When Kevin Kelly expounded on the concept of “1000 True Fans” in 2008, he was hailed as a visionary, at least in the very limited circle he was publishing to at the time: the artistic community. Probably for this very reason. There is, after all, good reason why “starving” and “artist” are strung together so often in conversation and literature. It took a bit longer for ‘mainstream’ economics to pick up on and spread his message.
The startling simplicity of the concept is ultimately immaterial to its value. There is not a single business or entrepreneur or vendor (or artist, for that matter) who could not benefit from the focused cultivation of a base of 1000 true fans.
As an example: Everyone buys gifts occasionally, some admittedly more often than others. For the sake of illustration, let us imagine that the average person spends an average of R50 per month on gifting. In the True Fans scenario this person would spend his R50 in the same place each month, probably because the gift shop of which he is a true fan has a wide selection of merchandise, offers a superior shopping experience and throws in a few value-adds like national delivery or free wrapping. Thus a gift shop with a True Fans base of 1,000 souls can be confident of a turnover of R50,000 per month. If you have ever considered actively participating in the economy by opening a gift shop, this very simple illustration probably has you quite excited.
So why does every business in the world not have (or at the very least actively seek) 1000 True Fans? Remember the Thomas Edison quote about Opportunity being missed because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work? The commitment to marketing (and ultimately customer service) that is required to achieve the dream of 1,000 True Fans requires singular focus. Focus that for the average entrepreneur comes with a cost separate from what he pays his marketing agency, a cost that may be prohibitive in itself.
“Advertising is the tax you pay for NOT being remarkable” – Robert Stephens
To make the most of the money handed over for marketing, the entrepreneur has to keep tabs on every single contact with every single person who responds in any way to any of his marketing efforts; be that signage, print advertising, web exposure, social media or word of mouth. He has to know who was communicated with, what about, how they reacted and where to get hold of them again. And that is just for starters.
This is why any business with a dream of success should have a CRM system. A CRM system worthy of the name will allow an entrepreneur to record, group and classify clients and prospects according to any number of variables, allowing the entrepreneur to focus a campaign or special offer on a specific target group, well beyond what traditional print advertising is able to do.
However, CRM has moved beyond mere reporting and presenting of contact information. A worthwhile CRM system will have a certain measure of automation, for instance for enquiry forms from your website to be automatically integrated to the CRM system. A decent CRM system will be configured to generate alerts so the system remembers follow-ups, even if your sales personnel do not. A truly powerful CRM system will allow you to run your electronic campaign right out of the CRM system, immediately tracking your reach, conversion and ultimate success.
The question is no longer whether you can afford a CRM system, it is how your business will survive without one.