One Thousand True Fans: All You Need to Know about Marketing in a Single Article

Jeroen Riemens
3 min readSep 11, 2017

The marketing books I read during my 3-year International Business study weren’t very practical. Instead, I got the most valuable information on marketing from this essay by Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired Magazine. It’s from 2008, and has since been updated and translated into many languages. The idea of marketing can be overwhelming — this article narrows it down to its core principles so well. It’s a must-read for anyone that is creating something and looking for an audience to sell it to. Let me give you a short overview of the article and why I think it’s so valuable.

Defining a True Fan: Not Your Average Customer

There are customers, there are fans, and then there are true fans. The latter is where you want to focus your energy on. These are the people that not only buy your book, but also buy the updated version, the audiobook, maybe even the Kindle edition so they can take it on the road. They not only come to your concert, but also purchase VIP tickets to get the best seats, not to forget about your new merch to wear to the venue. They are the ones that subscribe to your newsletter, read every single word, click every link, and send it to twenty of their friends. They love everything you put out, and value it so much that they are happy to give up part of their income for it.

Apple has lots of true fans, spending nights in the cold for a new iPhone. Photo by Getty Images.

How to Build Your Circle of 1,000 True Fans

In the era of scaling and mass-production, it is rare for a customer to feel a personal connection to a brand. But if you can create just that, surely that customer will feel special. It’s like the barista knowing your name when you walk in: it makes you feel recognized and more likely to return. To get to a thousand true fans, Kelly advises you to build a direct relationship with your customers, especially in the early days. Because you only need about a thousand, it’s relatively manageable to offer these people the very best experience. Let them message you directly. Make a limited edition of your product and give it away to them for free. Organize an exclusive Q&A session with them. Just do whatever you can to get personal with your first customers in order to make them true fans.

The Long Tail: Why Those True Fans Change Everything

True fans help you with two things. First they’ll buy almost everything you put out, allowing you to make a living while working on your craft. Second, as enthusiastic as those true fans are, they will tell their friends about your product, spreading your story. Assuming you have a good product, this will add customers, and if you’re investing enough time in your inner circle, more true fans.

If this made you excited to read on, I urge you to read the full essay for yourself. It changed my perception of marketing and hope it does the same for you.

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Jeroen Riemens

I like to 👨‍💻 build products, 🎹 make music and grow plants 🪴 →