Kevin Kelly — who, among other things, is famous as being the founder of Wired magazine — wrote an article back in March 2008 called 1,000 True Fans.
I may have written about the principle here before, but it’s worth revisiting. Especially in the context of how you can use direct marketing to build your fan base.
The very basic principle of 1,000 True Fans, as expressed in the article, is…
“A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author — in other words, anyone producing works of art — needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.”
Kelly had looked at artists and noticed the standard 80/20 distribution curve. That is, the bottom 80% of artists (in whatever media) make 20% of the money, and the top 20% of artists make 80% of the money.
Further, because it’s exponential, there’s 80/20-squared, and 80/20-cubed. Meaning there’s a top 20% of the top 20% (4% of the total) who make 80% of the 80% of the money (64% of the money). And within that, the top .8% of artists make 51.2% of the money. And so on…
(If you want to take a deep dive into this, and how to use 80/20 to make more money in sales, marketing, and your business, I recommend you pick up Perry Marshall’s 80/20 Sales & Marketing for a penny plus shipping here.)
Kelly wasn’t particularly against or in favor of this unequal distribution of fame and fortune — but he did want to provide artists (and other creators) a way to move themselves up the curve.
And so, 1,000 True Fans was born.
The idea is that if you’re a creator and you have 1,000 people who are actively seeking out what you create, you have enough of an audience to sustain you full-time as a creator.
They’ll buy your concert tickets, your books, your painting prints, your music, whatever…
And as long as you are able to build and keep that fan base, you’ll continue to be able to keep clothes on your back and food on your table and a roof over your head from the proceeds of your creations alone.
If you want to apply this in business, the number may be a little different. As a copywriter you may need on 10 True Fans (good clients) to make a good living.
If you sell coaching an consulting services, you may need 100.
Depending on the economics, the number may be different, but the principle still applies — in order to be financially self-sufficient in what you do, you have a certain number of people you have to keep interested in what it is you’re doing.
Now here’s how direct marketing loops into this…
Kelly made the important point that an artist, let’s say musician, doesn’t get their true fans just by making art. Nor do they get it by signing a record contract.
No, the best way to build a relationship with your 1,000 True Fans — a relationship that will keep them constantly hungry for more — is to form a DIRECT connection with your fans.
And the single best way to build that direct connection with fans is through… Drum roll, please…
At the most fundamental level, here’s an online direct marketing formula for getting your 1,000 True Fans…
Step One: Set up a website that showcases your art.
Step Two: Set up an email list (through Aweber or a similar service) and put a sign-up form in a prominent spot on your website. Preferably, offer some free “lead magnet” version of your art as a way to get people to sign up.
Step Three: Send website traffic (preferably known fans of art like yours) to the page on your site where they can sign up for your list.
Step Four: Communicate regularly (minimum monthly, preferably weekly or more often) with your fans-to-be, showcasing not just your art, but your personality. IMPORTANT POINT: You can get fans based on your art, but you can only get True Fans based on your personality — who you are. Make your personality shine in your communications.
Step Five: Make low-level introductory offers of your art for ALL your fans.
Step Six: Offer higher-end packages of your art (preferably in EXPERIENCE form) to get True Fans to engage with you on a higher level.
Step Seven: This is where the magic really happens. As you build a base of True Fans, they’ll start to take over the marketing for you, and you’ll grow as much through word of mouth as you will through proactive marketing.
(You don’t HAVE TO do this online and with email, but it’s a pretty good way, and no matter what you do you should apply the same principles.
This is a fairly basic outline, but you’ll see how it follows some basic direct marketing prindciples…
Build a list, based on people who are already interested in what you have to offer…
Communicate regularly with your list…
Make an ascending series of offers for customers who will engage at ever-higher levels…
It’s all very basic and fundamental, but it’s what works.
And if you’re looking to build a business, apply this same principle.
Recognize that there is some minimum number of True Fans required to get the business to a self-sustaining level.
The way to get those True Fans — and make them your customers — is to connect with them and communicate with them regularly, preferably through a permission-based email strategy.
And you need to structure your offers in such a way that all your regular Fans or customers have one level of products and engagement with you, that will form the entry point and broad revenue base for your business… But your True Fans will have a higher level of engagement with you that will deliver a greater experience that gives them more in exchange for paying you more, and they will be the true profit center and lifeblood of your business.
If this was interesting, I recommend reading Kelly’s original article. Here’s the link again.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets