Building an audience is the lynchpin of successful online businesses.
It doesn’t matter what kind of business it is. It could be an online store that white labels and dropships products, or a blog monetized with affiliate links, or even a SaaS company.
To succeed, you need to reach people. That’s what marketing is all about.
When it comes to your audience, big numbers feel good. It seems impressive when you have a six or seven digit number of followers on Facebook or Instagram, or when you’re getting thousands of website views every day.
But in the end, audience size is a vanity metric.
This might seem counterintuitive, but it’s true. It’s a mistake to focus on the size of your audience.
What really matters is genuine engagement.
Your real fans, the ones that are the most dedicated to your brand, are the people who really matter.
You don’t need to reach millions of people. In fact, it’s more important that you’re reaching the right people.
1,000 true fans will always be more profitable than 1,000,000 people with only a passing interest in your company.
This mindset — the focus on your “1,000 true fans” — is something that nearly all successful internet entrepreneurs have in common. It unites the founders of all kinds of successful sites, from titans like Facebook to smaller successes like The Wirecutter.
In an article about beliefs that successful entrepreneurs have in common, Entrepreneur explains why the “1,000 true fans” concept is so powerful.
Focus on your 1,000 true fans.
The 1,000 true fans belief is this: to be a successful entrepreneur in the internet era, you don’t need millions of fans. You need 1,000 true fans.
I worked with a company whose main product was a specialized piece of industrial equipment. About 400 people per month searched for that piece of equipment on Google. It cost about $400. How much money can you make selling a product that only 400 people in the entire U.S. (precisely 0.000125431 percent of the U.S. population and probably less people than you had in your high school) search for each month?
Millions — you can make millions.
The math behind 1,000 true fans shows how they’ve achieved this. A true fan is defined as anyone who will spend at least $100 per year buying what you make. They buy the hardcover and audio versions of your book and the collector’s edition of your poster release each year.
Successful entrepreneurs focus first on finding their 1,000 true fans by gaining trust through content marketing, This includes everything from writing blog posts, speaking on webinars or to live crowds and posting to social media. Because the internet enables you to have a direct relationship with your fans, they buy directly from you — not a bookstore or Walmart — and you get to keep all 100 of those dollars.
One thousand people paying you $100 each is $100,000 per year, a pretty good living for most people. One thousand true fans is a lot more feasible than a goal of a million fans. If you convince one person to become a true fan every day, it will take you three years to get there. Back to my earlier example — you can play with the math — 400 people per month buying a $400 piece of equipment is $1,920,000.
On the internet, most businesses are built not by aiming at the masses, but by aiming at the niches. Even the largest internet-era companies started with very small niches. Facebook was just for Harvard undergrads (about 6,700 people) and Paypal was just for Ebay powersellers (of which there were less than 20,000 at the time).
How many products out there could draw 1,000 people per year to spend $100? A lot.
This hasn’t always been true, of course. The economics of 1,000 true fans doesn’t work if you are Procter & Gamble selling Tide detergent. You need millions, or at least hundreds of thousands, of customers to get shelf space in Walmart and Target. How many people will pay $100 per year for gluten-free, fairtrade, organic certified detergent? Not many, and that’s just fine.
Figure out the work only you can do, then find your 1,000 true fans. Don’t worry about the millions.
You can find out more about the mindsets of successful entrepreneurs over at Entrepreneur.