Another look at the 80/20 Rule.

I’ve sold things since I was a kid.  Lemonade, newspapers, my services as a lawn mowing entrepreneur, you name it….if it had value I turned it into cash. And, although I was in a town of 5,000 people, I was lucky enough to have a neighbor that was a local business owner.  Herschel took great pride in sharing his secrets of his success with me and although it probably didn’t seem like it at the time, I really was listening.

Looking back, I don’t really recall him using the term 80/20 Rule per se, but he did instill in me the basic premise that you need to take really good care of those that make up the bulk of your sales success.

Over the years, the Rule has become yet another overused and under-actioned buzz phrase bantered about by business coaches (including your’s truly, but I DO insist that it be used and taken very seriously).  While I don’t think about the actual term often, I do use it daily.  I also take keen notice of those who do not, which brings me to the subject of this Venomous Consulting Performance Blog.

There are two methods by which to increase sales.  Go deep or go wide.  Going deep simply means that you fish where there are fish.  You know your market, you have already sold them something and you keep mining that segment with offers of more, better, updated, etc. goods and services.  Going wide is a literal expansion of your client base.  Speaking to those to whom you’ve never communicated in hope of building a larger clientele.  The latter makes sense as it serves to replenish your base as it faces natural attrition.  But, doesn’t the former speak directly to the 80/20 Rule?  Doesn’t 80 percent of your success come from 20 percent of your customers?  Aren’t they your “frequent fliers”?  The answer is……Balance.  Your marketing is an expanse of shifting sand and if you are successful, you navigate with responsiveness rather than reaction. You see the sands moving before you get there.  You bob and weave, yet take the most direct line to riches.

Why this subject today?  Because I am experiencing one of the most blatant examples of what NOT to do as I sit here in a vacation condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  You see, I “bit” and bought a timeshare about 20 years ago at a place in Mexico that I frequented for diving.  Long story short, it became a part of the Wyndham conglomerate.  So now, not only have I mentally amortized my initial outlay over a 20 year period but I am also slammed with ever-increasing “maintenance fees” that actually equal the cost of the timeshare.

Where is this going?  Remember, the 80/20 Rule in its purest form says that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clientele.

As a timeshare owner, you ARE that 20 percent.  You are the frequent fliers.  You are the users of the product and/or service.  That makes you the potential greatest marketing asset in the world to the company.  You can be a disciple. You are a living, breathing Yelp, Google, Expedia, TripAdvisor review.  After all, who doesn’t read reviews these days?

But rather than being treated as a VIP when you walk into a Wyndham property, you are subjected to treatment worse than if you simply showed up with a Priceline reservation. Again, owners have laid down a ton of money to have preferred access to a resort or line of resorts at which they are comfortable and happy.

At Wyndham resorts, timeshare OWNERS are met at the front desk with a cheerful, helpful representative who gets them a key, a smile and points them to Hell for your parking pass. Hell is the desk where they hold your parking pass hostage while putting on a full court press for you to submit to an ”informational breakfast” so they can “update you on all the great new things” at the resort and with the company.

OK, so not unlike 90% of people, I travel to get to one of these destinations.  Planes, trains and automobiles….packing, people, hunger, general grumpiness are all part of the process.  So, the ONLY thing I care about is getting my stuff to my room and putting my feet up while looking at the ocean.  The LAST think I want is to be sold something that I don’t care about.  Most certainly not NOW!  Leave me alone! And I am absolutely, positively not buying more timeshare points or weeks.  Not from you, not ever.

Let’s take a page from one of the world’s greatest marketing and imaging companies; The Walt Disney Company.  They have timeshares. But, I guarantee you that no one hammers you to go to an informational breakfast, cocktail event, whatever in an effort to sell you anything upon arrival.  It just won’t happen.  What they will do is welcome you, make you feel incredibly valued and assure that you are soon going to be enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth (a Disney mark so I’d better mention that).  Now in a couple of days, after being pampered and treated like you mean something to them, they will very likely slide into a gentle sales mode.  Not a bad thing because they’ve made you love it and you may even want more of a good thing.  That’s the selling deep part.  But, they always sell wide as well.  They want you to be that spokesperson for them.  They give YOU incentives to spread the gospel according to Mickey.

Have you identified your 20 percent?  If you haven’t, you must do so and should do it immediately.  Think of ways to reward them for no particular reason at all.  Surprise them with something to link your company to a good feeling.  Don’t ask for anything in return.  Just let them know you value them.  After you have built that relationship with them, feel free to reward them again for spreading the word about you to their friends and colleagues.  They are Google and Amazon reviews on steroids.  Nurture them and understand that it will be a constant flow of people in and out of that 20 percent level.

Consider how you can move your next 30 percent of your clientele into the top level.  Work that plan.  You’ll be rewarded by the results of some, disappointed at others.   Reap the benefits of the ones that move up and respectfully move the others down the totem pole so you have room for more.

The 80/20 Rule is nothing more than a reminder that business is a constantly moving, living thing. What are you going to do in the next 10 days to breathe some fresh life into your plan.

Oh, and thanks Herschel.  I really did hear you.




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