The concept of 1000 true fans is a great Customer Obsessed marketing approach. Kevin Kelly the previous editor of Wired magazine came up with the concept and Tim Ferris author of the 4 hour work week is a big advocate. In this post we’ll be looking at how you can apply the concept to your marketing.
What’s the race that we’re running?
We're human and we're drawn to competition, whether it's taking part or spectating. If you're running a business, you're taking part, you’re part of the competition whether you like it or not.
Often in business the race we're running is significantly less defined than constructed sport with clearly defined rules and regulations. The challenges in the race of business can be deciding what the race is, identifying who we are racing against and how we should run it.
This question of the race we are running is as old as humanity. Although it has been amplified in this information age, where according to social media we are all effortlessly gliding over the finish line, without a bead of sweat or a hair out of place.
Loop back around 2,500 years and we have Aesops fable of the tortoise and the hare. In the fable the tortoise won the race, showing that it isn’t always the fastest over a short distance that wins the race.
Understanding the race we're running
Your approach will depend on the race that you’re running, which is why it's important that you are clear in your mind what that race is.
Start with your Vision
We define your vision as the future you see for your industry or the world of your customers. Many organisation make their vision about them, we believe while it needs to relate to your business it should be more general. It isn’t about your business it’s about your customers.
Your Vision defines the race you’re running in.
Your Mission is the part of your Vision that you‘re taking responsibility and accountability for.
It needs to be inspiring and serve as a guide that motivates all the people in your organisation.
It explains why you’re running the race and what winning looks like for you.
As an example, at LexisClick our vision is that the most successful businesses of the future will be customer obsessed.
Our mission is to build the most reliable business growth system for customer obsessed small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).
Why your Vision and Mission are important to growing your true fan base and becoming customer obsessed
Having a clear Vision and Mission, will attract the right people to your organisation and repel the wrong people.
Whether it’s customers, employees or partners.
To grow any organisation you’ll need to grow your customer base and most likely your team to service the growth in customers. When you attract the right customers and employees, you’ll grow faster and smoother, compared to attracting the wrong ones.
The wrong customers and people in any organisation will end up slowing its growth, rather than speeding it up. So it's much better to repel the wrong people, rather than attract them only to slow your growth at a later date.
What are you the best in the world at?
Some organisations struggle with clarity when it comes to defining their vision and mission. An approach that we have found to work well, is to answer the question:
What are we the best in the world at?
What do we want to be the best in world at?
It is difficult to sit on the fence with this question. You have to commit and to answer it properly, you can’t sound like everyone else.
It also helps you to define your space, which means that naturally you begin to narrow the field of competition.
Who are we racing against, or who are we running for?
When we’re in any competitive situation we’re competing to beat the competition. However, there is a different way that you can approach the competition.
This alternative approach is to look at it from the perspective of who you are racing for. When you are customer obsessed, you are racing for the customer, rather than against your competitors.
You are racing to deliver on your mission for your customers. To do better, or more, or faster for them. It is less about beating the competition and more about delivering for the customer.
Do you and your organisation perform better when you’re up against a competitor? Or does delivering for your customers motivate you more.
It’s important to understand your organisation's personality when you’re thinking about how you want to define your race. Define it in the way that motivates you and your team most effectively.
Your minimum viable audience
Returning to the concept of 1,000 true fans.
Kevin Kelly created this concept some time ago with micro businesses and creators in mind. The concept being that it is well within the reach of many creators to earn a viable living by having 1,000 true fans, that each earn the creator £100 in profit per year.
If you move away from the number of true fans and amount of profit in the example above, you can apply this thinking to businesses of nearly any size. It’s a concept that marketing thinker Seth Godin, calls the Minimum Viable Audience.
At LexisClick we have always referred to it as your Core Audience of Ideal Customers.
Your ideal customer will buy from you at a defined frequency, with a defined average order value over a defined lifetime.
If you have each of these defined - what number of ideal customers do you need to achieve your business goals?
And at what rate do you need to increase these customers, or increase the amount these customers spend with you to achieve your growth goals?
By focusing on delighting your core audience of ideal customers, you’ll attract other customers to your business, often as a result of your core audience recommending you.
How should you run your race?
When you’re running a race, it’s important to set a pace that you can maintain, so that you finish the race successfully with energy left to run the next.
In the examples we gave earlier, the tortoise won through consistency and persistence while the hare slept.
It’s time to switch metaphors. In marketing and business growth we can use the metaphors of the net, the rod and the farm. The approach of building 1,000 true fans or your Core Audience of Ideal Customers, is like starting a farm.
With the net, you can cast it wide and hope to catch what you need. As long as you fish in the right waters, you’ll catch what you need, but at the same time you’ll also catch a lot that isn’t right.
Using a rod is more targeted. You can use a rod and bait to hunt and attract down specifically what you need. By fishing in the right waters with the right bait, you’ll catch what you need and much less of what you don’t want.
Or you can farm your fish to grow and nurture exactly what you need and want. It will take longer to get there and will require more investment to get it up to speed, but when you’re there it’s a lot more efficient that than the other methods.
Just like getting a farm up and running building your Core Audience of Ideal Customers takes time. Don’t get frustrated when you see the other methods bringing home the harvest before the approach you’ve selected. You’re planting seeds, watching them shoot and nurturing them as they grow. At first you’ll only be ready to harvest a small amount, but as things mature, you’ll be able to harvest an increasing amount, with more predictability.
The other methods will still be working for some, but they won’t be either as predictable or as scalable as the method you’ve chosen and nurtured over time.
To keep food on the table in the early days, it’s fine to use a combination of approaches. The farm is ideal as when it is up and running it takes much less energy and is very focused in what it produces. However, it takes time and investment to build and get it up to speed where it is delivering the growth that most businesses need and want. It is also a constant cycle of nurturing and growing before the crop is ready to harvest.
While you’re developing your farm and getting it up to speed, you’ll want to support it with a targeted hunting approach. An approach where you identify ideal customers, get in front of them and delight them. By building an initial base of ideal customers, they’ll contribute to getting your farm established and create the momentum to continually drive it forward.
To sum up
- Create a powerful and inspiring Vision and Mission
- Understand your core audience, its minimum size and growth to achieve your goals
- Design your organisation to delight and attract that audience
- Search out that audience, to attract them in while you build critical mass for natural attraction to take place