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:
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:
- Unmissable. Everything you create must be given attention.
- Important. Relevant and important, but can be set aside to be looked at later (and potentially forgotten).
- Relevant. Your content is useful, and relevant, but it’s not important enough to take priority.
- Mildly interesting. Seems interesting, but there’s too much incoming to pay any attention.
- 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.
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