I recently read the original article that Seth Godin and Chris Guillebeau have referred to many times, "1000 True Fans" written by Kevin Kelly back in 2008. Since then I haven't really been able to let it go. It brought up two core ideas for me that are extremely powerful when trying to get a perspective on your business model and ideal client.
Let's start with the business model first. Kelly's premise is that if an artist has 1000 true fans that support him by spending $100 a year, the artist can make a decent living and not have to worry about appealing to the masses. While a valid and interesting argument there are many ways to debate its merit. I won't bother with poking holes, instead I want to focus on the numbers. Ugh I know, I promise to keep them simple.
To me the idea of having 1000 true fans or ideal clients for my business seems like a high number. We're not talking mailing list subscribers or blog readers, we're talking people who buy what you're selling regularly. But I'm also not an individual artist, I'm a consultant. So I played with the numbers a little and thought, what if I had 200 ideal clients that paid me $500/year? Same end number and that seems much more doable for my business model. That's 2 e-courses or only 5 in-person sessions. I can see that happening.
Then I started thinking in terms of clients, what if I'm talking to someone who sells t-shirts at $25 each. They would need 1000 true fans to buy 4 t-shirts a year to make those numbers, is that realistic? I'm thinking that might be a little high, but what if they sold something else at a $50 price point? Do you see where I'm going with this?
Playing with the numbers is this way gives you a whole new perspective on how many people you need to reach and what you need to sell them. Maybe you really only need $50,000 a year or even less, or perhaps your work sells for $100-$500. Play with the numbers the same way to see what that really means in terms of items/services sold and total number of customers. You might even begin to find it fun.
The second idea that stuck with me was the definition of a true fan. Kelly talks about it terms of someone who loves everything you do and buys it all, he was focusing a lot on musicians. But I started to think, who is that person who would be so excited by every course, e-book, and workshop I could think of that they would sign up? What would I have to give in terms of information, support, and/or guidance to keep them coming back? I'm still working on that answer, but I'm pretty sure it'll help me grow the business.
Imagine who that person is that would want to own every piece of jewelry you make or would be so excited by the colors of yarn you dye that they buy some of each. Can you picture who they are? Do you know why they love what you do so much? Do you know how they found you and why they keep coming back? You are certainly on to something if you can answer those questions.
There is no solid right answer to either of these ideas, but I'm sure that if you even attempt to answer them both for yourself you'll gain some serious insight into what structure your business needs to take and who's going to support it.
I'd love to hear some of the answers you come up with.
I encourage comments directly to this post, but also feel free to
email me directly with questions, reactions, struggles, etc. genevieve
[at] lightboxsf [dot] com
If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Jen from Mama's Magic Studio about joining SFEtsy!