A 20-Step Process For Finding Your 1,000 True Fans

Wired Magazine’s Senior Editor Kevin Kelly wrote a great post this week called 1,000 True Fans, and it’s been getting a lot of attention around the blogosphere. Kelly essentially argues that to be a success online, you don’t need a huge audience. You just need 1,000 true fans… who are willing to pay you.

He goes on to demonstrate that these 1,000 true fans are not at the end of the long tail, but rather closer to the curve that separates the long tail from the head of the tail:

To raise your sales out of the flatline of the long tail you need to connect with your True Fans directly. Another way to state this is, you need to convert a thousand Lesser Fans into a thousand True Fans.

I guess I feel a bit vindicated… this is the exact argument I made in the Teaching Sells report 5 months ago. It’s nice to be in such esteemed company. :-)

But how do you go about developing these fans? Well, one way is to create an interactive training program. In an information economy, everyone needs to be a life-long learner. So, teaching ends up being a pretty good gig.

Here are the 20 steps you’ll need to complete to make it happen:

1. Choose an in-demand subject

This first step is critical. When it comes to adult education, you can’t force people to learn what you think they should learn. You’ve got to teach them what they want to learn.

2. Uniquely position your offer

Also critical is differentiating yourself with unique positioning in the marketplace. Whether you think about it as a USP or a purple cow, you must stand apart from the competition and be remarkable.

3. Create a learner/buyer profile

Who are these people you’re trying to teach? What problem or pain exists that a training program can fix? What learning styles are dominant among this group? You can’t get people to buy if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach and teach.

4. Identify learner benefits and ultimate benefits

Adult learners are obsessed with “what’s in it for them.” You must identify the real-world benefits that people are seeking, and the ultimate root benefits that drive the desire to learn. Very few people are willing to pay you just for the “love of learning.”

5. Develop learning objectives

Once you understand the real-world benefits that your prospective learners seek, you can then design your training program to satisfy those objectives. These objectives should remain firmly in mind while you develop training content.

6. Tie learning objectives to a business model

There’s more than one way to create a business model around commercial education. When you understand learning objectives, you can figure out what model is optimal for your specific learners. For example, will educating your members naturally lead to a purchase that you can make happen? If so, you can charge less for the initial training and attract more customers.

7. Research and identify content source material

Where will the content of your training program come from? Is it based on your expertise and experience? Is it based on researching, synthesizing and re-formatting multiple existing sources? Do you need to partner with a credentialed expert?

8. Identify potential activities and exercises

Activities and exercises are the tools you’ll use to make lessons concrete and applicable to the real-world. Or, you can provide a real-world road map that shows people how to apply the topics to achieve their goals.

9. Identify course topic areas

Now that you know what people are actually trying to achieve and become, you know what you need to teach. Many people get this entire process backwards and start with topics they assume people need to be taught.

10. Develop course curriculum

Now, take your topics and weave them into an overall curriculum. Not only should your curriculum have a dominant theme, it should be telling a story that leads to understanding and action.

11. Select media formats for initial content

Back when you developed a learner profile based on your research of the market, you will have explored the likely desired learning style of your prospective learners. Do they prefer text, audio or video? Learning psychology demonstrates that all people benefit from a blend of media formats, so often you’ll use the format that best suits the content.

12. Develop introductory content

Now you’re ready to develop your training content. You’ll find it to be much easier thanks to the work you did upfront, but you should also include elements that attract and hold attention while engaging learners at both an emotional and logical level in order to remain memorable. Now, will you develop the content yourself, or strategically outsource it?

13. Build membership site

No matter your business model, you’ll need a website with a publicly-accessible front end and a members-only back end.

14. Launch strategy and offer

Next, it’s time to plan the introduction of your site to the world, and figure out what offer is best for attracting paid members to a new program. No matter how many members you attract at first, you’ll be actually getting paid to teach the course. Plus, since your program is only getting better every week, you can constantly “relaunch” the site and attract more members.

15. Prospect marketing system

You’ll need to develop an educational content marketing strategy that attracts new prospects and builds a relationship with them over time. This can be created once and automated with an email autoresponder.

16. Site copywriting

What’s the appropriate selling strategy for converting prospects into paid members? Amazingly, you’ve already discovered all the benefits your prospects seek, since your training program must make those benefits achievable in order to be effective. Now it’s time to effectively communicate how your content delivers those benefits.

17. Joint ventures for launch

No existing audience? Develop a killer program, and others will do the pre-selling for you with an endorsement (and give you better results than advertising). You’ve located these prospective joint venture partners through your initial market research, and now your just need to strategically contact and negotiate with them.

18. Community development

One of the benefits of interactive learning environments is the community of learning that develops with the guidance of the instructor. Real-world benefits are why people join, and community is why they stay.

19. Ongoing content development

Depending on your business model, you may be creating content (or outsourcing it) on a continual basis. Or, your training may be of limited duration. Either way, it’s smart to start off with initial content, and then keep going while taking into account member feedback and learning assessments. You’ll end up with better content in the end.

20. Ongoing marketing

As mentioned above, any membership-based program can be “re-launched” over and over using free persuasive educational content. You can even release parts of the course itself as an attraction strategy. Remember, if your membership site is constantly adding new content, it’s constantly getting more valuable.

Yes, this is the Teaching Sells Curriculum

OK, so you may have guessed by now that these 20 steps are identical to the Teaching Sells 20-Step Checklist for building a profitable membership site. Both the core content and the advanced training track this road map, so you can apply the lessons in the real world, step-by-step. Or, you can hop around to focus only on the parts you need help with.

Check out Teaching Sells for the instruction that powers the roadmap. Hope to see you on the inside.

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Reader Comments (67)

  1. says


    Excellent, step by step layout of the basics for driving an online education publishing business.

    I have printed this post, and will Stumble it now…

    Joseph Ratliff

  2. says

    This is priceless. I feel like the Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, and John Stewart gag on “Who created Huckabee.” I too have been teaching students about these important principles of community building, thought leadership, and what you really need in a successful online presence.

    Now you’ve supported what I’ve been saying and I’m going to point all my people here for my own vindication!

    Really excellent job on this Brian!

  3. says

    I had to smile when I read Kelly’s article… I am working on the steps and in great company…kudos Brian. And BTW did you happen to see that Oprah has made her current book club selection with Eckhart Tolle into a multiweek learning session one registers for??? The first “webinar” (hate that word) with over 500,000 signups was the highest attended event of its kind.. hmmm? Maybe what, teaching sells? You didn’t mention she was one of our classmates.. :)
    All best, Jan

  4. says

    Yep, excellent list, as always… I’d venture that most people bungle 1, skip to 9, do a weak job of 10, forget about 11, do 12-14, have no clue about 15 (or 17 and 18, for that matter), and get bogged down with 16 so badly they never even get to 19… which, of course, means they’ll never even get to 20.

    May the Clark Brothers help us.

  5. says

    I subscribe to about 40, maybe 50 newsletters. Most of them about how to “market online.” I read a very small percentage of them, but every so often a newsletter comes that grabs my attention.

    Your newsletter re 1,000 “quality” customers brought me here and your post above renewed my interest in getting our online training program reviewed and renewed.

    I may not be one of your 1000 just yet, but I’m certainly closer than I was before your last newsletter came.

  6. says

    Hello Brian-

    Excellent post. I am one of the many who bungle step one as Adam indicated above. I need to remember to keep the customer’s POV in mind instead of my own.

    1,000 fans does not seem like that big of a number to where most anyone dedicated enough can reach it.


    Adam (Yes, another one)

  7. says

    Brian, finding out who these 1,000 people are is easier said than done. Research, guessing, targeting all go into this process.

    I’ve found that my subscriber count is growing steadily but my comments or not. This leads me to believe something is wrong with my content?


    But wait! There’s hope! And the hope is found in places like Copyblogger that lead me in the right direction…

    Your Teaching Sells research tips have helped too. Maybe you could do a detailed research post on how you research markets soon?

    That would be groovy.

    Rock on,


  8. says

    Take this offer, pay the $1, read the materials, and I promise you, YOUR LIFE WILL BE CHANGED FOREVER, FOR THE BETTER!

    I love TeachingSells and YOU SHOULD TOO!

    Remember where blogs were about ten years ago?
    Now, take that a bit farther: Imagine that you have a blog in 1998 and you’ve got all the smarts of Brian Clark and Darren Rowse combined. Project that forward to today and you can well imagine the result.

    This is where Interactive Learning Environments are today. How many ILE’s are there today?
    Few dozen? Maybe hundreds? That’s not a lot.
    Contrast that with over 123 MILLION BLOGS today.

    Take the TeachingSells course, learn how to build interactive training sites and then imagine where you’ll be ten years from now when we will have holography and partial immersive virtual environments!!!

    Interactive training sites are just getting started. Technology that will enable billions around the world to participate in your ILE’s is being established right now! Imagine the future, a brilliant future where learning will be a lifelong process for every person living on the planet! There are quadrillions of profitable niches out there, just crying out to be filled with useful knowledge, knowledge that YOUR interactive training site can provide!!!

    What’s the value of one dollar?

    One dollar will buy you a lifetime’s worth of knowledge that you can use to leverage what you already know or information that is already out there in tired, worn-out text format!

    One dollar will buy you all the expertise that you’ll need to teach others all the knowledge that they want, while you make plenty of money that you will use to better your life exponentially!


  9. Beth says

    “He goes on to demonstrate that these 1,000 true fans are not at the end of the long tail, but rather closer to the curve that separates the long tail from the head of the tail:”

    What is this curve at the head of the tail??? somebody teach me!

  10. says

    And don’t be surprised if your 1000 true fans tell their friends. Fans are the best referrers (evangelists?). Brian, you have been on my short list of recommended reads for a long time.

  11. says

    I like the goal of 1,000. My brother and I have that goal for our program for real estate professionals. I agree with spending the $1. My brother, James, and I are teaching sells members and wouldn’t be where we are without the help.

  12. Harry says


    According to an article in the Sunday Observer Magazine (UK Sunday paper), Copyblogger is the 50th most powerful blog in the world, so you’ve gone way beyond 1000 True Fans.

    Apparently, according to the article, you are least likely to say “Social networking – it’s just a phase”

    50 Most powerful Blogs


  13. Harry says


    Wow a question I can actually answer!

    Susielil wrote:
    “Stupid question – what’s a USP? The rest I understand..I think.”

    USP is an abbreviation for ‘Unique Selling Point’, although some also use it to meant ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ – the meaning is essentially the same.


  14. says

    Thanks for this post, Brian. I will be referring back to this one often.

    I think you are on the right track.

  15. says

    Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the meaty post!
    As my way of learning this information thoroughly, I’m going to feature this article in the April 08 Edition of the Internet Guru Watch Podcast. I know I’ll benefit from reading this, taking notes, then paraphrasing for my report – and I aim to convert many more people into your Fans as my thanks. I look forward to making this podcast!

    Best Regards,
    Douglas Lampi

  16. says

    Good article, I just found your site. I also would love details
    about how to do the actual researching you spoke of? Some
    of us newbies don’t know all the ways to succeed. yes I intend
    to take your training course. Thanks

  17. says

    Internet Marketing “guru” Frank Kern always speaks about this concept as well. He calls it having “fans with money”. I dedicated, loyal list of 1,000 can be very valuable… and can often grow to an even larger list.

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