Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Good Lessons: 1000 True Fans

A lot of times when we think about sales and really making it big we tend to focus on serious commercial success. For example, trying to create the next "bottled water" that everyone on earth will use or trying to create a platinum selling CD or best selling book. While, these are certainly good business models, they're hard to crack in the sense that the chance that you can get something to be that big is small and would require quite deep pockets.

Of course there is another route which is to go super ultra premium. Think private jets (or commercial jets like those made by Boeing). Of course Gulfstream may only sell a few jets a year, but they sell for such high numbers that a few sales can sustain the company.

Along that same vein a blogger Kevin Kelly introduced the idea of "1000 True Fans". This idea is based on the concept of having 1000 true fans that will pay for your product every single time. The post uses the example of an artist that cultivates fans that will spend $100 per year on work produced. This would generate a healthy income of $100,000 per year.

The post focuses on maintaining good contact with those fans and making sure that they are always able to access you. This will create a bond that continues to get them to buy and, more importantly, spread you good works, enabling you to get more fans.

So how do I think about this. First, it serves as a reminder that it is easier to create a smaller number of real fans than a larger one. This means that I need to focus on creating niche products that appeal to small number of consumers who will really appreciate and continue to use the product. Similarly, I need to focus marketing efforts to those people that matter and not try and shoot blanks.

Finally, I think the biggest take away is a two pronged idea. First customer service has to be the number one priority. Additionally, it reminds me that companies and brands need to engage consumers on different levels. You cant just be a shop and sell to customers, you have to create and add real value to their lives. For example, Ben and Jerry's (ice cream) doesn't just sell ice cream. They do nonprofit work, advertise their use of natural products and ultimately, connect with their customers values. Polo Ralph Lauren actually sponsors real polo matches. There's tons of examples of brands and products that are really trying to connect with the consumer and that, in my opinion, is the only way create lasting "fans".

One last point. I spent a week at HBS for a program (SVMP) and we studied Starbucks. You know why Starbucks works? Because some people hate it. That's right, some people hate Starbucks, hate the people that go there, think its weird etc. You know what that means? Some people LOVE Starbucks. Big take away, if your creating brands that are going to cause some people to fall in love, then you have to be prepared for some people to hate it, its a simple by product. Everyone cant love something or it looses its edge.

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