All Businesses Need "1000 True Fans"

The other day I wrote an article about why the concept of cultivating 1000 True Fans involves: 1) Knowing who your audience is (in other words really understanding their "buyer personas," and 2) Adding lots of value to that core group of people.

Today I want to talk about how applicable this strategy is for all businesses, regardless of size or industry.

Tim Ferris, said that the original piece about 1000 True Fans, written by Kevin Kelly, was really the only article on marketing anyone needs to read. I completely agree. As a concept, it applies to small and large businesses, individual professionals, non-profit organizations and even causes and ideas.

Originally, Kelly thought of the 1000 True Fans idea as being specifically for artists, musicians, bands, crafts people, performers, video makers and others who created and sold artistic works.

As he presented it, such a creator only needs 1000 people who will consistently spend about a day's income per year (approximately $100) to support him or herself. This core of 1000 are not the only customers,in fact you can count on the fact that this group will help spread the word and bring in more customers along the way.

So not only are these 1000 True Fans regular buyers, they are also word of mouth marketers for the creator. They are the evangelists we all long for who will help spread our message to others.

But 1000 True Fans has taken on a life of its own as others have grabbed onto the idea and seen that it has application for their work as well. Non artists have adopted the concept and prospered from the strategy.

But it begins with creating content.

Let's face it, most businesses are not likely to attract fans on our own. Unless we sell a product that is truly sexy, like an iPad, Corvette or Gina Alexander Handbags, we need to add something else to the mix.

My friend Bill Hurlbut sells insurance. Now maybe he thinks insurance is sexy (with Bill you never know, he is after all a Republican). But for the rest of us, insurance is one of those things we have to buy but would rather not have to think about it all that much.

But Bill has fans. He has built his fan base upon the ideas and information he willingly shares about things other than insurance. He blogs, sends out a newsletter and speaks about business building tips and ideas. If you are a small business owner (his target market) you will likely become his fan because he shares ideas that can help you succeed and become more profitable.

And oh, by the way, you may even buy insurance from him rather than someone else when you have a need for it. The reason is he stays in touch and unselfishly helps you achieve your own goal of growing your business.

And he creates good, valuable, helpful content. The information he shares has made Bill what I call a "micro celebrity" among small business people in this community.

But what if you work for a very big business? Won't you need more than 1000 fans?

Yes and no. You will surely need more than 1000 loyal customers to stay in business. But remember we are talking about true fans here. We are talking about rabid, excited people who not only buy from you regularly, but who also tell others about you.

These are people who consume your content and share it with others.

If you have 1000 people who are active on Twitter, Facebook or other social media communities, who tweet about you. blog about you, Digg you or post videos about you; that 1000 can create a tsunami of good will.

Central Market is a very high-end grocery store chain here in the Dallas/Fort Worth are where I live. They sell wonderful food you can find no place else. You can buy a complete gourmet meal at their deli counter (although I think of it as more a food court than a mere deli counter). Shopping there is an experience, not just an item to be crossed off your to-do list.

But Central Market has more than customers, they have fans.

And they have fans because, not only do they sell a great product, they also create content and events.

They have a blog called More Please and a newsletter called eFoodie that give die hard foodies a steady stream of information about great recipes and nutritional knowledge.

Some Central Market stores also book bands to play out on their patio, which creates a family event for people to buy ready-made meals from the deli/food court and sit out to enjoy the music.

They have lots of regular classes for budding chefs like me who want to learn to cook gourmet meals.

Of course they are also on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Central Market attracts fans, not just customers, because they create content in the form of their recipes, newsletter, blog and classes. They also create events like the outdoor concerts and classes.

And guess what, all this cultivates fans who Tweet about them or write blog posts about them like I am doing now.

Imagine how effective just 1000 positive blog posts about Central Market (or any other corporation) would be? If each of these bloggers also tweeted about their article, there would inevitably be a large number of retweets, spreading the message virally to a lot more than 1000 people.

The point is that any business, anyone with a message or a unique product can get a lot more mileage from focusing on a few rather than on mass marketing to everyone.

After all, would you rather have fans or customers?

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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