It's multi-coloured and it's got the longest tail you've ever seen, at it's front it moves very very fast, at the back it's so slow you almost can't see it moving. This thing never sleeps. Oh, and we think it's carnivorous, it seems to eat everything in its path. It is the internet.
I've spent a lot of time recently studying the Long Tail for some clients. Now, if your not well versed in this read The Long Tail
. At first glance it is a simple concept, almost blindingly obvious, and easy to quickly pass over. All the small, less popular items fulfill a million niches and add up to good revenue. I'm sure in boardrooms and marketing meetings around the world it is the latest meeting buzz word.
Spend time studying the tail, don't skim it. Analyse it's length, depth and value. Look at the customers shopping there and how they relate to buyers/users of popular items at the front of the tail. Doing so will throw up a hundred and one business ideas.
I guarantee that your customers are already consuming "niche" goods/services in the long tail, in your industry. Does it make sense to say, "sure, you can buy Worldwide Travel Insurance from us but you will have to go elsewhere for Ski cover"? Even if you can't service that tail, can you refer to those that do and earn a commission? That's what Amazon's MarketPlace does.
Many companies are now being challenged by young, nimble upstarts. But heritage, history and back-catalogues could be the ultimate differentiator. Something new businesses can't compete with.
Whilst the tail might move so slowly that your CEO may not see it, I suspect in many industries, it might be the tail rather than the teeth, that bites you.