Tag: Pareto

Is The Long Tail Approach Right For You

Back in 2004, the Long Tail Theory was first published. It basically says that the internet has put an interesting twist on the Pareto Principle by making it much easier to service the 80% of the products that are not the top revenue earners for a company and that many companies like Amazon, Netflix, etc. have made a wonderful business out of them.

Having the hard to get stuff is what separated them from their brick and mortar cousins and helped grow their subscription rates…and most importantly, if the products are digital, the inventory is virtually free (just another song or movie taking up space on a hard drive somewhere, but not physically collecting dust). This last point is the most important…the Long tail is interesting, but it is also very challenging for physical products as holding inventory poses all kinds of challenges, but in the digital arena, it barely moves the needle in terms of cost to service.

In a long tail business it is more costly to bother evaluating whether something is a hit or not, so instead the best plan is just releasing all of it and letting the consumers sort them out, even letting the consumers vote them up or down to give them some say so in winners and losers. The long tail is really long due to unlimited selection, so there is a lot to be made all along that last part of the tail. Worth noting, trying to provide a niche service and just servicing the hot items or just the dogs has mostly been a recipe for disaster, but those that have serviced it all (Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, etc.) have done amazingly well…pick a niche but cover everything in that niche (although not sure Amazon is a niche business any more).

One big thing that has changed is the idea of a big ‘launch’, with press releases, and a big unveiling. It’s not as important anymore. Instead, plan on the gradual build that turns into a tidal wave. The fact is, the curve of money spent (big hump, then it tails off) is precisely backwards to what you actually want anyway…so roll with it, launch, build, build, build, success.

Is your business made for servicing the long tail? How can you take advantage? Or, maybe you still live in the physical world…Pareto still holds pretty true here…just know where you sit and plan accordingly.

Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule

If there is one law that I apply over and over, all day long, to whatever I possibly can in my life, personal or business, it is the genius of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto and his brilliant 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle which simply states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

The basic idea here can be seen everywhere:

  • 80% of your sales probably come from 20% of your products
  • 80% of your revenues probably come from 20% of your clients…20% of your clients probably also give you 80% of your headaches and probably not the same 20% that drives revenue
  • 80% of the wealth is held by 20% of the population
  • You probably wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time
  • 700 common words make up 2/3 of everyday conversations
  • Who are the 20% of your acquaintances that make you the 80% most crazy

You get the idea. Sometimes it can be way more extreme than 80/20 and you need the right balance. Having 1 customer that drives 95% of your business may feel easy, but not when they disappear…look at all the companies that have supplied Apple in the past that they have laid to waste when they changed suppliers.

Think about how you apply this to your day, every day…

  • Focus on what to improve: Break your problems down and focus on the items that particularly move the dial…layer on resources to really make an impact. 80% of your effort on the 20% that really get things moving
  • Focus on what to remove: Look at the 5% of things that are not working in your business or your life…there is always 5% that can be cleaned up and may make you 20% more efficient or 90% happier!
  • It’s not 1 to 1: realize that to improve by 50% doesn’t necessarily mean a 50% bigger effort, maybe a 5 to 10% increase in methodology can easily turn into a 50% return…talk about creating separation from your competition in a hurry

…some things you cannot change that easily, but just identifying your strengths & weaknesses will help you better cope. Try channeling Mr. Pareto more often and 80/20 your way to more success, freedom, and happiness!