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Be Like Eric Church. Focus on Your First Few Fanatics for a Big-Time Payoff.

Be Like Eric Church. Focus on Your First Few Fanatics for a Big-Time Payoff.
Image credit: Eric Church | Facebook
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A huge victory took place for all entrepreneurs when Eric Church released his new album, Mr. Misunderstood, on Nov. 4 at the Country Music Awards. Secretly, he released it the day before to members of his fan club, and it didn’t hit the iTunes music store until after the show began. 

His fan club members, affectionately known as the Church Choir, received the album via a surprise snail-mail package. The album was even accompanied by a handwritten note from Church. The release was a huge success, selling 71,000 copies in the first 30 hours of availability alone and coming in at number three in the Billboard Top 100.

Related: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From 6 Country Music Icons

Inside his counterintuitive strategy, there lies a huge lesson for all entrepreneurs. There was zero promotion, hype or interviews leading up to it, and his record label didn’t even know he was doing this. It was entrepreneurial, guerilla marketing at its finest.

You don’t have to conform or do things the way everyone has always done them in your industry either. The album title and lead track, Mr. Misunderstood, is something we can all relate to. As entrepreneurs, we are often times Mr. or Mrs. Misunderstood. There’s nothing normal about us. We think different, act different and view the business world differently. We are also misunderstood because we hold ourselves to a standard and level of accountability very different than the rest of our contemporaries.

We voluntarily log long hours and late nights and absorb unrelenting criticism for pursuing our passion on the path less-traveled. Entrepreneurship like being a musician -- it's not a job, it’s a way of life, an obsession and a subculture unto itself. And if you’re not one of us, you don’t understand us. We are all misunderstood -- and probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

There’s a method to Church's stealth madness. It’s a method we would all be wise to follow, and it's all in the approach. We blaze our own trail into the woods and hope people come along for the ride, but are we focusing on the right passengers? The right passengers are the first few fanatics -- 80,000 of them in Church’s case.

In September of 2014, U2 partnered with Apple to force their new album on half a billion iTunes users. It is believed to be the biggest album release in history -- but bigger isn’t better. In the process, U2 and Apple angered customers and damaged their respective brand equity. It was the musical equivalent of junk mail. I remember being annoyed that iTunes forced that music on me and not knowing how to remove the album from my account.

Church looked inward instead of outward and focused on his first few fanatics -- his fan club members who are his biggest ambassadors and will happily beat the drum for him. U2 looked outward and ultimately frustrated a large number of people who didn’t want their music.

Related: Bono Regrets Putting U2's New Album in Your iCloud Library

Church refined his target audience down to his biggest fans. It’s what he has always done and what you should do -- play your music for the people who want to hear it most. It’s a timeless strategy known as the Pareto Principle, named after 19th century economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto discovered that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the citizens. He found this phenomenon to be true in other countries he studied.

It doesn’t hold true with just real estate or economics. The Pareto Principle states that 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of your actions. If you reflect on aspects of your life, you’ll see it’s a universal truth -- 80 percent of your productivity comes from 20 percent of your employees, 80 percent of your complaints come from 20 percent of your clients, 80 percent of your wealth comes from 20 percent of your investments and so on.

In the case of Church’s music, 80 percent of the support for his music will come from 20 percent of his audience. The most passionate 20 percent is his fan club. You can apply Pareto’s wisdom to your business as well. Who are your biggest fans? How are you investing in them?

In my career as a professional speaker and coach, I took the Pareto Principle to an even deeper level and encourage you to do the same. After discovering that 20 percent of my clients were indeed responsible for over 80 percent of my revenue, I then took it a step further and looked within that initial 20 percent to determine which of them were responsible for 80 percent of that revenue.

These were my MVPs, or most valuable people, literally. Factoring it down to a third level, 20 percent of my 4 percent would be .8 percent of my client base who create 51 percent of my total revenue. These are clients who I focus on dedicating a majority of my attention and resources in the form of premium experiences, client appreciation events and value-added services. This heightened focus has brought about new opportunities in the form of additional work within their organizations and referrals to their professional peers.

Doing it any other way is a colossal waste of time and energy. You should be preaching to your choir and allowing them the opportunity to sing your praises. Most entrepreneurs spin their wheels, investing a majority of their time trying to convert the uninterested masses into buyers, whether they are ideal clients or not (usually not).

Your industry is probably a lot like the music industry -- crowded and commoditized. Who are the core group of fans who can help spread your message? Focus your efforts on the fanatical few instead of the mediocre many, and it will pay off big time.

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Related: The 80/20 Rule Is True for What's Holding You Back, Too