What Is The True Fan Strategy, Why/When To Apply It, and How To Use It

What Is The True Fan Strategy, Why/When To Apply It, and How To Use It

This post is a short introduction and a slight variation of the 1000 True Fans strategy by Kevin Kelly. Tim Ferris pushed this strategy to his large audience, which is how I heard about it. Unfortunately, in trying to do the right thing, Tim also revealed something with blurred lines. I believe you need to understand what the True Fan strategy is, why and when to apply it, and how to do so in order to avoid blindly following a potential dead end.


What the 1,000 True Fans Strategy is

Basically, the 1,000 True Fans strategy is focused around niching down and forming connections, both of which I believe will build a better brand. Your goal is to go for the deepest connections with an attainable 1,000 people who will spend money on your business. The thought behind it is if you can get 1,000 fans each to spend $100 dollars a year on your goods, you will make $100,000 a year.

We are presented with a very simple formula, great name for a strategy, and what seems like a fail-proof plan - but you should know that Kelly does not live hard and fast by the number 1,000. He states,

Kevin Kelly

“the actual number may vary depending on the media. Maybe it is 500 True Fans for a painter and 5,000 True Fans for a videomaker. The numbers must surely vary around the world. But in fact the actual number is not critical, because it cannot be determined except by attempting it. Once you are in that mode, the actual number will become evident.”

— Kevin Kelly

Check out the article http://kk.org/thetechnium/the-reality-of/ for a great retraction and pivot on the subject as well.

Kelly goes on to say you may need a mix of true fans and lesser fans. For instance, 500 fans who spend $100 and 1,000 fans who spend $50. Don’t forget, you have to factor in your spend on marketing, goods, taxes, etc. In my opinion, this is an idea to build from to show you how attainable growing your business is. You will hit a goal using this strategy and you will learn great organic growth.

Another awesome clarification by Kelly is in the article The Case Against, where he states,

Kevin Kelly

“What my research tells me: there are very few artists making their entire living selling directly to True Fans. The few that are, are selling high-priced goods, like paintings, rather than low-priced goods like CDs. But there are many that partially fund their livelihood with direct True Fans.“

— Kevin Kelly

Now we are starting to reveal the 1,000 True Fans strategy is really only a thought to build off of. It seems as if Kelly had a theory, then found out it isn't such a hard and fast rule.

"1,000 True Fans" is a goal we can attain in various ways. Below is about to get into the nitty-gritty of the strategy based on how I think it should be properly used.

Why and When to apply a "True Fans Strategy"

Now that we have a better understanding of the concept of 1,000 True Fans, let’s take advantage of it. Don’t be discouraged that Kelly was really loose with the exact number. Some of you may even need less than 1,000!

Why should you use this strategy?

  • Because it will help you create a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely) goal. You may have to be elaborate with it, but you can say “I will create a loyal fan base of 1,000 people by xx/xx/xxx and deliver a $100 product to record how many are true fans.”

  • You will define a niche

  • A loyal market will become advocates for you

  • Upselling a current customer is easier than attaining a new one

When You Should Use This Strategy

For those starting brand new business, the True Fans strategy is incredible! Starting a new business tends to have open ends such as who is your target market and what is the best way to spend money. By trying to attain True Fans even before you launch your website, you will see momentum when normally there is a stand still. For instance, you may be waiting for your first round of design for your site, so going out and starting conversation and trying to get them to care about you and what you have to offer will give you contacts to hit immediately when the site launches. You can even sell your services before the site launches with a special offer to early adopters. Nurture the first True Fans so they feel elite and want to advocate your business.

Building relationships should happen during the life of your venture. Never forget your building blocks and always try to reward them so they stay True Fans. When you launch a new product or service similar to what they purchased in the past, you will have an easier time converting and upselling them.

Chance The Rapper

“All those kids who were in high school, they went to college and they brought that music with them, and they had hand to hand connections. That's the whole idea of the grass root complex."

“All those kids who were in high school, they went to college and they brought that music with them, and they had hand to hand connections. That's the whole idea of the grass root complex."

Chance The Rapper used the True Fans strategy to grow his career. There are several articles written about him, but this excerpt from DJ Booth sums it up pretty well:

“We went up to all the schools, passed out CDs, and all my friends went to his first listening party. It was raining, it was pouring outside, these kids waited to get in because it was packed. After that, we sold tickets and played Lincoln Hall - it was the first hip-hop show that Lincoln Hall has ever decided to throw.

All those kids who were in high school, they went to college and they brought that music with them, and they had hand-to-hand connections. That's the whole idea of the grass root complex. It's way easier for you to relate to somebody when, even if it's not you, you can say, "My homie is from Chicago and he said one day he went to Lincoln Park and Chance [gave him a free CD]. That means a lot more than any billboard because it's a personal connection with an artist. And it's not through social media, it's not through [hand to hand marketing]." - Taylor Bennett, Sway”

If Chance can grow this way, so can you!

How to use the True Fans Strategy

Go on reddit/quora and engage in conversation. Try to get one-on-one convos going. Answer their points of concern in the thread, then try to take it into a quick one-on-one using Google Hangouts. Show them you are real. This strategy isn’t just for service providers. For example, a pet store can talk to its target market about the hard time they are having training their dogs to not chew furniture. You will become an authority and later you can send them a link to your absolute favorite chew toy. The goal is to nurture a relationship by providing authentic interaction. You can sell them whatever you want as long as it is coming from a "friend". 

Facebook Groups tend to focus around needing advice. I have seen a few product Groups turn into sources of information for things like how to setup Facebook ads and marketing funnels. Find the Groups related to your business and engage! Answer questions, slide in DM’s, start threads based on concerns and then resolve them. The more people who see your name often the better!

For Instagram, choose a handful of hashtags or a location to engage with. Hit these people up regularly as they post. Using parts of this strategy is how I built a small local following on Instagram before I could even properly use my camera. My skills were not nearly as in tune as my ability to reach out and connect with someone via my words and simple interactions. I never planned on selling anything but my direct messages were populated with people seeking advice or admitting their pain points. I’ve made friends from this and now love seeing these people in public. A great way to explore this is to use the Gary Vaynerchuk's $1.80 strategy

GO INTO THE WILD! Social media may have profile pictures, but a real face-to-face is powerful. Find networking events via Eventbrite, Meetup, Chamber of Commerce, WhatsApp, Kik, or one of the many other services. Be authentic and listen to your market. I always forget names and often what I am about to say or the points of stories because I am so excited. Keep calm and interact. You can show your passion without talking until you can't breath like I sometimes do.

Ok, so now you have a few people (maybe you put in the work and hit 1,000) you are personable with. Sell them something small. Test to see if they are willing to part with their money (or even just their email) because they value you. This will depend on your target market’s income. For instance, I might sell a $20 guide on how to create a SMART goal, find your “WHY”, and choose your ONE thing. This guide is worth much more when done face-to-face with me, but $20 or even exchange for an email is solid. If I had 1,000 TRUE fans, I’d be $20k deep. However, my goal is to get a niche of them who like that, then try to convert some of them to buy a $500 package of one-on-one sessions to cut my need for 1,000 True Fan, down to 200.

Remember, offer disproportionate value! Give and give and give, then ask for the sale. This will help validate who will pay for your goods. If you ask for a $20 sale and they go for it, you will most likely get them to pay $50 later for something of more value or $40, then a special offer of a $20 upsell valued at $40.

I have a friend whose band is popular in their genre and they tour all over. He uses the True Fans strategy to make some extra income while on tour. Remember, merch sales are not filling the bank accounts of every memeber of the band, so he has to do more. Before each show, my buddy offers drum sessions focused on tuning, playing, Q&A’s, and more. This builds his (and the band’s) True Fan-base and makes him extra money. He is already on tour and these people already like his music. All he is doing is giving them a chance to learn from someone they look up to and to connect to him ona personal level. You can do the same! Find something in your style you can offer.

If you want a more specific example for yourself, hit me up! I would LOVE to expand on this article with real-life examples. I will gladly brainstorm some ideas with you.

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