1,000 True Fans – Still Relevant?

I remember my first business plan.

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t much of a business plan, because in 1995, I knew next to nothing about ‘business’. After reading an article about how critical it was to have one, I put pen to paper and jotted down some notes to myself. And then, I plugged numbers into a template.

For “Desired number of prospects or subscribers” I put “75,000”. If I could get 50 to 100 leads per day, and then work in a viral mechanism where readers invited new subscribers, this would happen within a year or two.

Under “Target number of customers” I wrote “25,000”. After all, with the quality of content and value I planned to deliver, it was likely to be more than one-third of my audience!

Remember, this was way back when email was killer. We had ‘open’ rates in the 70% to 95% range, most readers being eager to see what was in their inbox. No spam, no email overload, no body part enlargement or lottery scam messages – yet. And very quickly, even with my little knowledge about marketing, I grew an email list of 15,000 subscribers in a health niche.

Every week, I would mail out a newsletter. Two – or sometimes three – articles. News stories and updates. Links to authority content and valuable, informative resources. A ‘question and answer’ section. Readers loved it.

This was while I was a resident in cardiac surgery. My average work week was around 100 hours. There were phases where I only came home once in five days! And naturally, my e-publication was delayed now and then.

What happened on those occasions was my first real-life example of having “raving fans”.

I’d get a flurry of emails asking whether I was ok, why my newsletter was late, if they were still on the list, and when they could expect to hear from me next. Not the rare one or two, but literally dozens of them.

And each time, I noticed the same familiar names in my inbox.

My first raving fans!

It was many years later that I read Kevin Kelly’s paradigm shifting blog post about “1,000 True Fans” and learned the metrics behind a philosophy that is based on building a lasting, sustainable business or movement on the back of just one thousand raving fans.

Who Is a True Fan?

It’s hard to define a true, raving fan – but we all know one when we meet or see one. A true fan loves everything you do. Buys just about everything you sell – because you sell it. Tells everyone about you – even when some of the things you do aren’t quite special. Wants to be associated with you, stay in touch with you, hear from you – about everything you do.

Look at some of the celebrity blogs and gossip sites and you’ll see what I mean. Most of the tid-bits on those sites are totally disinteresting to most of the viewers – but to the raving fans of the celebs in the news, they are like honey to bees.

I hardly ever visit TMZ.com, the celebrity gossip news site. But when Michael Jackson’s manslaughter trial began, I watched all the video clips on the site, read all the news stories about it, and even skimmed some of the opinion pieces on the site. Not because I suddenly found TMZ.com appealing – but because I’m a raving fan of the singing superstar!

How To Attract True Fans?

Not all of us are as popular or famous as Michael Jackson. Many of us never will be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t attract fans… or that we don’t deserve to. One lesson Life has taught me is that everyone matters, no matter who they are and what they do.

Yes, I mean you, too!

If only enough people heard about the things you do, the kind of person you are, the dreams you dream and the hopes that keep you plugging away towards your goal, believe me… you WILL have raving fans of your own!

Let me recall for you the powerful words of Marianne Williamson’s poem, “Our Greatest Fear”.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?

So, you deserve your own ‘true fans’, but…

  • How to get them?
  • Where do you find them?
  • What do you do to attract them into your circle?

In a word, you must…

Be Remarkable

The word is confusing and mis-interpreted by many to be something far beyond what it really means. Seth Godin’s best-selling book “Purple Cow” explains it nicely.

“When I say remarkable, I mean just that… It’s worth talking about.

That’s it. Worth talking about. That’s remarkable.

You, me and everyone else reading this blog can be remarkable – because we all can do things worth talking about. In fact, we already do it every day!

There’s a nice quote that comes to mind…

“Advertising is the tax you pay for NOT being remarkable.”

When you think about it, you’ll realize how true that is. Advertising is the attempt of a business (or an individual) to try and stand out from the crowd, get noticed, and move the target audience to talk about them. In other words, advertising is an attempt to buy ‘remarkable’.

It’s cheaper – and easier – to BE remarkable!

How To Be Remarkable?

You can stick out like a sore thumb – or stand out like a beacon. Both mean being remarkable, but the context is different. One is being viewed in a negative light, as a nuisance, a joke, an embarrassment. The other is being looked up to as a symbol of hope, leadership and inspiration.

You choose whichever approach fits you – but it seems the second is far better to strive for, right?

You can be remarkable in many ways… by being

  • the first – or last
  • the cheapest – or priciest
  • the easiest – or hardest
  • the simplest – or most complex
  • the highest – or lowest – value provider

The possibilities are just limitless. Whatever it is you are doing now, there is a way to be remarkable at it – by ‘upping your game’, cranking it up a notch, setting it on a higher trajectory, giving it a little boost or a giant bump.

Let’s say you’re writing a book. You could make it just another book. Or you could make it the most awesome book ever written since paper was invented. You’d imagine that would be difficult, if not impossible… but take a look at one way it was done.

Sheridan Simove’s “What Every Man Thinks about Apart from Sex was a run-away best-seller on Amazon.com – and the interesting thing is that anyone, yes even you and me, could have come up with this brilliant idea. Read all about it here.

It’s really EASY to be remarkable.

Just do something no one has done before!

Why My Fans Think I’m Remarkable…

There are thousands of heart surgeons. There are millions of writers and authors. Today, there are billions of web pages.

But there are still not many heart surgeons who write books and manage websites like I do.

That alone may or may not qualify as remarkable. But here’s what does. I’m the only heart surgeon who writes and sells books on my website to raise funds that sponsor life-saving surgery for children from under-privileged families who cannot afford the treatment on their own.

I did not choose to do this in order to be seen as ‘remarkable’. I simply followed my heart. It was what I wanted to do with the incredible advantages I had been given.

But it turned out becoming remarkable. I was featured in a follow up ebook to Seth Godin’s bestseller called “99 Purple Cows“. I was interviewed by “Fast Company” magazine. I was mentioned on several high-circulation newsletters and blogs with readership in the millions.

And that brought me my all-important “1,000 True Fans”.

Why Do True Fans Matter?

You might expect that my fundraising efforts rely upon the support and contribution of hundreds of thousands of sponsors. Actually, we’ve only ever had a couple of thousand donors for our Heart Foundation.

But here’s the key.

Most of these donors have given over and over again, invited friends to contribute too, help spread word in media and channels I don’t have access to, blog about the needs of our heart kids… and all of this spreads awareness about a deadly health condition that claims thousands of little lives around the world.

The spin-off effects of all this activity by fans is hard to measure or quantify. But even without trying to, it’s obvious that the ripple has spread far beyond any reasonable limit I could have reached on my own.

True Fans, raving and excited fans, can power ANY enterprise to heights and accomplishment far beyond the capacity and capability of the folks who initiate it. I owe a deep debt of gratitude and appreciation to my fans – and they know it.

Based on my personal experience, I’d say building a base (be it ever so small) of true, passionate, supportive fans is the best investment you will make in your business future.

Another ‘case study’ is right under our noses – this very blog you’re reading.

Yaro Starak’s true fans are all over this piece of virtual real estate – and keep coming back over and over again to stay in touch. Yaro himself hasn’t been as active as before, because of personal challenges. Yet his fans haven’t even thought about forsaking him. True fans never will.

But… What Can I DO To Get True Fans?

All that I’ve said so far may not seem helpful in a practical sense. (It is, actually, but in a subtle way that isn’t obvious or apparent.)

So for those of you who prefer ‘guidelines’ or ‘blueprints’ or ‘rule books’ or a play by play action plan to build a fan base and attract loyal supporters, here are some resources to study and learn from.

  • Guy Kawasaki’s “Enchantment” is a book that deconstructs the nebulous and abstract science of enchanting people and making them fans. Well worth a read.
  • Seth Godin’s “Tribes” is about community-building around ‘leaders’ – and that’s what you want to become in order to attract your true fans.
  • Kevin Kelly’s original post, “1,000 True Fans” is definitely ‘required reading’ for anyone considering this strategy.
  • “The Problem With 1,000 True Fans” is a nice blog post I remember from long ago as providing a much-needed counterpoint to the ‘Rah-Rah’ cheerleading around finding true fans. Yes, it’s not all sunshine and roses out there in the quest for finding your fans!
  • 20-Step Process for Finding Your 1,000 True Fans” is Brian Clark’s somewhat formulaic approach to building fan-dom. This might appeal to you as an action plan or blueprint.
  • Or you may find Glen Allsopp’s softer and more intangible process more valuable, it’s here in How to Attract Your 1,000 True Fans.

I won’t overwhelm you with much more. Take what you like of these suggestions. Read as much as you can to learn about the concept. But in the end, don’t mistake learning for doing.

Being remarkable and attracting fans is a direct function of the action you take.

It’s about becoming the kind of person that others look up to, draw inspiration and encouragement from, and want to emulate, follow or support.

Be that person, and your true fans will automatically appear. And chances are good that there will be far more than just 1,000 of them!

Dr. Mani

About Dr. Mani

Dr.Mani is actively engaged in spreading awareness about congenital heart disease (CHD) and fundraising to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India.

An ardent group of volunteers and donors have embraced this noble purpose that is bigger than any individual or group, and grown it into a global movement that has touched and saved the lives of 87 little children. You can help too. Learn how at http://www.DrMani.com

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  • I agree, having a business plan is important. You can’t just go with the flow because there are so many factors in business such as the state of the market, competition and monetization.

    • Nice point. And the business plan must be flexible enough to change with trends, and keep evolving as your business grows.

      • Absolutely! It’s a good idea to have a short term and long term business plan. The short term is typically 1 year, while the long term is more of a 5 year outlook. At the end of each year, you revisit the short term plan, assess your accomplishments, changes, and decide if you want to carry anything over into the next year’s plan.

        You will also need to revisit your long term busines plan and adjust it accordingly, based on the changes in your goals, the economy, your business model and other parameters. Because we cannot predict the future, the long term plan should be fluid enough to change with the times. Not having a plan is a recipe for disaster. But having a well constructed business plan is like building a roadmap to success.

        Dont forget to reach for the moon, the least that can happen is that you will hit the stars!

        Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.

        • Sally – you were faster than me; I was thinking along the same line, long-term and short-term planning with some part goals because internet marketing, social media etc. rules are constantly changing. You must have a plan and be alert for quick changes in their plans.

        • Lena

          Awesome advice & encouragement.

  • In my case using Facebook Fan Page, my loyal fans usually they are the people who find my page useful wherein I can provide quality content for them. Most of fan are selfish, if you can’t provide satisfaction to them, though they are in count, but still not to be active in your page, and just a number of it.

    • Chet Holmes recently tweeted this: “For your BUSINESS to grow, YOU must grow and YOUR PEOPLE must grow. These days, this is not an option, it is a mandate.” For fans to be active and continue to love you, you’ve not only got to grow, you’ve got to help THEM grow and improve in some way through your business and work. A challenge – but a worthy one to strive for, surely.

  • Great stuff Dr Mani, and thank you for the links at the end too. I’m still amazed you can perform your role as a heart surgeon in India, be as active online as you are, and read as much as you do too.

    Clearly you either do not eat or do not sleep to create the extra time 🙂

    • Thanks for not publicly mentioning my “time expanding machine”, Yaro. (Oops! Did I?) 🙂

      Seriously, though, it’s a combination of passion, focus and lack of convention.

      I love writing, and typically do one of my columns for your blog in under an hour. My professional schedule (which only few other doctors share, that I know of) is quite different from that of a ‘typical’ specialist, though it works very well for me and my patients.

      There are times I wish it were different, because the hardest part of this is going against the grain and daring to be different. I blogged about it here:


  • Raj

    I agree that its absolutely difficult to be working on a stressful job as well as working on websites – I have tried it before and failed! So, Kudos to you on that point. Building a tribe is also about one’s unique style. If you develop a unique style and write from your heart, people will automatically find you and become your fan. Do I believe in consciously nurturing fans, I don’t know.

    • Thanks, Raj. And yes, I don’t think you can consciously nurture fans beyond a point – though you can consciously behave in a way that will attract them towards you and stay loyal and interested. The bigger the group, the more diverse their unique interests will be, making it an ever more interesting challenge to overcome!

  • Thank you for this amazing article. I admire the way you can accomplish everything. I started my blog a month ago and you provided valuable tips for acquiring Fs (fans, followers and friends). I sure need to stand out from the croud and I’ll find the way.

  • Sam

    Mani, nice to hear about those golden times of e-mail marketing. Those times we had a good ROI on email marketing. People use to respond to emails very often than they do it today. I started by using an excel sheet where I use to follow my list of people. I use to write notes about them. This was the period when there was any good email marketing software. Later switched on to software packages.

  • Dr Mani
    I just discovered you here the other day and I must echo what Yaro says about how prolific you are(without sacrificing quality!). It makes me want to strive to do more as well

  • Dr. Mani having a highly organized approach and attitude is as you say: it’s a mandate and key to success with any business. One thing I have realized is that it’s such a nuisance rather, when the world is so fast changing and one needs to become competitive at every single angle of life.

    In terms of a business specifically. Well, yes. You’ll need to build that fans as you build your business. Because if you don’t have fans (even whether they don’t do something for you or your business) – it only points to the fact that nobody knows your business. And that you are not yet exposed yet.

    As simple as that.

    So ANY fans first. Then comes the rest in the form of Word-of-mouth.

  • Thank you Dr. Mani for this interesting article.
    I never do a deep research through “true fans” and I enjoy your post!

  • Dr. Mani,

    Thanks for an inspiring article, well it is true if you really open up and share your thoughts and ideas to everyone, they will surely reciprocate and follow you. True fans are there if you really make your work for everybody, regardless of who they are and what they do.

  • Dr. Mani, we loved this post. You know a lot about building a true fan base. Fun read!

  • I love what you wrote in this article.

    “The possibilities are just limitless. Whatever it is you are doing now, there is a way to be remarkable at it – by ‘upping your game’, cranking it up a notch, setting it on a higher trajectory, giving it a little boost or a giant bump.

    Let’s say you’re writing a book. You could make it just another book. Or you could make it the most awesome book ever written since paper was invented. You’d imagine that would be difficult, if not impossible… but take a look at one way it was done.”

    That Quote is wonderful. It has all been said before but it touched, has inspired me that i am on the right track. They way you right is what so many need to hear. You sometimes write as if you are rushed and need to get something up quickly. But when your heart and mind fall into sync and the words fall together in just the right way that projects you, then it touches the reader. I admire your work and hopefully one day my website and my words will be able to inspire those that come next. As you have done for me. Thank you. XX Bibi

  • Andrew

    A good read.
    Social intelligence, or at least more than the people you are wanting to reach, is the key.
    You need to be more interesting and more engaging than them if you are going to win them over.
    You need to be able to express their views better than they can themselves.
    You need yo be smarter than they are so as to have something to say.
    Comedians need to be funnier than the audience, singers need to sing better than the audience etc etc.
    If you can pull that off then it wont matter what you are wanting to push to them, they will flock to you because you are socially magnetic and most people are powerless to charm.
    Conversely, no matter how good or valuable your cause, if you do not have social intelligence, it is very unlikely you will get far.
    A gifted but socially neutral person will rarely do as well as a charismatic but average person.
    Its all about being able to play people to your own end.

    There is one exception here………and that is “luck”.
    Luck is a truly miraculous thing.

    Lots of things matter and there are many contributing factors in gaining fans but in reality, its all about knowing how people work and what they want and how you need to present it to them.

  • Dr. Mani,
    You are a great and clear writer. Thanks for supplimenting Kevin Kelly’s post “1,000 True Fans” and with such great resources. You supplied all the information, now I need to put my thinking cap on and apply it.
    I feel I have the content I “just” need to point people to the pond. This is where the challenge is.

    P.S. I loved the Marianne Williamson’s poem.

    Thank you.

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