1000 true fans: the strongest foundation for your marketing and business

It's easy to pay too much attention to things that don't really matter in our businesses. It's easy to be preoccupied with how many views you've got and how big your mailing list is. You look forward to the day when you finally hit a decent amount of Facebook fans.

But really – that's not where we should be focusing at all. It takes our energy away from the real work that gets us those followers, views, and likes as a side product of our focus, persistence, and creativity.

Another thing: we don't even need big numbers to get big results. Often, the magic comes when we have a small tribe of true fans (and when we have that, the numbers will start shooting up with far less effort from you).

The idea of 1000 true fans comes from Kevin Kelly's much-referenced blog post from back in 2008. I'd love for you to read it too.

The opening two paragraphs give you the key idea:

You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only [a thousand] true fans.

A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free youtube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune.

These diehard fans are your most powerful marketing team. As well as buying anything you produce, they are your best brand ambassadors. They will shout about how great you are, bring new customers through your door, and may well do a better job than people who are actually on your payroll (just the way it is, not trying to cause any trouble). They'll defend you when the critics start calling on social media, genuinely and authentically, which is much easier for them to do than you.

So if you're not there already, your job as a marketer, entrepreneur or creator is to build your tribe of 1000 true fans.

Here's how to get there:

Identify the smallest niche you can.

Know what really matters to them. Ideally you'll be part of this niche too, so you understand exactly what excites them, frustrates them, and gets them passionate about something.

Know the content they love to receive in their inboxes instead of wanting to hit the spam button. Produce it.

Be authentically you, because you're like them and they get you.

Keep delivering what they're looking for.


Kevin's closing takeaway:

"1,000 true fans is an alternative path to success other than stardom. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum bestseller hits, blockbusters, and celebrity status, you can aim for direct connection with a thousand true fans. On your way, no matter how many fans you actually succeed in gaining, you’ll be surrounded not by faddish infatuation, but by genuine and true appreciation. It’s a much saner destiny to hope for. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there."