The 80/20 Rule of Online Business Success

If you know me personally, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the Pareto Principle – the more commonly referred to, “80/20 rule”.  When I see something happening, I immediately try and break it down into the 80/20 pieces and work out where the ACTUAL value is versus where the bulk of the low-value effort is.

I noticed this today when I was listing out some of the work that I was doing within the Casual Marketer business.

My rule of thumb is, you should be spending 20% of your time creating saleable products and services and 80% of your time promoting those things.

It’s very easy to get this balance wrong.

I know plenty of people who spend nearly 100% of their time creating products and in their “catalogue” they have 45 info products, 9 books and a plethora of other things, but they don’t sell any of it because they haven’t put the marketing work in to make people aware of what you have.

On the other side of the coin, you’ve got people who are constantly talking about what they are going to create, building funnels like crazy, sketching out their future versions of the product they haven’t created and going in Facebook groups “warming” everyone up.  They are spending nearly 100% of their time on the “promotion” and systems side of their business and not creating anything to actually sell.

While it’s not exactly 80/20 (more like 75/25), I think you should be spending about one week every month creating new products or services that you can sell and then the other three weeks promoting those things and putting in place the systems to make selling them more fluid and scalable.

I started listing out all of the “big” things I’m going to work on in February to start meeting some of my targets and KPIs.  I had a notepad and pen and whenever something came into my head, down it went.

For the sake of this conversation, let’s call the 20% stuff, “the product” and the 80% stuff, “the machine”.

When I looked at what I was doing there were a couple of high-level mistakes that I’ve been making so far in 2018:

  1. I was confusing some of the things I was doing as being part of “the product” when in fact they are part of “the machine”
  2. Too much of my time was pre-occupied with “the machine”
  3. I was prioritizing long-term parts of “the product” that won’t bear fruit for months when really, I need to have a better mix of short, medium and long-term things

It was a pretty enlightening day, to be honest.

When I look at the list of high-level things I’m working on and that I want to achieve, I think the 80/20 split is there, which is good.  There are some tweaks that I need to make in the 20% as I mentioned to get the revenue recognition timing right, but that’s pretty minor.

What I have to work on is making sure that the elements in the 80% are properly prioritized to help drive the underlying KPIs that I’ve identified in the business.

I’ll say it again, those KPIs are important because they are the things that if I can achieve them, then the other things like overall revenue and sales-type activities become just a function of numbers and scale.

February is going to be about getting that in balance and like January, be a continuing process of setting myself up for a bigger better year.  In fact, the entire first quarter of 2018 is going to be about getting that 80/20 mix right and laying the groundwork for the rest of the year.

So what can you take away from this?

Well, I would be doing an “activity audit” on yourself:

  • What are you doing on a daily basis?
  • What activities do you have planned?
  • How do those activities fall out on an 80/20 “product vs machine” scale?
  • Are they too long-term or too short term?

Once you come to grips with that, then you can set to work on rebalancing it.

The key of course, like everything else is to be intellectually honest with yourself – are these things realistic, can you achieve them and do they lead you to your desired outcomes?

If you’re going to be successful, then you need to get this balance right.  You need to work on the right things and in the right proportions.

When you can get that balance right and manage your effort effectively, then your results will become more predictable and certain which is a pretty great feeling.

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