The Secret to Attracting 1,000 True Fans

The Secret to Attracting 1,000 True Fans

Everyone says play bigger, grow; keep expanding.

But is all growth and development good, or even necessary?

I’ve learned that there’s no guarantee that growth will make a difference in your business. You can have more people on your list, and no one actually buying. You can have more traffic, and only crickets in your comments section.

There’s a big difference between growth that’s meaningful and growth that’s hollow. The difference is depth.

A lot of people say you need 1,000 true fans. I think that’s a good, tangible goal to aim for.

For our purposes, “True Fans” are defined as: People that buy everything you create. When you announce the launch of a product, creation, or offer, they are actively waiting for you to release it. They refresh the “coming soon” page. They comment on every post. They tell everyone they can about what you do.

1,000 is good because it’s a number that we can wrap our minds around. It seems like a stretch, but it also seems doable. You can convert one true fan a day if you’re really on your game.

But the way most people go about trying to get fans is completely backwards. They target everyone they can (instead of using deliberate content marketing). They shoot for a certain amount of traffic, or try to increase their conversion rate to their email list. These numbers, however, aren’t worth much of anything without those people becoming true fans.

The truth about true fans

Not everyone is going to become a true fan. Even if you go out of your way to do something memorable for every person you come in contact with, not everyone is going to connect with what you do on an insatiable level. And that’s okay.

But the chances of getting 1,000 true fans by a “shotgun” approach is slim at best. I would venture that simply trying to add people to your list will get you about 1 true fan for every 100-500 people you sign up. That’s pretty poor. Not to mention it’s going to take you a long time (potentially 100,000-500,000 people on your list to get you to 1,000 true fans).

So how do you ensure that you don’t just collect a bunch of lukewarm dabblers? How do you find people that are willing to take up arms for your cause, that will vehemently support your work?

There are two keys:

  1. Relevance
  2. Context

In order to gain true fans you need to be highly relevant. Your work isn’t merely useful (that’s a baseline requirement), they also identify with it. They feel like it’s their work because they it’s something they believe in or feel strongly pulled to.

The die-hard fan

Have you ever seen a die-hard sports fan talk about their team? They don’t say “The Jets lost the superbowl.” They say “OUR team lost the superbowl.” When their team loses, they have lost. When their team wins, they win.

A lot of teams and athletes have this camaraderie built in, simply because that team or athlete comes from the same city or state the fan has. But you don’t need to rely on having “home-town status.” You can create a sense of belonging with your tribe by giving them a reason to rally together.

Here are some questions to think about:

  • What is the cause your true fan feels strongly pulled to?
  • What is the common enemy your tribe is railing against?
  • What makes them feel different?
  • What makes them feel united?
  • What about their story, history or experiences makes them strongly identified with your cause?

The more you can tell a story that person identifies with, and keep your content relevant and useful, the greater the chances of that person becoming and staying a true fan are.

The importance of context (and some bad news)

The amount of messages, advertisements and marketing intrusions a person receives on a daily basis is massive. 250 billion emails are sent per day. 80% of them are spam.

As creators and artists, our battle is not to win the game of who can create the most stuff. Our challenge is to be at the top of the list of importance to our audience.

That ladder looks something like this:

  1. Unmissable. Everything you create must be given attention.
  2. Important. Relevant and important, but can be set aside to be looked at later (and potentially forgotten).
  3. Relevant. Your content is useful, and relevant, but it’s not important enough to take priority.
  4. Mildly interesting. Seems interesting, but there’s too much incoming to pay any attention.
  5. Noise. Considered spam or is completely irrelevant. Might as well be invisible.

True fans view everything you create as unmissable. Missing is not an option. If they can’t get tickets (not likely, since they’ve been refreshing the web page), they will jump the fence to get in.

The bad news is, that these true fans are not created out of thin air. They require attention, and care, and to win them you must be memorable.

The case for high-touch

What used to be amazing and unexpected is simply a requirement now. Free shipping used to blow people’s minds. Now people won’t buy something online without free shipping in most cases.

If you want to gain true fans (life-long fans) you need to do something to be a pattern interrupt. You have to care about more than giving people just value. You have to create a memorable experience.

Here are some way you can do that (warning: they all require work):

  • Personally call and thank every customer that buys your product.
  • Create a short, personalized thank-you video for repeat customers.
  • Spend time at an event personally shaking each person’s hand.
  • Create an unexpected bonus for people that sign up to your email list.
  • Answer every single email.
  • Release a movie-style trailer for your product, or do something unexpected. (See how we did this with Trailblazer.)
  • Reward your true fans with something memorable that relates to your message or product. Personalize it.
  • Hold a contest with one winner, then surprise everyone by giving every entrant a prize.
  • Spend a month giving revenue from every sale to a charity related to your message or cause.

Most importantly, do something different. There’s very little competition at the leading edge because everyone is afraid to do something that hasn’t been proven to work.

When it has been proven, it will no longer be effective. It will simply become a requirement to not failing.

This is a marathon

The path of creating a tribe of 1,000 true fans is more of a marathon than a sprint. It’s more like farming than hunting. Most people won’t do it because it’s laborious, time intensive and you don’t often see the results immediately.

But I’m guessing you’re not most people. I’m guessing you were brought here to do more than what’s already been done.

Question for you:

What’s your best tip for cultivating True Fans? Leave your comment below.

The person with the best advice will get a free coaching session with me. 

Note: Dan Andrews from Tropical MBA wrote another great post on this topic which you can read here.

Follow a proven framework to earning a living from your passion

My bestselling course on making your first $1k from your passion helped a community of over 2000 adventurers. You can be our next success story.

FIND OUT MORE

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

88 Comments on "The Secret to Attracting 1,000 True Fans"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
ethanwaldman
Guest

Great article! I have to say my favorite method is to offer to talk with someone on Skype if they send me an email with a question. Too often it feels like the bloggers behind the blogs we follow are untouchable, unreachable, too busy to care about an individual. By offering a 15 minute chat to answer a question, I’ve found that people are really impressed and see that I really do care about each and every reader.

JonathanMead
Guest

@ethanwaldman Great tip Ethan, very unique.

Lasse Larsen
Guest

This is a great suggestion, I actually think this is one of the best and most caring ways to engage I’ve ever heard/seen.

doolin
Guest

Oooh… Livefyre… excellent!

You’re right about it being a marathon.

Not sure about high touch. I can think of counter-examples (Grateful Dead *cough*). I would definitely agree that high touch is tactic associated with a strategic principle of _giving unstintingly_.

I read somewhere that more than 95% of all electronic traffic is spam at best, with a significant percentage of that being outright fraud or even worse criminal intent. When I think about how electricity is wasted supporting criminals getting a free ride on the web, I’d be happy to pay a nominal amount to slow it down.

MainstreamMom
Guest

Honesty is the best medicine. I tell my kids often, “Tell the truth, it’s the best thing to do.” My tip to cultivate True Fans is … Be honest, be transparent, tell the truth.

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills
Guest

You nailed it with this one Jonathan. In fact, I would say this is the best article I have ever read on this subject. Most of the time tested approaches have become obsolete. Once we accept the fact that the majority is always way behind the curve we can fully appreciate the trailblazer approach.

JonathanMead
Guest

@Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills Trailblazing is where it’s at. :)

Butterflyist
Guest

I agree with MainstreamMom – transparency and honesty are key to creating true fans, as well as remaining congruent. But I’d also add that having a unique voice in your communication is also important. This is what your true fans will relate to and like about you, even where others might not.

dikedrummond
Guest
Great post Jonathan and I think the foundation of all of this is to “get” your people at a very deep level. They aren’t just our “ideal customers” … that’s too much in the head and an abstract. These are our people (tribe if you will). We have felt their pain. We connect in a way that they clearly understand we “get” them … because it is true. IMHO that level of “getting” and being able to communicate it to your people takes time and some pretty deep reflection and a great deal of respect for their journey and the… Read more »
CaraWilde
Guest
I’m new to the business world, but my small amount of time in it has shown me that taking time to create beauty in whatever you are producing has a big impact. Not only can I be proud but it shows my potential clients that I care about what I do. Honesty and congruence, I agree, are crucial. Coming from a place of sincere gratitude for the people who buy your products and use your services will automatically activate a lot of the behaviour that is needed to create true fans – taking extra time, being flexible to take into… Read more »
charliegilkey
Guest

Great post, Jonathan! As we’ve often discussed, it’s easy for the “Go Big” mentality to really trump what it takes to develop that following of true fans.

For those who’d like to hear more about attracting those 1,000 true fans and don’t mind watching a longish video, I gave a keynote a few years ago that discussed other aspects of this, too. You can find it here: http://www.productiveflourishing.com/go-big-or-go-home-or-go-deep/

Jane
Guest
Hi Charlie, Just watched the video you suggested and it was very informative, I love the theory or quote about building and maintaining a small cozy fire rather than building a huge fire that can get out of control, and unfriendly. As you are no more warmer, and you cannot connect or even see the people you once shared the small cozy fire with, finding it hard to add value and contribute. I took home a message which was create a small network and produce great work and create deep meaningful relationships with your for your ideal fans and support… Read more »
monicaleestudios
Guest

This was great Jonathan! You reenforced my belief that big is not always better, there is nothing i love better than attending a trade show and someone mentioning something that they read on my blog! That means it stuck with them, hooray! I have been blogging for years (ack!) and FINALLY learned to be myself, not a know it all, not a good girl, not superhuman. I treat my blog posts as if I were having a cup of coffee with a friend and that seems to be resonating.

LauraLeeBloor
Guest
Granted, I’m in the infancy stage of my business venture, but the best tip I’ve learned for cultivating True Fans is also one of the most obvious: Be – and remain – authentic. The second you deviate from being exactly who you are and sharing what you love and verge into some quick niche that seems better or will get you a better audience or whatever, you lose fans. The urge to reinvent yourself into something you’re not is hard to resist because it takes a lot of time to build those True Fans. During that time, you may start… Read more »
gaileejohnson
Guest

Thanks this was a great post. I am creating a website and that’s what I want true fans who can connect with me. I think finding a true fan shouldn’t be hard if you have a valuable product that meets their demands. I think the best thing to do is keep focus on what you’re interest are and the people will follow! Happy New Year !!!

JonathanMead
Guest

@gaileejohnson Happy new year to you too Gailee. Thanks for stopping by!

LoriJill
Guest
I loved this article. So very true, Jonathon. Thank you for continuing to share your insight and wisdom with us. I especially like the section “This is a Marathon”. It reinforces what I have spent the last year doing within my own group. I am just now seeing the effects from the amount of work I have been put into cultivating my community and creating “true fans”. I never realized that this was what I was doing, I merely took my life/ work lessons on customer service, and how to excel at it, and applied them to the community that… Read more »
AnnieD
Guest

I’m still struggling with this, personally. You make a fabulous point–we can count visitors to our projects and blogs, but they’re really just that: visitors.The connections that really matter are lasting ones we forge by engaging people with what we’re doing. As people in the art-and-online-business community say, you don’t want to just show people what you’re doing and expect them to buy it–you need to create a community, make them feel like a part of something.

Sarita
Guest

How nice! What a wonderful post! :)

I am new to all of this but right now my personal feeling is this:

To always keep your finger on the pulse of the people you speak to. To be so in touch with them that you can anticipate and know their needs before they know their needs.

It’s so crazy simple, but it’s what I’ve got. :)

Happy New Year beautiful trailblazers!!!

RachelCollis
Guest
When I think about what has made me a ‘true fan’ of certain people’s work. It comes down to: – They are unquestionably excellent at what they do – What they offer is unique and I can’t get it elsewhere – They ‘walk the talk’ – everything they do is consistent with what they are offering – They never once let me down. I am never disappointed in what I have bought from them – They treat me with respect – they don’t break my trust by charging unfair, exorbitant prices The truth is that it is actually incredibly difficult… Read more »
doolin
Guest

@RachelCollis That’s my experience as well: it’s really, really hard!

BerylAynYoung
Guest
Loved this post. I am struggling with this right now and it consumes my thoughts. all. the. time. I am working towards a big launch right now and reaching deep to make those lasting connections and find those ‘true fans’. The name of my game right now is “authenticity”. Figuring out why I do what I do was a HUGE breakthrough for me within the last 6 months. Letting that “why” shine through, that authenticity of emotion, the stories about me. It seems to attract people like bees to honey.. It makes them want to sit down for coffee with… Read more »
stormbringer
Guest
love your target market (of fans) unconditionally, from this base will grow your true fans, the art is of whom of these “fans” to cultivate, those that reciprocate or attempt to reciprocate unconditionally are to be selected, with these you discover their hearts desire and feed it, this nurturing builds a bond between you and your “fan” at an emotional level, repeat in parallel in physical (practical) and rational (minds) levels. Win and nurture their “hearts, souls and minds” and you will have “true fans for life” a tripartite win (a triple braided cord in not easily broken), do not… Read more »
Kareng
Guest

I would pay attention to the people that share and re-post. I never would have found this if Linda Wagner had not re-posted it. I personally read your articles because — to be interesting, and find my own voice as a writer, I have to immerse myself with interesting thoughts. You have all sorts of interesting things swirling around in that head of yours!

shaylamaddox
Guest
I think it’s important to understand the difference between fans (of the average sort) and “true fans.” A true fan is interested in more than your product. They’re interested in *you.* For me, as an artist, I find that I easily become great friends with many of my true fans. This isn’t just because we share a common interest (that being my art) but because I believe in very specifically taking the time to know who these people are as human beings. I pay attention to what they say, I listen. I never give stock responses to those who’ve taken… Read more »
JonathanMead
Guest

@shaylamaddox Good distinction Shayla.

vickief28
Guest
vickief28
Guest

Make the person feel important. Period. They don’t care what you know till they know that you care.

starcatdreamer
Guest

My favorites are conversation and gratitude. My partner and I have become friends with our biggest fans, whether or not we’ve met them in person, and that’s the approach that we’re going with as we build our tribe. I also like the advice about sending out non-physical energy messages to your people. We do that as part of our spiritual practice. Blessings, Starcat

maggs
Guest

Creating true fans is to take the step of showing extra care and concern when someone is in a hard place (like getting chemo for cancer, going through a divorce, trying to conceive after 40) , these are all important situations.

A connected person feels and shows real empathy. I am not speaking of manufactured concern. Knowing your audience is more than just feeling for vibrations. It also means going to the place where they are and giving solace, asking questions, listening and being present. If this is achieved, I believe a true fan will come closer.

suddenlyjamie
Guest
Hello, Jonathan! Love the post and the excitement I “hear” in the voices of the people commenting. You’ve obviously struck a nerve. I agree with much of what others have already said here – about honesty, and authenticity, and the “high touch” you wrote about, but my favorite tip for earning true fans is to help other people shine – especially in ways that have nothing to do with your business. Make your fan the star of the day by sharing their work with your audience or even just quoting their tweet or blog comment in your next post. Share… Read more »
JonathanMead
Guest

@suddenlyjamie That’s really great. Most people show up to sharing/giving from a place of what they’re going to get out of it. Doing it with no ulterior motive creates a totally different result.

suddenlyjamie
Guest

@JonathanMead It really is like magic – and I think it’s a magic that flows both ways and spirals outwards to touch people beyond the “giver” and “receiver.” It’s just damn good karma all around! ;)

kathleenchamp
Guest
Hi Jonathan,I feel that the key cycle of actions for cultivating True Fans are as follows:1. Encourage hope – People generally are attracted to other positive people and tend to respond well to encouragement about their own lives and the prospects of change. The bond between you and a new fan that is created through this encouragement is based on hope, (ideally) leaving the person with a buoyant feeling of “I can do anything!” / “The world is amazing!” or whatever sentiment is relevant for your particular area of work. 2. Build WITH your fans – While the tabloid media… Read more »
kathleenchamp
Guest
Hi Jonathan, I feel that the key cycle of actions for cultivating True Fans are as follows: 1. Encourage hope – People generally are attracted to other positive people and tend to respond well to encouragement about their own lives and the prospects of change. The bond between you and a new fan that is created through this encouragement is based on hope, (ideally) leaving the person with a buoyant feeling of “I can do anything!” / “The world is amazing!” or whatever sentiment is relevant for your particular area of work. 2. Build WITH your fans – While the… Read more »
wagefreedom
Guest
“As creators and artists, our battle is not to win the game of who can create the most stuff. Our challenge is to be at the top of the list of importance to our audience.” — Bingo. This, along with the ‘it’s a marathon’ idea helps me from feeling overwhelmed at the thought of trying to rush the process. Here’s what I have started doing Jonathan. I printed up business cards that say WageFreedom.com and I keep them with me. I live in Bali, Indonesia, a place that seems to attract lots of people in transitional phases of their lives.… Read more »
ChaoticKatieP
Guest
I send my subscribers a personalised email from my own email account to welcome them before the auto-responder sequence kicks in. I title it “hello from a real live person!” I get so many responses to this email telling me that people are floored that I take the time to do something the old fashioned way. I also like the idea of making people feel like they are the experts. I acknowledge that they have really great ideas when they comment (and I try to reply to every comment). Have a great new year Jonathan and I loved, loved, loved… Read more »
JonathanMead
Guest

@ChaoticKatieP You’re making me blush. ;)

Great idea Katie. I think that’s especially cool to do in the beginning of building your list.

Justin | Personal Growth
Guest

I believe by making our readers.followers feel inclusive we can turn them into true fans. Maybe not 100% but most of them.

RobertWall
Guest
I think the best tip I’ve heard in a long time is about targeting. Picking a specific group (or groups) that you’re selling to is as much about who to *exclude* as much as who to *include*. Just because somebody walks through your door (or visits your site) doesn’t mean they’re somebody you should be targeting. Treat everybody that wants to do business with you well, but realize that your focus is best spent figuring out how to make your truly loyal fans happy. And if that costs you a little business from the people that aren’t the focus of… Read more »
las_dos_ashleys
Guest

Love this article and the idea of ‘true fans’. I know one things that I try to do is interact on a daily basis with potential customers on their own blogs/social pages as well as through Twitter. I found that having ‘conversations’ with people is a great way to build their interest in your products (well really anything that you do).

rmcotton.art
Guest
I think the trick is to be 100% consistently you. Be honest, transparent and full of gratitude at every turn. We can try to pidgeon hole ourselves, but as we change and grow, the people that identify with us changes and grows too. Sometimes the hardest part for people is just being ok with who they are… I am openly the dorkiest artist mom I know. I am far from perfect, and just being who I am, making the best possible art I can make, and sharing that with people going through the same sorts of daily issues and insecurities… Read more »
monicaleestudios
Guest

@rmcotton.art Hi! I am a dorky artist too! Welcome to the tribe! People do like to see you grow, be self deprecating or a bit goofy. Wish I was cooler but I am comfortable finally being myself online! Must check out your art!

AngelaArtemis
Guest

Jonathan,

Excellent information! I’m bookmarking to reread because it’s truly relevant, important and highly interesting. I think 1000 “true” fans rather than subscribers is awesome goal to work towards.

JonathanMead
Guest

@AngelaArtemis I agree. I think it really creates a higher level of focus.

Esme Gosling - Money Coach
Guest

It used to be K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid!); now I would say KIRS – Keep it Real (Stupid!). Keeping it real has been one of the best things I’ve taken away from reading your site, and it’s really freed me from trying to write a certain way (which is hard to keep up) and trying to be a certain person. I love that I can be flawed (in my own sweet ways!) and still have so much to offer.

Esme Gosling - Money Coach
Guest

It used to be K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid!); now I would say KIRS – Keep it Real (Stupid!). Keeping it real has been one of the best things I’ve taken away from reading your site, and it’s really freed me from trying to write a certain way (which is hard to keep up) and trying to be a certain person. I love that I can be flawed (in my own sweet ways!) and still have so much to offer.

DanceofLife
Guest

Hi, Jonathan: I am a photographer who is finding I am seeing a bigger picture (no pun intended) in talking about what I am learning about staying with uncertainty and finding its’ creative potential. I find practicing living this way is becoming as interesting as the images taken in this way- and creating authentic experiences for writing unique e-materials I can offer, sell, or gift to my true fans. Terrific energy here!

louisewiles
Guest
Rarely I find articles these day that go beyond what everyone else is saying about list building, fan base and so on. This one did – so much so that not only did it attract my attention as UNMISSABLE BUT it also gave fresh insight and ideas that are actionable – tripple ticks! In short – you walked your talk and in so doing demonstrated to me what I MUST do to make my content UNMISSABLE. My steps to developing my Raving Fans: Get off the wall and commit whole heartedly to my targeted niche – my avatar and write… Read more »
thechadisstuck
Guest

The biggest tip for cultivating true fans is to KNOW your target true fans. Write all your content directly for your target audience, communicate constantly with your audience to discover exactly what they want from you, and listen to everything they say. Build your contribution to them from that.

SellWhatYouKnow
Guest

I have cultivated True Fans through my blog, newsletters, answering emails and writing about them to promote their respective businesses.

That said, my largest brand’s target market is women 45+ and not that involved in web 2.0. So while they’ll buy everything I sell (which I love and appreciate!), they aren’t as likely to share links to stories, comment on blogs, etc.

JonathanMead
Guest

@SellWhatYouKnow So you might want to involve more older generation friendly methods of sharing. I bet most of your women are on Facebook, so I would encourage sharing their and through email.

JonathanMead
Guest

@SellWhatYouKnow So you might want to involve more older generation friendly methods of sharing. I bet most of your women are on Facebook, so I would encourage sharing their and through email.

ChezBlancheDesi
Guest

 @SellWhatYouKnow Older women are on blogs, writing, on facebook, as Jonathan mentioned… We are more than likely to share links– believe me I am and my friends do and I have all ages, all types on my facebook page which I consider a creative workspace. Who said so that they are not involved with the web? What study– it does not correlate with me or my experience. Just saying…:)

Mary Kim
Guest

I’m just starting out with my blog and I’ve been trying to get more traffic to my blog site. And I think I was also making that mistake of just trying to generate traffic without focusing on cultivating true fans. For me, 1000 true fans seem very intimidating! But I definitely try to focus on content that’s UNMISSABLE :)

judybelmont
Guest

Wonderful tips! Thanks you – i just came out with a blog/site on emotional wellness/ personal development and will take your suggestions to grow my base. Regards, judy

JonathanMead
Guest

@judybelmont Very cool Judy, I’m sure you’ll be off to a great start.

trackback

[…] really DO want to hear from me (how exciting!), who might even be what some would call my “true fans“.  (note: if you DO unsubscribe, it’s ok–I get it.  Our inboxes can get so […]

trackback

[…] 55. Attract 1,000 true fans […]

hazelnutcottage
Guest
hello jonathan,i’m pretty sure this qualifies as ‘high touch’, and certainly unexpected: i created hand stamped jewelry, often for moms, and some of those moms have lost a child through miscarriage or other sorrowful life event.i remember one woman who was looking for a customized necklace to remember her baby daughter ‘ashley’ who had recently passed away. i was moved by her story. we went through the usual back and forth emails to customize the piece and at the end of the process, i told her that i was gifting the necklace to her as a gift from ashley to… Read more »
CourtRJ
Guest

This is fantastic. I’m printing it – yes, printing it.

My personal philosophy of cultivating true fans is that I rarely promote my email list, and when I do, it’s more of a “hey, if you read this regularly, consider signing up for updates so that you don’t even have to think about it.”

With my email list, I want to know that the majority of those people are true fans. It’s like a special little club!

ihelpmusicians
Guest
Great tips Jonathan! I’m really enjoying your blog. After blogging for a few years myself I’ve learned a few things along the way that I think are relevant. First and foremost you have to care. If you don’t REALLY care about your audience then nothing else you do will matter much. You can’t hide it and the importance of caring can’t be overstated. Also, I think it’s very important to lead with the giving hand. I try and make sure that I’m giving away as much value as I can in the first few emails of any autoresponder sequence I… Read more »
trackback

[…] worst, it’s a slightly slimy, conniving way to grow your list to that magical 1,000. Come, read my thing, and become a number on a list of other […]

unorule
Guest

I keep loyal to my principles.
 
I write what I do really like and think, never fake. If someone decides to follow me, I know it is a true fan.
 
The same way you cannot force others to love you, I think you cannot push them to follow you, that is their own decision.

Espresso English
Guest

I absolutely love the list of practical ways to go “above and beyond!” I’m still experimenting to figure out the best way of doing that on my site. I once sent a personal “thank you and I’d love to answer any questions you might have” e-mail to each of my new newsletter subscribers, and I was a little surprised that only 2 out of 100 responded to it. Maybe that just wasn’t a method that “resonated” well with my audience?

wpDiscuz

Previous post:

Next post: