In the late 1800s, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered that 80% of the land in his home country was owned by 20% of the population. Pareto was also an avid gardener, and observed that 20% of the peapods in his garden yielded 80% of the peas that were harvested. Such observations gave rise to a powerful theory: the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule.

The Pareto Principle is perhaps most famous for its suggestion that successful people tend to achieve 80% of their results from only 20% of their activities. This rule also applies to public relations, analyst relations and the management of influencers in general.

Companies can achieve 80% of the results they seek in terms of influence by focusing their time and resources on the 20% of influencers that are, in fact, the most important. In order to accomplish this goal, it is necessary to differentiate or rank influencers using sensible criteria — or even powerful models. What’s clear is that some influencers are simply more influential than others.

Of course, one must then focus on building powerful influencer relationships. In the world of influence, relationships are everything. High-tech companies and others who sell complex solutions must build relationships with journalists, analysts and other opinion leaders — over time — if they are to achieve optimum results. This means companies must carefully focus on the people who are most important to their success. They need to understand their particular interests and requirements, and how best to interact with them.

If companies focus on the influencers that matter most, they can achieve a far greater return on their investments in influencer management than those that do not. And while PR agencies will all purport to provide these focused capabilities and relationship building skills, they often lack the particular industry knowledge, skills, contacts and relationships necessary to pull it off. They generally don’t follow the 80/20 rule. To be successful in the increasingly complex world of influence, one must think like Vilfredo the gardener — and cultivate one’s relationships with care and forethought.