Recently, we noticed various blogs and presentations referring to business rules. We wondered, “How many business rules are there?”

The answer? A LOT! We explore eight priceless business rules you need to know when operating your small or mid-size business.


Because business rules are like roadmaps. They chart a researched path leading to a desired destination. Take a slight detour, and you waste valuable energy and resources. Take a big detour, and you’re likely to get lost.

Business Rule #1

The 80/20 Rule: Prioritize What’s Most Impactful

The Pareto Principle 80% and 20% on scale with 20% being heavier

The 80/20 rule is arguably the most well-known in business circles. Also called the Pareto principle, it has been around for more than a century. The 19th-century Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto first suggested the 80/20 principle. He purported that 20% of causes result in 80% of the consequences.

Applied in business, it suggests:

  • 80% of your profits typically come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your sales are generated by the top 20% of your salesforce
  • 20% of your customers will pay four times more if you offer a new, valuable product or service
  • 80% of success is from 20% of your ideas or efforts

In other words, it’s easier to upsell existing customers than to chase new business. Furthermore, it pays to focus on customers and activities that impact your business the most.

One rule of caution here: while applying the rule, spread the business love around. I worked at an agency that was busy focusing on three accounts for one company. When that company pivoted, our branding agency never recovered.

Business Rule #2

70/30 Rule: Work on a Plan, But Be Creative and Adaptable

The 70/30 Rule reminds us that sticking to established methods helps achieve 70% of goals.

  • 30% of success/revenue comes from adapting to new market conditions rather than adhering doggedly to the original plan
  • Dedicate 70% of your time to essential activities and 30% to developing new ideas, tactics, strategies, and approaches
  • Forecast 70% of outcomes and leave 30% wiggle room for unforeseen changes in your annual plan

In sum, embrace a culture of creative problem-solving, innovative approaches, and inventive thinking.

Business Rule #3

2×2 Rule: Get to the Point

The 2×2 Rule encourages everyone to prepare two facts about their company that can be shared in two minutes or less.

This 2×2 Rule allows small- or mid-size businesses and teams to achieve the following objectives:

  • Arm your salespeople with essential pitch information that is concise, effective, and memorable
  • Deliver a powerful punch, highlighting your capabilities in networking situations
  • Tell your story in less time for more focused and productive meetings—no matter what the meeting topic is
  • Honor everyone’s time

Up your game. Be sure everyone in your company can articulate two uniquely distinguishing facts that separate your organization from the competition in two minutes or less. Additionally, focus on just two desired outcomes for each meeting.

Business Rule #4

The 3/30/3 Rule: Capture Attention

The 3/30/3 Rule refers to capturing attention with your content.

  • Within the first 3 seconds, viewers determine whether your content sufficiently captures their attention
  • If it does, you’ve earned another 30 seconds of the readers’ time to prove your value
  • If viewers remain engaged for 3 minutes, it is likely that they have a strong interest in your content

Effective communication relies on an almost instant connection. Create powerful messages, enticing, compelling content, and exciting visuals that are:

  • Relevant
  • Easy to understand, and
  • Highlight your value proposition.

Try putting your current content to the test. Does it meet the 3/30/3 Rule?

3 second, 30 seconds, and 3 minutes on stopwatches

Business Rule #5

5/3/2 Social Media Rule: Focus on What’s Important to Your Audience

Put the focus on your audience, not yourself. TA McCann, founder and CEO of Senosis (acquired by Google) and Gist (acquired by Blackberry and Rival IQ (marketing analytics), explains how to effectively structure social content by adhering to this rule:

  • “5” refers to the first 50% of your content. Use reliable sources other than your own organization. Be relevant to your audience. For example, you might share quantifiable facts and quotes from proven authorities.
  • “3” is the next 30% of your content. This percentage comes from your company. Similar to the first 50%, it should also be relevant to your audience. For instance, you might reveal company expertise, benefits, and solutions.
  • “2” refers to the last 20% of your content. This is your own unique personal content. It should differentiate you from others. It’s intended to humanize your brand.

Do not overlook the importance of the personal touch. This is your opportunity to connect with your audience, help them get to know you, and make your content more memorable. It should have an addictive quality that makes your audience want to come back again and again because they like your style.

Business Rule #6

The Platinum Rule: Be Respectful and Selfless.

The Golden Rule: treat others how you want to be treated. Respect and appreciation are almost universally desired by every person you meet.

At the same time, people are unique. For example, you might welcome a public atta-boy or atta-girl. But someone else might be embarrassed, humiliated, and want to climb under a rock. Instead, that person might appreciate a private note of gratitude.

Similarly, one client or customer may want every detail. The next one wants the bottom line.

Enter The Platinum Rule: treat others how they want to be treated.

This holds true in social media, email marketing, and all business relationships.

This simple rule modification can pay high dividends. Treating people individually can create greater trust, comfort, and mutual respect.

Get to know your employees and clients. Not sure of their preferences? Just ask.

For example, asking how often people would like to receive marketing emails is an example of the Platinum Rule.


Business Rule 7

98/2 Rule: Be Persistent

Grant Cardone (Follow-Up, The Greatest Sales Secret of All Time) used the 98/2 Rule to illustrate the likelihood of closing a sale during the first meeting. Then, he compared it to the probability of closing the deal in subsequent appointments.

His research indicated:

  • 2% of sales are made during the first contact; the remaining 98% of sales occur during follow-up meetings
  • The 98% of sales that occur in subsequent meetings can be broken down as follows:
    • 3% of sales occur during the second contact
    • 5% of deals are closed during the third visit
    • 10% of closed deals are achieved by the fourth meeting
    • 80% of sales aren’t achieved until the fifth to twelfth contact

Persistence pays off.

The 98/2 Rule also suggests that 98% of fears never become reality, meaning people waste tremendous time worrying for no reason. All that negative energy could be focused more positively. If you need some positivity, read 101 Motivational Quotes for Small and Mid-Size Business Owners.

Business Rule #8

The Rules of 3: Make it Memorable

Throughout history and in virtually every industry, you will find the Rule of 3.  Psychologically, the human brain is conditioned to believe that triads are more valid, valuable, and credible. The Rule of 3 denotes the ease of remembering things when grouped in 3’s.

For example, every life has a past, present, and future. It’s easy to memorize three-word phrases. Ready, set, go. Good, better, best. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The Rule of 3 has many applications.

  • It emphasizes the need to repeat a message a minimum of three times to be memorable.
  • When presenting, rely on the Rule of 3 to deliver three main points. For example, this applies to content writers, public speakers, and salespeople.
  • Ensure your audience can quickly identify three key takeaways.
a lightbulb and pencil for idea generation in branding

The Rule of 3 in Branding: Power Pack Your Proposition

In branding, the Rule of 3 is about helping customers understand your value proposition.

  • Choose three power-packed words to describe your brand.
  • Reinforce your brand message with three main components, features, or benefits.
  • Consider 3-word slogans, such as “Finger-lickin’ Good,” “Just Do It,” “Diamonds Are Forever,” “Where’s the Beef?” and “I’m Lovin’ It.”

Talk to your branding and marketing agency about a three-word tagline or slogan for your product or company. Then, reiterate it everywhere to help your brand become instantly associated with your message.

The Rule of 3 in Marketing

When promoting your products or services:

  • Highlight three key features, benefits, or selling points. Repeat them often and everywhere.
  • Repeat after me. Repeat messages at least three times. Consider different marketing media formats: email, social media, direct mail, website, in-person, billboards, brochures, advertising, store windows, packaging, and all other relevant marketing vehicles.
  • Feature three memorable, straightforward aspects of your company on your website.

The Rule of 3 keeps customers from being bombarded with too much information or so overwhelmed that they lose interest.

marketing megaphone with 1-2-3 for rule of 3
a graph with 3 points and dollar sign for sales rule of 3

Rule of 3 in Sales: Reinforce 3 Pain Points, 3 Features, 3 Benefits

The Sales Rule of 3 is applied throughout the sales process to feature your most essential points.

  • Uncover your customer’s three significant pain points, needs, or wants.
  • Describe three differentiating features and benefits of your product or service that address those customer pain points.
  • Close the deal by reiterating three benefits or solutions.

Verbally, visually, and digitally, adhere to the Rule of 3 to focus your company’s branding, marketing, and sales. Help your target audience recall the most important takeaways.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

  1. Write engaging content.
  2. Make your ideas stick.
  3. Deliver powerful presentations.

Remember: every story has a beginning, middle, and end. And so does this blog.

Nancy Burgess

Nancy Burgess is the owner of Nancy Burgess Strategic Marketing, a marketing consulting firm and online agency. In that role, she integrates her corporate success as a digital marketer along with her marketing agency experience in marketing communications and branding to help businesses prosper. Nancy's specialties are search engine optimization (SEO) and content creation. She graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, holds a master's degree, and also multiple marketing certificates from DePaul University's graduate school. She is a frequent presenter on SEO strategies and has worked in digital marketing since the late 1990s. As someone who can strategize AND execute, Nancy offers digital and traditional marketing services to SMBs. Agency value without agency fees. Along with SEO and content strategies, Nancy's agency offers website design, marketing automation, integrated marketing strategies, and branding to her clients.