Sell to the masses or 1000 true fans?

The idea of distilling your marketing efforts down to the goal of acquiring 1000 true fans, as Kevin Kelly put it in his brilliant essay, seems to me to be a worthwhile pursuit.

In my work at RamCity, I’ve been becoming rather despondent at the thought of continuing to spend money on traditional pay per click marketing (google adwords, shopping comparison engines) to attract the attention of new and existing customers, while still remaining at least somewhat price competitive.

The problem as I see it as that the cost per click goes up, while the gross product margin goes down, and what’s left over is getting smaller.

Kevin’s essay might seem more relevant to creators like musicians, artists, authors, designers and the like, but what if the principles were applied in a traditional business like a small online retailer, even if you sold commodity electronics products?

In the book This is Marketing, Seth Godin expanded on this idea and asserts that nobody needs your product, what they really want is to feel a certain way when they buy that product.

Those ‘dreams and fears’ like adventure, belonging, luxury, peace of mind, can be captured in a relatively short list. As marketers he is suggesting that we begin with addressing those needs, fears and desires rather than the more traditional focus on things like inventory, product range, pricing strategies, etc.

The concept rings true for me, and it’s one that I’ve gravitated to off-and-on in my own business over the years, but not always as a focal point. Could this kind of marketing focus be the hard work that Seth also speaks of, and more traditional forms of marketing be long work?

I think it might be.