Thursday, October 6, 2011

Who's Your True Fan?

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!


rosekraft said...

Don't really know how to actively find / cultivate true fans, but I did experience the thrill of having one many years ago.
I have been making and selling framed Victorian pieces for over ten years now, and early on (in 2000) someone found my listings on eBay and starting consistently bidding on them (this was WAY before the Buy It Now option).
It got to a point where, within hours of posting an auction, a substantial bid would show up from David. He was always the high bidder at auction end, and we ended up having quite a wonderful email relationship.
Really, there's nothing quite like the validation that comes from having such an authentic "true fan"!

lightboxsf said...

I love that story Rosekraft. It is an amazing feeling to connect with a buyer that way.

However your first statement it what really struck me. Finding your true fans is a hard task, but there are a few strategies that might work. I'll put that on my list of blog posts and you should see it in the next few weeks.

Thanks for letting me know what you need help with!

Andrea Fuentes said...

My true fan has to this day been one of my 'adopted' cousins. She has supported my jewelry way before I decided to take it from a craft level to a small business venture.

Not only does she buy my items, she continuously spreads the word and shares my designs with people she meets everyday. She is honest about her opinions and is always lending support and advice as I continue to grow.

I guess overall, her support comes on many different levels. It's not just buying my items but believing in them and in me. People like her motivate me as I jump over hurdles and swim through the crowded world of jewelry makers.

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