Far too often business owners state that everyone is their customer, it’s wrong, it’s just not true. Even if it were true, how could you possibly serve them all, and more importantly, what services & products would you know to provide everyone? Plus, what would marketers do if they couldn’t target market your products & services.

Typically, those business owners reveal their greatest weakness when making that claim. Firstly, they clearly do not understand business, secondly, they don’t have a business plan, and thirdly….they lack vision. I couldn’t speak more bluntly now could I, and I just gave you three reasons : )

If there is one thing I preach more than any other fact, business is and has changed, and you must change the way you think about business, and more importantly, how you think and see your business. Somehow we have to get away from thinking in terms of an exchange before payment, incorporate free into your business model, and how to be satisfied with less customers. That’s right….less!

Kevin Kelly wrote an amazing piece on 1,000 true fans, it’s really a tribe model in my head, but his theory is sound, and frankly is the future of business. His description of a fan is a thing of beauty, taken from the article on his blog:

“A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”

Now you might have an idea where I’m going, but I doubt it, I’m hard to follow sometimes. The question to ask yourself is, do you have fans / customers as described by Kevin Kelly? If you do, it won’t be hard to tell, if you don’t, you are probably wondering how to get those fans, and where might they be. If you did a business plan without knowing this description, of your preferred customer (fan), you would still be one degree off true north. Your plan would be flawed, because it would be based on old industrial age thinking, it would be based on what you know, and what you were taught in school. But that’s another topic.

Let’s stick with Kevin’s idea of a 1,000 true fans. In Kelly’s model, every true fan spends $100 per year on you whatever you produce. That means you will generate $100,000, that’s a decent pile of dough isn’t it. So there is your equation, 1,000 true fans x $100 = $100,000!! So what’s the problem?

The problem is not the equation, the problem most of the time is you, you get in the way, you begin to think too much, you still don’t understand the why. My workshops, public speaking engagements, my blog, and my book, is all about why you should change the way you think about your business. Most business owners aren’t paying attention to the why, mostly because they are paying attention to the details of paying the bills, covering payroll, and making sure there is stock. So where will you find the time to see what’s really going on, what’s changing, and how to adopt what’s changing? The stock answer, and I hear it every day, ” I don’t have time”. If that’s true, you probably won’t be in business in the next 5 – 10 years, because the way business and the consumers are changing, you will be forgotten, out of site, and out of mind.

The digital platform we call the Internet, is a game changer for sure. The real game changer has nothing to do with you the business owner, it’s the way people have shifted their buying patterns, from what to how. More importantly, these people formerly known as consumers want more control of your offerings, they want to decide, and they’re already talking about your competition. Why? Because you aren’t thinking like the new consumer, and….you aren’t listening to what they want.

There are over 2.2 billion users on the Internet, and another 3 Billion coming in the next 5 years, I know there are 1,000 true fans for your niche, now do you have time to find your 1,000 true fans? If not, hire someone who can show you how, someone with the vision to see the patterns of a changing consumer(s). You already know someone….wink, wink ; – )

Olivier Blanchard has 5 basic rules on the value of a follower, a fan, and a like, in simple terms, it’s based on the amount of money they spend on your product or service in a given calendar year. The potential of a follower and fan, that is something entirely different, and that equation has yet to be determined in my humble opinion. I think we are very bad at determining the potential value of a follower, a like, or a fan…but know this, it’s not linear, it’s exponential.

If you only need 1,000 true fans, “Everyone”, is not your customer.

Click on this link for the complete story on Kevin Kelly’s idea of 1,000 True Fans

Also read Olivier Blanchard’s work on The 5 basic rules of calculating fan/like/follower value.

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About Owen Greaves

I'm a Futurist, I write, speak, and teach the open & free business model, the future of business. Create. Differentiate. Deliver.  


  1. Olivier Blanchard on September 27, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Right. Note that when I talk about calculating “value,” I am talking about $$$.  I am not talking about abstract value like being awesome or inspiring, or supportive on a bad PR day. I am talking about a purely business-oriented definition of value. That’s the context. (So I’m not being cold. I’m just being specific.)

    “Liking” a page makes you a very basic kind of fan. It’s the free trial version of a fan. It’s just a “like.” There’s no value there, as of yet. Nothing tangible anyway. Nothing measurable. It’s at best an acknowledgment of positive awareness. Nothing more.

    But as that fan grows into more of a real fan, a “true” fan, you can start to track changes in their behavior. Are they talking about you more? Are they sharing your stuff more often? Are they starting to spend money on your stuff? Is that amount growing over time? Etc.  Fanhood is always in flux. Fanhood isn’t stationary.  A business should aim to develop fan loyalty, not just expect it. Sure, you’ll always have your core fans, but they don’t scale. For everyone else, you have to work at it. You have to earn their attention and preference every day.

    So the confusion, I think, often stems from a misunderstanding of the term “fan.” The idea isn’t to draw a line and assume that it’s an A/B model, where you are either a fan or you aren’t. That would imply that clicking “like” makes you a fan. That’s just not realistic. What businesses need to do is take a step back and answer three questions:

    1. What constitutes a real fan? (What does that profile look like? What are key behaviors associated with fanhood?) Come up with your own definition. Don’t cut and paste one from some social media guru’s blog.

    2. What are the degrees of fanhood? (Basic, intermediate, advanced?) -> Now revisit question #1. Assign attributes to each degree of fanhood.

    3. What is the path to uber-fanhood? (In other words, how does a newbie fan who kind of likes us gets to a point where he or she would actually get our logo tattooed on their arm or name their first-born after us? What does that journey look like? What are the stages, the milestones, the triggers along the way?)

    The alternative is to look at fans as just amorphous masses who click a “like” button on Facebook and blast them with “content” 2-3 times per day. (Which is what 90%+ of companies currently do with social media, and the principal reason why things aren’t working out so well with their social media programs.)

    Good piece, man. 🙂

    • owengreaves on September 27, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      Hey Olivier,

      Thanks for your thoughts, I know you have many, and we have bantered this for years : ) I’m not as pragmatic as it appears, I lean more towards ” the people are the product” side of things, therefore, I see potential value in a Follower and the like. But there is also a bottom-line to everything as well, so it’s a conflict.

      I think the real value in a Follower, other than how much they spent, is what they tell you about what they like, don’t like, and maybe even who they tell. There’s where the True Fan comes in I think, they can’t wait to act or respond to your product or service, or RT a Tweet…the misuse of that data is where things go sideways. As you so aptly put it.

      Personally, I wish Social Media was called something else…the GURUS & EXPERTS have everyone messed up, making them believe they must use it, and what it will do for them. But I digress : )

      If you are looking at it strictly from an ROI point of view, then yes, it’s much simpler to calculate what a Fan spent with you. But I believe there is a grey area here, and I’m curious what that potential (predictive) Fan looks like, and what the equation looks like for calculating purposes.

      Thanks Bro, I’m a big fan of your work, so glad you took the time to comment.

  2. Michael Fast on October 10, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Great post, as usual, Owen. Of course I don’t come from the business side of things so I can’t comment on that. But it did strike me as being something useful for church work in perhaps two areas: disciplemaking and leadership development. It has gotten me to start thinking about how to find the “1000 fans” for the mission we are doing and start working in that area. What are the implications for our leadership training program? What are the implications for our cell groups? What are the implications for the scorecard we are using in evaluating the success/failure of these efforts. Thanks for the food for thought!

    • owengreaves on October 10, 2012 at 5:59 PM

      Hi Mike,

      I trust all is well with you? I think the bigger problem is more on the topic of how we view church, how we think about how church should be built, and how do we engage younger generations into a newer more palatable model. Most of us long in the tooth folks don’t like to make too many changes, we like to preach change, but making change hurts too much. Finding and connecting with a 1,000 true fans, is no different than building a tribe…that should resonate with you.

      My goal is always to make you think Mike, not tell you you’re wrong…you are never wrong, everything is changing to be different than how we were taught.

      Many Blessings, and thanks for your thoughts.

      • Michael Fast on October 12, 2012 at 5:56 PM

        I spend most of my time, both in teaching and discipleship, getting people to think of church in a different way. Not just how we do church but what church is. You are right, it is an uphill battle. The part that gets me I guess is that I find that resistance to these changes often comes from within myself! But I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment “finding & connecting.” That is the key, regardless of what the final “found and connected” group looks like.

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