Nicholas Lovell calls them “Superfans”. Kevin Kelly has written about “True Fans”. These are the people who love what you do so much that they will buy everything you produce.
Too often, creative businesses are obsessed with getting more customers instead of selling more to their best customers. Marketing is too often focused on winning new customers whilst overlooking our most loyal existing customers. In contrast, Strategic Marketing is about focusing on the right customers.
Here’s the thing: not all customers are good customers. And even good customers are not all the same. Some are more important than others. In fact the most important few are potentially worth more than all the rest put together. These big-spenders can also be called “Whales“. This is the Pareto Principle in action yet again: the 80:20 Rule, which in practice is often even more extreme, so I call it the 95:5 Rule.
Ordinary customers might buy a single product from you, but Superfans wants to buy everything you can produce. They want the super-de-luxe version and are willing to pay for it. Moreover, they want to buy into your values and your story; they want to buy into your creativity and into you.
A creative business can become more profitable by focusing on Superfans. Even better, this increased turnover and profitability doesn’t come from ‘selling out’ but from the opposite; it means staying true to your principles, values and creativity in partnership with the customers that are on the same wavelength as you. No more explaining your pricing to people who just don’t get it. A Superfan Strategy focuses only on those customers with whom you can be your authentic self; customers with whom you can be loud and proud, not apologetic or shy. A Superfan Strategy also means understanding that your best customers are buying more than a simple product or service; they are buying into your values and paying for the experience. A Superfan Strategy requires you to deeply understand what you are selling really to your most important and profitable customers.
A Superfan Strategy hits the sweet spot where commercial success overlaps with being true to our creative passions and principles.
One True Fan
Kevin Kelly’s article 1,000 True Fans says that a creative entrepreneur doesn’t need a mass market, or tens of thousands of consumers, but one thousand customers who will buy everything you create. It makes sense, but where to start? Well, the Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. When advising clients about marketing they ask me how to find hundreds of new customers, but sometimes this task is too daunting. Instead, I ask them how they would find just one customer within a few days if their life depended on it. This focus leads them to think of the best customers; the ones that love what you do and are holding out money ready to buy from you. From there, we find the second, and the third. Often these have the same profile as the first, are in the same community, or otherwise linked, so it’s then relatively easy to keep mining along this rich seam, from one Superfan to the next.
Enable Your Superfans
In his book ‘The Curve’ (and the free eBook introduction to it), Nicholas Lovell describes customers as ranging from ‘Freeloaders’ to ‘Superfans’. Based on his experience of computer games, most people just download the free app, a smaller percentage pay for the ‘pro’ version, and then a tiny number buy every in-app purchase possible. These few are the Superfans. If you don’t limit what they can buy, these few will spend more money than all the rest put together, by far. So enable them, create more things for them to spend their money on. Devise high quality enhanced offerings for them by working at your highest creative level. Switch your focus from the basic item for the one-off purchaser, and instead serve the Superfans. (Read more about this in the free eBook ’10 Ways to Make Money in a Free World’.)
This makes sense economically. It also makes sense in terms of your values, creative talents and mission because your Superfans are the people who get you, who believe in the same values you do, and deeply love the products you offer.
Jill’s next record: spend from $10 to $10,000
Singer songwriter Jill Sobule gave her fans a range of options to buy into her next record, including plenty of expensive things for her Superfans. Significantly, these included not just enhanced products but also experiences and involvement in her creative work.
This is a technique similar to those used in crowdfunding campaigns, where people are offered enhanced products or additional perks for a higher level of investment, but Jill stretched the range further than most.
Measure ARPU not ‘Units Sold’
A Superfan Strategy can transform your business if you change your emphasis from measuring units sold to measuring ‘Average Revenue Per User’ (ARPU). This is also a change of thinking from putting your products at the centre of your business to putting customers at the centre. Thinking about ARPU focuses our attention and efforts towards selling more to our Superfans and potential Superfans. (Read more about this in the free eBook ’10 Ways to Make Money in a Free World’.)
What to do next
To transform your business by refocusing on a Superfan strategy:
- Analyse and rank your best customers in terms of ARPU, then consider how to increase sales to them.
- Devise a bundle of goods, services and experiences you could offer to a Superfan who wants to spend a thousand Euros (or Dollars or Pounds) with you.