The power of the Bell Curve.

The Secret Power of the Bell Curve

A powerful idea that, when applied, can make your marketing and sales efforts sing.

We all know of the bell curve. Most of us learned about it in the context of school where it is often applied to normalize grades.

The Bell Curve of Performance

The idea of the bell curve illustrates the notion that there are a few that always succeed no matter the circumstances and a few that do not succeed no matter the circumstances. In terms of performance, this occurs without adjusting scores. There are always outliers on the over-achiever (over-performance) and the under-achiever (under-performance) sides. The school and classroom may be poorly run, the teacher may not be organized, but over-achieving students, regardless of the situation, will succeed. Likewise, there are those on the other end of the bell curve who, in spite of an excellent educational environment and in spite of having excellent mentoring and teaching, just will not make it.

Common Practice

Unfortunately, what feels like the right thing to do sometimes is not. This is the case for people trying to maximize performance. Take teaching. Where does the teacher feel time is best spent. With the overachievers? The underachievers? Or the average audience in the middle?

It is not uncommon for us to want to help the helpless, or to help those exhibiting greatness succeed! We love to participate in stories of exception, rather than those of normality.

The Heartfelt Pitfall

When we focus on the exceptionally successful or the exceptionally challenged, we often do very little in terms of impact. The teachers who spend extra time with over- and underachievers have much less effect on their classroom as a whole because the under achievers and over achievers will perform very much the same with or without the attention.

The fact of the matter is that attention spent on those in the middle can and will reap the greatest rewards. The large population in the middle are on the fence of succeeding to a greater degree. They often just need a push and some dedication. They have the greatest potential for improvement and there are more people in this category — a win-win. Teachers focusing on this group can change the performance of the classroom as a whole from the average “C” to an average of a “B”.

If you are responsible for teaching or having an impact on a population, the hard truth is that your efforts are best spent in areas where you can sway performance most effectively, and that is on the middle of the curve, the average audience with the less exceptional story, where the rewards are obvious and bountiful.

The power of the Bell Curve.

Universal Law

The bell curve applies to circumstances of performance all around us. Education, sports, the workplace. Even in personal practices involving skill acquisition, personal achievement, and relationship, the same rules apply. As you come to understand the implications of this philosophy, you come to realize the power of strategically putting these laws into place to see real impact in everything you do.

A Newly Recognized Marketing Truth

Awareness is an amazing state. Once you recognize the truth of the bell curve and are able to apply it, you begin to exercise the power of its philosophy. And, it is simple.

Plain Business English

In your particular line of business, you will typically have those that will always buy from you and those who will not, and finally a lot of “maybes.” Somewhere on the top of the bell curve hill of maybes lies the fence. On one side you have the “probablies,” and on the other the “probably nots.” If you are thinking clearly, your job is to move the fence so that you have a lot more probablies and a lot fewer probably nots. This is how you can best impact sales. Just as the teachers have little impact on the guaranteed successes, you will have less impact on the guaranteed yeses.

If you are advertising, doing public relations, or other marketing related tasks, imagine the bell curve and how it fits your target population. If you have a message going out to help position a product then appeal to the maybe audience and move the fence line. If you are a politician, the base you should be appealing to is not the base of guaranteed votes, it is the base of maybes. The conversion of maybes to probablies is what wins elections.

Move the fence. Add to the probablies. Have real impact. Be an effective teacher, marketer, manager, and person. Apply the bell curve and reap the rewards of efficiency and achievement. Move the needle by providing the biggest bang for every ounce of effort. You will greatly accelerate your place in the world.


Author Bryan Carter is President of, a company known for online marketing, advertising and social media including website designfacebook integration, advertising, messaging and delivery strategies.  They have become a one-stop shop for many businesses in Jackson, Ridgeland, Flowood and Madison.  thinkWEBSTORE is located in Ridgeland, Mississippi on Lake Harbour Drive next to Primos Cafe and can be contacted at (601)856-2000 or online at, where you can see many work examples.