Move the needle: Pareto principle

Imagine for a minute that you have a daughter who is selling Girl Scout cookies, and she is obsessed (or maybe it’s you who’s obsessed, but that’s another column) with outselling everyone else in her pack/troop/den/whatever it’s called.

You have decided to spend four hours next weekend helping your daughter sell cookies. As you consider all the possible tactics for unloading Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos and Tagalongs, you brainstorm the following options; walk the neighborhood, drive to your relatives or get a table at the super busy Kroger in your neighborhood.

Where should you spend the majority of your time?

It’s likely that your neighbors and relatives will be an easier sell, but if you are truly committed to being the best you should tell your daughter to put on her biggest smile and spend the afternoon greeting thousands of shoppers at Kroger.

In other words, 80 percent of your sales will probably come from 20 percent of your effort.

The same is true in business.

Over the years, I have asked hundreds of entrepreneurs an important question – “Do you feel that all of your customers are equally important?” Most professionals respond by telling me that every one of their customers gets the same great service.

That is just plain silly.

Now, I do expect you to give all of your customers great service – but except for certain industries (health care, etc.), they should not all be treated the same. The truth is that some customers are far more important to your business than others, and until you figure this out, you will struggle to grow profitably.

Most professionals and business owners have a handful of customers who buy a lot, never complain about the price and refer a lot of new business. These individuals are very different from the masses that tend to price shop your product/service, gripe about their experience and have yet to bring a friend to your business.

The first group should receive the follow up phone call to make sure everything went OK. They should get a thank you card in the mail. They should get the best table in your restaurant.

If you disagree with this advice, that is perfectly OK. Just recognize that you have a hobby and not a business.

Identify your best customers and treat them like royalty. As with most things in life, the solution is simple. All you need to do is execute.