In most marketing circles, the principle behind the 80/20 rule applies to the relationship between your revenue and your customers. That is, 80% of your business results are being driven by 20% of your clients, or pretty close to it.

It's considered easier and more cost effective to grow your business by increasing the business volume your existing clients do with you, as opposed to bearing the higher acquisition costs associated with hitting the open market and trying to grab the attention of clients who don't currently deal with your company.

It is no surprise, then, that many marketers are investing heavily in identifying and segmenting their "top 20%" with the intention of developing marketing campaigns and sales promotions just for this elite group of customers, with an eye to acquiring more of their business. After all, they are clearly heavy users of your company's product or service and are apparently willing to spend money with your company versus your competition.

However, such an approach overlooks the fact that many companies identify their top 20% of clients on a volume basis. This creates a phenomenon that I call the 80/20 Volume Paradox: While your top 20% of clients may be driving a big chunk of your business and displaying all of the signs that they represent a great target audience for your marketing efforts, they may not deliver a strong ROI on further business development efforts.

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