It’s easy to get stuck in autopilot when we’re marketing our indie retail businesses, especially when we’ve heard the same marketing “rules” over and over again! 

One of the most common rules you’ll hear is to focus 80 percent of your social media content on engaging or educational content, and the other 20 percent on selling. 

But with social media coming in a distant second (or even dead last, in some studies) compared to other marketing efforts, the return on your social media effort might not be reflected in your sales! 

So, where should you focus your effort instead? Read on to learn where the 80/20 misconception comes from and how to actually apply it to your marketing strategy. 

The Marketing “Rule” That Keeps You From Selling

Have you ever heard of Pareto’s Principle? It states that 80 percent of a given result is the direct outcome of only 20 percent of the effort that went into it. 

When applied to business, this concept translates to 80 percent of a given business’s profit coming from 20 percent of its customers or clientele. It’s a cause-and-effect statement. 

Unfortunately, Pareto’s Principle gets applied in all sorts of ways that don’t quite make sense. For example, a common social media teaching—which I’ve heard many times since I started my entrepreneurship journey!—is:  

“Spend 80 percent of your time on content that connects/engages and 20 percent that sells.”

Wait a minute…that’s NOT a cause-and-effect statement! 

And honestly, it doesn’t make much sense to apply this mathematical distribution to something as personal as our marketing efforts. 

Each retailer has a different voice, message, goals, and overall approach to strategy. It’s essential to discover this on your own. But when it comes down to it, everything on social media IS PROMOTIONAL, right? Our followers and customers are savvy enough to know this. 

I’m all for connecting, engagement, increasing the number of our social media followers, not being a pushy or overbearing salesperson, and providing value on social media.

But I think this old “golden rule” of social media marketing needs to get flipped on its head. Why? Because it’s telling retailers that “selling” is bad. 

Many indie retailers resist selling because it feels spammy or gross. The 80/20 social media rule is a convenient way to justify not selling, I get it! But in the end, following this so-called rule disempowers you as a retail business owner.

How You Should Actually Apply The 80/20 Rule to Your Business

If we get back to the TRUE PRINCIPLE and apply it to business, we can maximize our marketing results by focusing our efforts on that top 20 percent of customers.

For example, many retail store owners see the 80/20 rule play out in the stats of their loyalty programs. They find that their top, most loyal customers show up and spend with them consistently—and spend much more than their occasional customers.

When I recently asked retailers in The Shopkeeper’s Lab and Master Shopkeepers where they spend most of their marketing effort, it was 80% or more on social media marketing tasks like posting, creating reels, and making TikTok videos. 

Unfortunately, that means other forms of marketing are NOT getting much attention. 

And it made me wonder, “are they looking at their data to validate that social media is worth all that effort?”

If social media is where you’re putting your effort and your revenue REFLECTS this, I am not asking you to change how you market your business. But if you are stuck and feel like you are spending way too much time on social media with little to no ROI, well….maybe it’s time to change things up. 

A Personal Example of Marketing Effort vs. Marketing ROI

As with every concept I share with you, I’m speaking from experience on the return on effort and investment in marketing my retail business. There was a time that I wasn’t paying much attention to my data and found myself on marketing autopilot, too!

In 2021, I hosted a Q4 challenge in Master Shopkeepers. I wanted to motivate group members to use ANY of their data (inventory, sales, social media insights, etc.) to help them plan and strategize for Q4.

I decided to participate myself, and I dove into the email marketing data for the store I own with my sister. I looked at my email frequency compared to the revenue we generated in the weeks after I sent emails vs. the weeks I didn’t send an email. And I was a bit blown away at what I discovered! 

Like you, I kept hearing about the ROI on email marketing—I even talked about it in episode 94!—but I wasn’t LISTENING. 

With a bi-weekly email schedule, it was easy to see that our revenue went up 44% in the weeks following our emails. 44 PERCENT!

I get how easy it is to fall into a marketing routine and get stuck on autopilot. But that’s why evaluating your effort versus your return on investment is important. Your data might surprise you, just like mine did.

Make Sure Your Marketing Effort Matches Your Marketing ROI

I’m not saying everyone should drop social media and focus only on their loyalty programs and email marketing. 

But I do believe that looking at your marketing data, analyzing where you’re seeing a return on investment, and focusing your efforts on the best ROI is worth your time. 

The results from this year’s survey indicate that marketing your retail business is where you all want the most help, both in-store and online. And I’m here for it! So I want to share one resource to help you out, and an idea that I’d love your feedback on. 

An Awesome Marketing Resource for Retail Business Owners

Get Your Business Noticed! is a 74-page ebook packed with marketing ideas for brick-and-mortar store owners. If you feel stuck with your marketing efforts and want a plethora of ideas, this is the tool for you! Plus, it’s currently on sale for just $19.

A Potential Email Marketing Challenge

This past year, I saw email marketing was a struggle with many Master Shopkeepers members, so I decided to host a fun email Marketing Challenge in the group. 

In the five live presentations on Zoom over five weeks (along with a fun bingo card for tracking progress and winning prizes!), group members have made so much progress with their email marketing and have gotten amazing results so far.

Would you be interested in a similar 5-week email marketing challenge? DM me on Instagram or email me at to let me know! If there’s enough interest, I’d be more than happy to offer this.



  • [05:04] The Marketing “Rule” That Keeps You From Selling
  • [08:10] How You Should Actually Apply The 80/20 Rule to Your Business
  • [16:20] Make Sure Your Marketing Effort Matches Your Marketing ROI

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.