Most marketers dream of 60-40 blind taste test winners and product superiority claims. The flaw is that generally appealing to a majority generally means emotionally appealing to no one. 60-40 winners are boring. 90-10 losers are exciting. This is why the path to success is with the truly differentiated product, service, or positioning that 90% hate and 10% adore.

Product. 60% of people prefer Pepsi to Coca-Cola in blind taste tests. But they don’t care a lot (and the results are completely different if they drink full cans or know what they’re drinking). On the other hand, 90% of people want nothing to do with guns. But the 10% that prefer Remington Rifles will fight for their constitutional rights with everything they’ve got.

Service. Executive coaches can help about 60% of people. But many coaches are a mile wide and an inch deep. Our firm, PrimeGenesis, focuses exclusively on executive onboarding and team onboarding. We’re not right for 90% of situations. But for the 10% of situations requiring better results faster in particularly complex transitions we’re exactly what people need.


Positioning. Job seekers that strive to be 60-40 winners tend towards the mean. They often make it through the resume screen and early rounds of interviews only to take second place at the end. What a waste of time and energy! Who wants to come in second place in a job search. Instead, position yourself as the 90-10 loser. Far better to come in last 90% of the time and first 10% of the time than to come in second 60% of the time and third 40% of the time.

In each case, the key is positive differentiation. If you lose 90% of the time because your product, service or positioning is inferior to 90% of your competitors in any situation, you deserve your fate (which will not be happy). The objective is not to lose 90% of the time. It’s to win big 10% of the time and not worry about the other 90% of the cases. So, be BRAVE.


Where 90-10 losers play

The core choice here is to play in smaller, more valuable ponds. Instead of worrying about market share or number of interviews, 90-10 losers aim for areas where they can create and capture value. The iPhone has never been the leader in unit sales. But it’s always the leader in profitability.

Dig into the data to find the relatively small set of people ready, willing and able to pay for solutions to their unmet needs. Don’t go any further until you can identify them and how to get to them.


What matters to 90-10 losers and why

Your purpose must be hard wired to where you choose to play. If you don’t care about serving the unmet need you identified. Do something different. You have to care about what you’re doing as much as your customers or employers care.

This is an integrity issue. If your actions don’t match your words, you’re a fraud. If your actions match your words but don’t match your underlying beliefs, it may take some people longer to figure it out, but you’re still a fraud.


How 90-10 losers win

Make the tough choices around what it takes to win 10% of the time. Know that strategy is about choosing what not to do. (Thank you Michael Porter.) And know that choosing not to do something stupid is easy while choosing not to do something that is a good idea – for somebody else – is harder. (Thank you Harry Kangis.)


How 90-10 losers connect

90-10 losers don’t engage in mass marketing. Instead, engage in highly targeted communication with the 10% that need what you are offering. Instead of trying to connect with many, build deep relationships with the few that really care.


How 90-10 losers behave

Know that everything communicates. Focus everyone in your ecosystems on the same context, purpose and choices in everything you say, do and believe.