The 1,000 true fans theory is commonly cited as the single most critical piece of business advice for any online entrepreneur.
There’s no doubt about it ̶̶ it’s a great time in history to build a business and sell your services online.
Growing an online empire is as easy as gaining the loyalty of 1,000 true fans.
That’s right, all you need is 1,000 die-hard followers who will snatch up everything you put out.
You’re not alone if this concept sounds too good to be true.
Ten years ago, when the “1,000 true fans theory” was born, it wasn’t anything more than the intellectual musings of a single man.
Today, it’s a tested and proven fact.
Note: This in-depth guide to building your fan base and getting your first 1,000 true fans quickly is over 5,000 words long, so you can check the table of contents below to jump to the section you’d like to dive in to more.
1,000 True Fans Theory & Definition: Where Does The Concept Come From?
Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired Magazine, wrote the original “1,000 True Fans” article in 2008.
It quickly went viral thanks to bloggers like Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Ryan Holiday and Ramit Sethi sharing it like brain candy.
As the theory goes, if you can find 1,000 people who will purchase, or at the least promote, everything you produce, you can bring in enough revenue to live comfortably.
This was a revolutionary concept in 2008.
Imagine the rush of excitement that burst through the minds of thousands of fed up nine-to-fivers.
In an instant, realizing your entrepreneurial daydreams no longer seemed far-fetched.
To give you a sense of the times, Amazon’s self-publishing platform was only a few months old.
Facebook, which started as a social media platform for Harvard students only, was four years old.
YouTube was a 3-year-old toddler waddling around the internet.
Before the age of these independent platforms, finding your 1,000 true fans was a lot harder to do.
You had to go through a gauntlet of industry gatekeepers before you got to your target audience.
Those days are long gone.
What Is A True Fan?
Here’s what a true fan is in Kelly’s own words:
“Whatever your interests as a creator are, your 1,000 true fans are one click from you. As far as I can tell there is nothing—no product, no idea, no desire—without a fan base on the internet. Everything made or thought of can interest at least one person in a million. The trick is to practically find those fans, or, more accurately, to have them find you.”Kevin Kelly
It doesn’t matter if you sell fishing gear, yoga lessons or marketing services, there are 1,000 people amongst the millions of internet users that will pay for what you have.
This is the power of niche markets!
A true fan loves everything about you.
They love you so much that they tell everyone they know about how incredible your products are.
They want to stay connected with you, to be associated with you, and to always be updated about what you’re doing.
What stage of growth is your business currently in?
Different marketing objectives compliment different phases of growth.
Let’s take a closer look…
My Definition Of 1000 True Fans
My personal definition of 1,000 true fans is an email list of 1,000 highly engaged people who will buy almost everything you come out with.
And what’s amazing is that you can build this highly engaged email list of buyers very quickly if you implement what I’m about to share in this in-depth guide to getting your first 1,000 true fans.
More on the power of leveraging your email list later…
The Power of 1,000 True Fans
Quality is the key to a true fan’s heart.
As long as you have a quality product or service, you have the ability to create a network of fans who will tell your story.
Ben Thompson runs the technology blog Stratechery.com. He gives an insider’s perspective on working at companies like Microsoft and Apple.
When Thompson first started Stratechery, his goals was to get 1,000 subscribers and reading Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans article.
He was able to to reach 2,000 subscribers.
Stratechery now brings in $200K a year.
Thompson has subscribers in over 30 countries, and his story is one of thousands.
Tim Ferriss’ meteoric rise to internet fame is another prime example the 1,000 true fan theory in action.
In his video about how to create content that sustains a career, he stresses how important it is to forge meaningful relationships with the people who will love your content.
How To Get Your First 1,000 True Fans
Part of Ferriss’ success was that he started in a narrow niche of productivity and self improvement hacks and gradually expanded as his fan base grew.
His breadth of products now encompass everything from physical fitness to cooking, and he has several best-selling books.
Ferriss and many other advocates of the 1,000 true fans theory have achieved financial independence by building a direct relationship with their subscribers.
In the early stages of growing your army of fans, you need to:
- Be remarkable
- Be authentic
- Be an authority
- Come up with ideas that appeal directly to your niche
- Focus on your audience’s pain points
- Give away as much value as possible
- Get Feedback and make improvements
Sounds like a lot to accomplish, except there happens to be a shortcut…
Take the Fast Route to Establishing Authority, Providing Value and Growing Your Email List
Hosting a virtual summit is the easiest and fastest way to achieve all these goals and immediately establish yourself as an authority, even with no previous experience or industry connections.
A virtual summit is essentially multiple webinar interviews packed together over the course of a few days.
As the host, you reap the benefits of collecting emails and generating revenue by selling all-access passes.
Anyone can tune into the live event for free, all they have to do is sign up to your email list.
Mitch Asser runs FastWayToHealth.com where he helps people become healthier through fasting.
He was a personal trainer with no online know-how when he decided to start his blog.
Mitch started hosting virtual summits and went from ground zero to over 30,000 email subscribers and well over 6-figures in revenue.
Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You
Seth Godin mentions in his best selling book “Purple Cow” that you have to create content that’s worth talking about.
Content that’s worth sharing, be it a video, an article or a virtual conference, is essentially free advertising.
According to Godin, “Advertising is the tax you pay for NOT being remarkable.”
It makes sense.
When people share you stuff on Facebook and Twitter, it’s word-of-mouth advertising in print form.
And it’s powerful!
You and everyone else reading this article are more than capable of sharing ideas that are worth talking about, and it’s all you have to do to stand out to 1,000 people.
It’s a big world.
As long as you’re authentic and provide value, people will listen.
You could spend tens of thousands of dollars on advertising and get a fraction of the results.
It’s up to you.
Aside from producing quality, useful content, you can be remarkable by being…
- The highest or lowest value provider
- The first or last
- The easiest or hardest
- The cheapest or most expensive
- The simplest or most complex
But most importantly, be authentic!
The Power of Authenticity
Your audience has to trust you before they let you lead them with your wisdom.
But first you have to trust yourself and be authentic.
Trust that you have their best interests at heart, and know that whatever you create for them is as amazing as it can be.
Nobody’s going to trust you unless you trust yourself first.
The only way to develop this self-confidence in your content is to live what you preach.
If you genuinely care about your fans and believe that your content is incredible, you’ll get your 1,000 true fans.
Be an Authority
I couldn’t care less what you have to tell me about the things you’re not good at.
I want to know what you excel at and why.
Your 1,000 true fans are the same.
Being an authority doesn’t mean you have to be expert.
It means you have to display to the world that you’re dedicated to the niche you serve.
You do this by having a laser-like focus on the content you create.
Niche down first.
Get your 1,000 true fans.
THEN expand to the into the more loosely connected content if that’s what you want to do.
First, start with the topics that you can provide the highest quality advice about.
What are you the go-to source for among your circles of friends and colleagues?
If you’re that guy or gal for anything, then you have a shot at acquiring 1,000 true fans.
I wasn’t an expert when back when I launched my first virtual summit, but I did pride myself in being as knowledgeable as I could be.
It’s this mindset that’s earned the trust of online entrepreneurs like Augustas Kilgys, who went from zero to 4,500 subscribers and $58K in revenue with the help of my Virtual Summit Mastery program.
Now he spends his time traveling the world with his family while taking his online business to the next level.
Coming Up with the Right Idea for Your Niche
Before you get ahead of yourself and try to create the greatest idea since sliced bread, you’re going to need to do these three things:
- Choose an in-demand topic
- Create a detailed subscriber persona
- Uniquely position your personal brand
1. Choose an In-Demand Topic
You can only teach people what they want to learn.
Just because your and expert on how to paint miniature figurines doesn’t mean there’s a big enough market for it.
Choosing the wrong subject can and will make or break you success.
Think about core human drives:
- Financial security
Take an angle that speaks directly to aspects of people’s lives that they can’t do without.
2. Uniquely Position Your Brand
What makes you stand out in the marketplace?
Take what is already proven to work and put your own twist on it.
For example, if you want to do a YouTube channel about cooking, don’t just teach your favorite recipes and call it a day.
You need to give yourself a unique stamp that sets you apart from the crowd.
Your cooking show could be…
- Hip hop-themed
It could focus on…
- The molecular science of cooking
- Dive deep into the history of each dish
Whatever you choose, it needs to establish yourself as a trailblazer in your own right.
And remember that nearly any niche can work.
It’s a big world out there on the internet.
Take Diana Rowan’s story, for example.
Who would have ever thought that a virtual summit for harpists could be successful?
Yet she was able to generate 2,100 email subscribers and sell 460 all-access passes with a recurring revenue stream.
There’s nothing traditional about her market. She is not a tech-person. Her market is SUPERniche.
It still worked!
3. Create a Detailed Subscriber Persona
Knowing your audience may be the most critical factor when choosing the right idea for your niche.
When you close your eyes, you need to be able to see them standing in front of you as clear as day.
What are their…
- and goals?
- Where they live
- Their age
- and lifestyle?
Who are these true fans that you’re trying to reach?
Whenever I meet someone in-person at a networking event, I instinctively alter my behavior in subtle ways to help the interaction go more smoothly.
Do the same with your target audience!
They’ll feel like you’re speaking directly to them and will be more open to hearing how you can help solve their pain points.
Focusing on Pain Points Generates Page Views and Links
The only metric that really matters is how effectively you’re solving your customer’s pain points.
- Search volume
- Facebook shares
…it’s all fluff.
What matters is that you’re driving with buyer intent behind it and are generating links.
Blogger Marcus Sheridan discusses this concept in his content marketing book: “They Ask, You Answer.”
He made an interesting observation while running his fiberglass pool company blog:
His blog articles perform terribly according to traditional social media metrics, getting almost no shares.
…these same articles were crushing it in the traffic and link building departments.
Here’s a screenshot of the numbers in cited in Sheridan’s book:
Sheridan estimates that he generated over $2 million in revenue from these eight articles alone.
Focusing on Pain Points Builds Community
People love to bond together over the problems they have.
It’s empowering to know that you’re surrounding by a group of like-minded people who are slugging through the same problems.
Creating targeted content isn’t necessarily enough to recruit your 1,000 true fans.
You need to do so in a way that starts discussion around your product or service.
The blog What But Why is a master at getting people to comment on their articles, which generate millions of page views a month.
Just look at this article on Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future. It’s collected a whopping 884 comments since being published in April, and it’s not alone.
A blog with this much engagement should be able to charge a hefty price to advertisers, but here’s the shocking truth…
The blog is entirely ad-free!
Instead, their loyal base of 4,000 true fans make monthly donations through Patreon.
It’s the law of reciprocity in action ̶ they give away as much ad-free, quality content as possible. In return, their readership gives back.
Which brings us to our next rule…
Give Away as Much as Possible
When you keep providing a ton of free value, a funny thing happens ̶ people can’t help but buy your stuff.
Karma’s a powerful force.
Scratch their backs and they’ll scratch yours…with money.
I understand that you may not have a ton of time or extra resources to dedicate to towards creating free content, especially when you’re just getting started.
But giving away free value, even in small doses, always has its place.
It’s the gesture that counts nearly as much as the value.
And it doesn’t have to be a huge piece of content to deliver value.
Simple ways of providing value include:
- Helpful comments you leave on other sites
- The articles and guides you publish on your own site
- The videos you publish on YouTube and Facebook
- The incredible customer service you or your company provides
- Guest posts and forums
As long as you’re delivering advice that solves a problem, you’re audience will remember you for it.
Get Feedback and Make Improvements
Organize exclusive Q&A sessions with your growing body of fans.
Drop short surveys in their inbox.
Especially in the early stages of growing your brand or business, you should try as many things as you can as fast as your can.
The faster you fail, the faster you learn about what works and what doesn’t.
This rapid-fire learning takes advantage of what’s called the “iterative feedback loop.”
The feedback you get from users is the engine of the theory.
It’s what allows you to collect detailed data write from the source that matters most: your fans.
Seth Godin suggests to start by telling ten people about any idea you have. If they all think the idea is good, it will spread.
Neeraj Joshi built Pushstart, one of the most active startup communities in India, using this method.
He conducted lots of surveys to keep existing members engaged and invested.
The results speak for themselves.
Concept like these are the philosophical backbone of the 1,000 true fans theory.
Now let’s take a close look at the actual formats you can use to provide value.
How to Get 1,000 True Fans: Traditional Online Tactics
I hate to break it to you, but chances are you don’t have documented content strategy.
According to data collected by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), only 37% of B2B brands and 38% of B2C brands have a documented marketing strategy.
When Neil Patel interviewed 208 companies, he found that they spent the majority of their budget on paid advertising.
Why dump money down the drain when you could generate higher levels of engagement for a fraction of the cost?
All you need is an effective content marketing strategy.
You can use traditional online tactics like…
- Social media
- and paid advertising (very expensive)
…to gradually gain new fans.
It’s slow work, but it does work…eventually.
Depending on your niche, these methods can take quite a while to pay off, oftentimes a year or two.
This is something that I found out the hard way.
I spent over a year blogging and podcasting in 2013, only to have a few hundred subscribers.
Then I found a massive shortcut to getting 1,000 true fans FAST…
…but more on this later…
Blogging Your Way to 1,000 True Fans
Creating articles for your website is (almost) a mandatory medium for providing consistent value to you fans.
They don’t have to be lengthy guides or ultimate reviews, but they do have to be worthy of arousing discussion amongst your subscribers.
Address their pain points!
And don’t get distracting by vanity metrics.
We touched on vanity metrics briefly earlier in this article.
They’re things like:
- Social media shares
- Keyword volume
- and subscribers
All of these things are great, but when you blog, your goal should be to increase active engagement, not to boost these numbers.
These figures are just a means to and end.
Rather than trying to get a lot of “likes” for your articles, appeal to the core of your fanbase.
These are the people that will actually click the “buy” button, and that’s the one that matters most.
When your subscribers are commenting and leaving suggestions, it’s a guarantee that they’re invested in your community.
How Pat Flynn Uses Blogging to Generate Subscribers through his Email List:
Building an email list is essential to providing value to your community and keeping them engaged.
Hosting a virtual summit is by far the fastest way to rapidly build an email list, but blogging can be effective as well (when you’ve built up an audience already).
Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income uses a tool called RightMessage to segment his email list subscribers.
This way he’s able to add them to the email chain that is most relevant to their pain points.
Using Social Media to Create a Community Hub
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can direct a lot of active users to your community.
By starting a Facebook group for the people who’ve purchased your product, you can become a hub of discussion.
Authority Hacker is a blog and online course about building affiliate marketing websites.
Their founders, Mark and Gael, have built a thriving community in their members-only Facebook group.
They use it to continually provide value to their paying customers.
While they do regularly comment and provide advice themselves, the majority of the value is provided by its members.
Experienced affiliate marketers are excited to help out the young guns.
As the group creator, you get sit back and reap the benefits.
Authority Hacker Pro is the just the virtual coffee shop where everyone goes to mingle.
If you want to take it to the next level, you can always keep members engaged with…
- Weekly AMAs (ask me anything) session with experts
- Live video sessions
- Posting case studies
…and remember to always ask for feedback from your members.
When Amazon’s self-publishing unit, Kindle Direct Publishing, went live in 2008, it opened new doors for authors and businesses to promote their brand and spread their content.
See ya later middleman!
The need for publishers and printing went out the window.
Author Hugh Howey took full advantage of the new platform.
He self-published his post-apocalyptic novel Wool on Amazon in 2011, and it quickly sold hundreds of thousands of copies, instantly supplying him with over 1,000 true fans.
You too can use Kindle Direct Publishing to spread your message and provide value to your fans.
In fact, now it’s even easier.
You can bypass Amazon altogether and instantly deposit a PDF version of your ebook into your subscriber’s inbox.
Use free programs like Snappa or Canva to make professional ebook cover graphics.
Forums can be a great place to expose your content to active members of a niche community.
Guest posting for major blogs in your industry can get you exposure to a large readership.
Unfortunately, neither tactic is very predictable when comes to attracting true fans.
I’ve been featured in several major publications, including Forbes, The Huffington Post and Inc. Magazine.
Although it added to my credibility, I saw very little growth in my audience.
Especially early on in your business, I’d say posting in relevant subReddits and other forums has more potential.
Take the case of Walter Chen, the founder of iDoneThis.
His article went viral after posting it in Hacker News and Reddit.
It was ultimately picked up by LifeHacker, and ended up driving 400 sign-ups for his product launch over the next two months.
If you really get desperate for subscribers, you can always resort to paid advertising.
Spending money on Facebook ads or Google Adwords is a sure-fire way to get more subscribers.
Will they be highly-motivated, active contributors to your community?
Will they be expensive to acquire?
You may have to spend several thousands of dollars on ads to build your email list this way.
The reason being that you have to warm up a cold audience through several points of contact and retargeting.
And there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to convert them to your army of 1,000 true fans.
Podcasting to Build Your Email List
According to Pew Research Center, 33% of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to at least one podcast.
But how do you stand out in the overcrowded world of podcasts?
As of June 2018, there are over 550,000 podcasts for listeners to choose from.
I definitely felt the pain of trying to get traction during my 18 months of podcasting.
For all my efforts, I gained only a few hundred email subscribers (not exactly the traction I was looking to get).
Podcasting isn’t hopeless, it’s just slow progress (I’m still a big fan of podcasting when it comes providing valuable content and connecting with your EXISTING audience on a weekly basis) .
You can get yourself noticed by…
- Having lots of industry experts as guests
- Creating a unique brand that appeals to a niche audience
- Having a smooth, pleasing tone to your voice
- and course, solving your target audience’s pain points
Once you have their attention, you’ll want to get those listeners to engage and subscribe.
Include a Call-to-Action at the End of Every Episode
The end of the episode is the best time to solicit an email from your listeners.
This is when they’re most susceptible to suggestions.
They’ve already invested a half hour or more of their time listening to your podcast, so what’s a few more seconds to submit an email?
Give Away a Downloadable Piece of Content
Listeners love free value.
Something that needs to be emailed and downloaded psychologically feels like a better gift, which is great news for you.
In exchange for subscribing to your email list, they get the freebie.
Make sure that the piece of content is relevant to the episode they just listened to, and it’s best to have a fresh piece of content for every episode.
Potential giveaways include:
- Discount vouchers
- Chapters of an ebook
The download is an easy way for them to be reminded of your brand.
The more positive points of contact you have with new listeners, the better.
You’re warming them up and slowly turning them into a true fan.
If you ever get tired of the slow and steady routes of podcasting and writing, you can always supercharge your efforts with the fastest-known method to growing your email list and earning 1,000 true fans.
The Fastest Way To Get 1000 True Fans
You don’t need a ton of people to build a successful 6-figure online business, but you do need a few, and the faster you get them, the faster you can transform you business and lifestyle.
I struggled to develop an audience navidm.com for over a year before I did my first virtual summit.
It was a long year (read 18 months) of blogging, podcasting, posting on social media and attempting to claw my way to the 1,000 true fans mark.
I was starting to run out of things to bang my head against.
Then in November of 2014, I launched my first virtual summit, The Branding Summit.
My email list instantly grew to almost 3,000 people.
The summit generated over $20k in profit!
I immediately quit my job and moved abroad.
The Transformative Power of Virtual Summits
The transformative power of virtual summits goes well beyond growing your email list.
Virtual summits don’t bring in your run-of-the-mill subscribers.
They attract top-of-the-line, fully-invested participants.
The audience that I built with The Branding Summit was so engaged that it quickly helped me grow my online business to 6-figures.
All in a few short months.
It’s by far the most powerful marketing strategy I’ve ever used to build, grow and scale my online business.
Virtual summits can also be a revenue-generating machine.
I made roughly $40K on the backend of my first summit, mainly by promoting another influencer’s product to my new email list of raving true fans.
Hosting an online summit takes all of the benefits of blogging and podcasting and condenses years of progress and relationship building into a few weeks.
All you need is…
- The right mindset
- The right people
- and the right plan.
Are you shocked at how powerful virtual summits can really be? I know I was.
Building Relationships and Providing Value
The key to my success was building authentic relationships with influencers in the industry, then putting those relationships on full display to my audience.
Even though my blog was still in its infancy at the time of the summit, I instantly became an authority in the eyes of my viewers.
I was the host, and big players like John Lee Dumas, Neil Patel, Rand Fishkin and Marisa Murgatroyd were my guests.
Talk about street cred!
Once you establish authority and build an email list of “buyers” through your summit, it’s easy to successfully launch courses, high-end coaching programs, membership sites and promote whatever it is you’re offering.
Virtual Summits Can Work at Any Stage of Your Business
Jesse Krieger is the founder and publisher of Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press.
In 2016, he hosted his first summit: The Book, Business and Brand Building Summit.
His company was already doing well, but he wanted to take it to the next level.
The summit added 6,000 subscribers to his email list, nearly doubling his total audience with just one summit.
Jesse sold 120 all-access passes.
On the backend, he was able to turn many of the attendees into publishing clients, triggering a big spurt in growth.
For his second summit, he turned it into and evergreen experience so that he could continue selling passes indefinitely.
With the evergreen model, you never have to stop generating sales, allowing more people to get to know you in a comprehensive way.
Continue to Build Your Email List and Get 1,000 True Fans with “Mini Summits” & Partner Webinars
Bigger 3-7 day virtual summits are high effective, and can generate 1,000’s of email subscribers very quickly. That’s what I recommend you start with since they’re easier to succeed with as you have more room for mistakes, and you’ll still do well.
A single summit can help you build your fan base of 1,000 true fans very quickly if done the right way.
After you’ve hosted your bigger online summit, you can leverage that momentum by hosting “mini summits” and doing partner webinars to continue grow your audience even more.
Host “Mini Summits” In Between Your Bigger Virtual Summits & Promotions
Mini summits are where you interview a small handful of people to maintain engagement and generate buzz for your next virtual summit.
You can record them in a single day, plus you have several guest speakers who can help promote the event.
Mini summits tend to deliver higher conversion rates because it’s easier to target a more specific audience.
Host Partner Webinars
A webinar itself isn’t that effective unless you actually have an audience to promote it to (or a lot of money to spend on Facebook ads to attract the right audience).
What I did in the early stages of my business (and still do from time to time) is to partner with another influencer, and host a webinar to their audience.
It’s quite similar to a virtual summit, but in smaller scale. A virtual summit is like a webinar on steroids, since you have so many more influencers promoting at the same time so you can grow a lot faster.
You won’t get 1,000’s of email subscribers from one partner webinar (unless it’s a very big influencer), but at the very least you should be able to get a few 100 new subscribers from implementing this.
That’s why this works so well after you’ve hosted your first “bigger” virtual summit since you’ve built authentic relationships with 20-40 other influencers in your industry you can partner up with.
You can either do a non-pitch webinar to just educate their audience (which works really well to built a lot of trust and attract more engaged fans), or you can pitch your product or service towards the end of the webinar depending on what you arranged with the influencer.
Your Next Steps: Ready To Get Your First 1000 True Fans Quickly?
Webinars, blogging, podcasting, posting on social media, self-publishing, publicity…
They all have the potential to move your business forward at a gradual and consistent pace.
You can take the shortcut to building an email list of highly-motivated subscribers who will turn into buyers and lifelong customers.
The goal isn’t to have a long list of emails, it’s to have your email service provider packed with potential true fans who want to hear from you and buy what you have to offer.
Hosting a virtual summit is a proven way to gather quality true-fan prospects FAST.
Then you can nurture that audience with incredible blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, and product launches.
Are you starting to see the potential that virtual summits can generate thousands of true fans for your online business?
Let me know in the comments below.
Want to learn more?