The 80% Solution

I ran into Dave last Friday morning at our local greasy spoon (literally called, “The Spoon”).

That’s unusual since I don’t eat breakfast out very much.

I don’t know Dave well, just enough to say hello.

But I see him often – nearly every Tuesday night when I go to our town’s local dive bar. (I know what you’re thinking, but sadly, it’s not called, “The Dive Bar.”)

It occurred to me, though, that if I wanted to maximize my chances of running into as many people as possible that I know here in my little town, these would be the two places to go: The Spoon and the bar.

Would I run into everyone I know? No. Some people never go to either.

But I bet 80% of the people I know go to one or the other, at some point, at least once every couple of months.

And that, my bar-hopping friend, is pretty much how marketing works for small professional service firms and independents like us:

We live in a word-of-mouth world that is heavily dependent on staying in touch with the people we already know.

And so, some things to keep in mind… 

#1. You Can’t Be Everywhere

I could raise that 80% number if I added more locations to the mix.

But it’s a game of diminishing returns.

If I added additional places, more of my time would be required, and there would be fewer people remaining that I hadn’t already run into at one of the other two spots.

Likewise, and just as there are countless locations in my town at which I could run into people I know, you also have countless tactics available for marketing.

But the more you do, the more time it takes and the smaller the incremental results you will realize.

So pick two or three that represent your marketing 80% – and don’t try to do everything. 

#2. Your Locations Are Not My Locations

My people – breakfast-eating, beer-drinking, exceptionally attractive individuals of a certain age – go to The Spoon and the bar.

Other people, in a different phase of life or with a different lifestyle entirely, may frequent other places – the Catholic church, the senior center, or, in the case of your family (I’m guessing), the holding cell at the police station.

So part of determining where to best spend your marketing efforts requires thinking about where “your people” hang out.

Mine, for example, read their email regularly and frequent LinkedIn. It doesn’t matter how popular TikTok or Twitter X may be in general … my people aren’t there (much).

Maybe yours are. That’s worth figuring out. 

#3. Frequency Matters

The reason I see Dave most Tuesday nights is because I go to the bar most Tuesday nights (still with me?).

If I went only very occasionally, not only would our chances of running into each other diminish considerably, but we wouldn’t be familiar enough to each other to even say hello.

You can’t be “a regular” if you don’t show up regularly.

When developing your marketing plan, you want to choose few enough activities so that you can participate fully in them.

A handful of newsletters a year, once a week on social, showing up here and there at a networking group … you won’t move the needle enough on any of them to have an impact.

Pick a few things and dive in with both feet. Visibility requires frequency. 

Just Enough, But No More

In any marketing activity, there is always going to be a positive correlation (we’re doing math!) between how much you invest in time, money, and effort, and the returns you realize.

But it’s not a straight line.

Some activities are way more valuable than others. Which means that as you add additional, less valuable activities to the mix, the incremental value decreases.

Eighty percent may not be everything, but it’s a reasonable tradeoff between effort and results.

See you Tuesday.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever been in a police holding cell?
  2. What location is your #1 for running into people you know?
  3. What’s first on your “must do” list of marketing activities?

Share your answers below…

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8 thoughts on “The 80% Solution

  1. Michelle Morris, CFP®, EA

    1. No. I think the only time I’ve been to a police station was to be fingerprinted to apply for my “Electronic Filing Identification Number” with the IRS. I felt like a criminal.

    2. My town’s public library, and about 8 months of the year walking my dog along Wollaston Beach.

    3. Email newsletter – Issue #100 will be the end of this year! Kind of mind-boggling.

  2. Stacey Shipman

    1. No! toured the stations and local jails as a girl scout. But not inside a cell (unless I blocked out the memory)

    2. Trader Joe’s!

    3. Nothing since giving up my business! But feeling (close to) ready to reconnect through email newsletters and 1 fun social media channel to promote my singing, comedy & song parodies.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      The world is worse off without your newsletters, so I hope you start yours up again.

      And I don’t believe you about #1. That’s what all the jailbirds say….


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