Ten percent or less of the people who interact with your business actively support your business by buying from you. If you have an online business, it’s probably closer to 1%, with the other 9% making some positive contribution via comments, social media sharing, and so on.
We could talk a lot about the other 90% and why they’re not buying, but instead, let’s talk about that 10%.
That 10% understands your value-proposition enough to support your business.
That 10% likes what you do and probably want to see more of it.
That 10% keeps your lights on, day in and day out.
How much of your business activities focus on that 10%? (Click to tweet – thanks!)
Most businesses that I’ve seen and worked with – including my own – don’t spend enough time, energy, and attention focusing on that 10%. In the busyness of business, we mistakenly assume that that 10% is static rather than seeing the truth of it: that 10% represents a market that could be expanded significantly. If we focused on growing in that segment rather than trying to get in front of more eyeballs, something dramatic would happen …
We’d have businesses with much higher conversion ratios.
We’d spend less time qualifying leads and explaining our value-proposition.
We’d have more people who like what we do and want to see more of it.
We’d have enough people that we wouldn’t have to worry about keeping our lights on.
And we’d have a surprising amount of clarity when it came time to make decisions about where to take our business. We’d simply have to ask if the proposed change benefitted the people who keep the lights on.
Of course, that would mean knowing who that 10% is. Do you? If not, how are you going to start learning who they are?
If you do know, how are you rewarding and supporting that 10%?
Lastly, what are you going to do to divert more time, energy, and attention from the non-supporting 90% to the supporting 10%?
(My talk, Go Big or Go Home … Or Go Deep, talks a bit more about this if you’re interested.)
Megan Everett says
So true! Thanks to you doing MUCH better job of that this year!!
Al Pittampalli says
So true. I think Kevin Kelly would call these people “true fans”. He says if we have 1000 of them, we’re basically set for life.
Ricardo Bueno says
True. Except when you think about it in terms of that big a number, it can seem overwhelming. Instead, I’d say celebrate the little victories – your first client, your first 10, your first 100. Breaking it down into smaller numbers, achievable numbers, makes it a little bit easier to accomplish.
Chris Horner says
Lots of truth here. We oftentimes spend too much time thinking about how to get new clients that we overlook those who have already trusted us with their dollars. They can be our biggest advocates too in the form of referral business. Get enough clients like these and you’ll never prospect a day in your life again.
Ricardo Bueno says
I always say your current clients are your best promoters. Under-promise and over-deliver and they’ll talk about you to their friends over and over and over again. Nothing beats that kind of loyalty and word-of-mouth.
You gave me a lot to think about. Thanks.
Karen Sharp says
Looking at the relative contribution from these different groups of people, the 90% : 9 % : 1%, leads me to look at the related issue of the relative energy needed to invest in these different groups.
There’s a concept that’s been floating around recently of Dunbar’s number, the cognitive limit to the number of people we can maintain close relationship with and still have those relationships be authentic and engaged. (Wikipedia: http://bit.ly/44VgmE ) This number is said to be around 150 people.
There’s an easy mapping to imagine, then, between the 1% who are most committed to our ideas, and Dunbar’s number of 150. This leads to a theoretical market of 15,000 people, with 90% of them unlikely to buy. Maybe that translates to a mailing list of 15,000 for an online business. These estimates are also corroborated conceptually within an order of magnitude, by Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans.
Given the face-value of these correspondences: the recognition of that 15,000-sized market; the value of the 10% true fans who pay the bills; and the awareness of the cognitive and emotional load that each additional person in our inner circle carries at least beyond a certain limit, it’s easy to think that Dunbar was right, and to guard the Dunbar boundary with some concern, self-care and legitimate self-regard for our capacity.
But from the point of view of being in Charlie’s 10% myself, I think the presupposition of a hard cognitive boundary at around 150 is misleading.
I have been following Charlie, mostly silently, for about 2 years. I wouldn’t expect that he necessarily even knew who I was, specifically. But Charlie has been a valued and important part of my personal world for a long time. I have been drawing significant value from his work, without my (and other members of my cohort) being an additional cognitive or emotional load, socially speaking, on him. it’s been through the generosity of his platform here at Productive Flourishing, a platform which is simultaneously fairly impersonal in respect of the marginal social “cost”, but quite personal in terms of the quality of of Charlie’s presence, that I have benefited immensely.
Following from the framework in Charlie’s video, linked to in his post above, the 90% part of the leader’s world who ask “what’s in this for me?” are functioning within a transactional give-to-get economy. In their case they may be skeptical about the value proposition, but both the 90% and the leader accept the transactional model as appropriate.
The 1% of the leader’s world, especially as that world gets larger, I’m sure must become especially cherished for how much they give back to the leader. The way they sustain the leader emotionally, practically and financially is surely quite significant. But if for no other reason, our habits of social convention and expectation probably mean those relationships are expected to be reciprocal, and beneath that, even transactional. The give-to-get flow may well go in both directions and the flow may be a richly sustaining one, but there is still probably a transactional economy involved. The “to” in between the “give” and the “get” is probably an irreducible part of what’s going on, even if the value proposition is clear, and lovingly and gratefully embraced by both parties. I’d suspect there is inescapably still a cost of time, energy and attention for both parties, in that intimate inner-circle network. In that world, there probably are a limited number of Dunbar slots, for both parties.
In the 10% part of the world, though, the economy isn’t transactional. It’s a gift economy. Charlie and other leaders in his position give of their being, freely, impersonally, without a marginal cost, and the 10% of us avidly, freely, gratefully drink it in. “This is for me.” This sustains me. This feeds me and nurtures me and enables me to grow, to productively flourish. For those of us in this category, we don’t need to worry about the value proposition. We don’t need to worry about the pacing of our own development, or the timing of when we can make use of the “get” relative to the “give”. We don’t need to weigh and evaluate and judge the cost of our engagement in the relationship.
It’s all pure gift, and we can simply, purely, receive.
And we can use that receiving simply to grow, and develop the resources to give to others that we wouldn’t have had, if it were not for the initial gift.
It’s a pure gift, I’d hazard, from the other side, too. Charlie and the other leaders in his position, if they are of the decency, strength-of-heart and integrity that Charlie himself clearly is, probably can’t not do what they do. In a way it’s a receiving there too, I’d think — Charlie is perhaps simply receiving his own being, and can do no else but give it forth again, to us his regular readers. And at no marginal cost of time, energy, attention to him, so in a way it’s free there as well. Dunbar doesn’t apply.
Lastly, knowing how much I myself have flourished from drinking in the bounty Charlie (and some of my other favorite online leaders and teachers) freely offers, I suspect that the most movement, growth, and leveraged possibility comes from us, the 10%. Maybe I’m biased 🙂 because this is where I myself have been. But it seems to me the 1% already know what they can give and are already giving it, if they’re saying “this is for you.” There’s a leverage of reach there, a reach extended out spatially, definitely. But those of us in the 10% have the opportunity to move all the way from the concentric inner edge of “what’s in this for me” through being fed and sustained and nurtured, growing through the region of “this is for me”, to then becoming one of the inner-circle 1% who can now offer it out again, “this is for you”. It’s a leverage of reach extended temporally as well as spatially, with proportionally more impact in the overall extended world.
And that seems to me to be a very good thing. 🙂 A true gift to the world.
Thank you, Charlie, for all that you have given to me.
Archan Mehta says
We need to focus on this small segment or niche: that becomes your target audience.
If you have a customer, how can you encourage him/her to become a repeat customer” that is the name of the game. At the same time, one also has to attract new customers too.
So, it is not an either/or proposition, but a balancing act for any businessperson.
Moreover, if your customer is happy, that customer may become your spokesperson, may provide your business with word-of-mouth advertising. That goes a long way. Cheers.
Gabriele Maidecchi says
It’s the matter about quality of contacts vs quantity of contacts. Getting many people to notice you is good, but even better is actually improving the relationship with the few who are already watching you.
Ricardo Bueno says
…and it’s so simple to do too. Reply to their emails, reply to their comments, show ’em that you care. That you value them. That you appreciate their attention and support. It’s simple, but so many people miss (or skip) that part entirely.
Tito Philips, Jnr. says
This concept relates with the pareto principle of 20% of the people bringing in 80% of the results. This is true both in our personal endeavours too.
The hard part is disciplining ourselves to focus on the 10% who bring in most of the sales. I don’t know if it is just human nature, we so enjoy focusing on those things we don’t have rather than making the most of those we have.
For me, I have always strived to focus on the 10% who care and appreciate what my business offers. This is not something that comes naturally, it takes a lot of courage to stick to those you got and not bother about those who don’t care.
Thanks for the post.