How would your business change if you could speed up the process of earning people’s trust?
When the idea of tipping visitors into fans first came about, it was just a passing conversation with a friend at SxSW. I didn’t really think much about it until someone reached out on my site telling me that they’ve been reading my site for over a year and wanted to say thank you. I noticed this person bought from me and also went out of their way to comment on my site and tweet about my posts.
The email made me stop and think about why they took time out of their day to help me, but maybe even more important, to make me feel good about myself.
That’s when I started reaching out to friends in my network who have created amazing businesses and online and offline communities to help explain how they were able to do this so well. The following people explain how they’ve been able to build thriving businesses. They answered one question:
What do you think was the one change you made that helped you convert visitors into fans?
I looked at the words that each expert chose to use and I began to notice patterns in their language.
- 23 help(s)
- 19 connect(ion)
- 17 build(ing)
- 14 care(s)
- 14 focus
- 12 share
- 12 why
- 12 community
- 12 story(ies)
- 10 brand
The words they chose give you a glimpse into why they are able to successfully turn visitors into fans. The #1 used word was help(s). They look to be of service to their communities instead of expecting their communities to serve them.
Let’s get started!
1. Build True Relationships
From the moment I had my first comment on my blog 9 years ago to the present moment, I always view visitors as friends and collaborators. I care about what they think, love to ask them questions and engage in dialogue, and get excited about creating content that will be useful and relevant to them. When you care about a topic or mission, like building businesses, or finding your purpose, or saving the planet, or sharing great design, you want to see it realized in the world. There is no way you can do it alone. So each person that joins you in your mission is a collaborator. Someone with a mutual stake in what you both care about.
This perspective lessons the pressure to appear to be the bulletproof expert. And it creates a sense of connection, and community. You can only stay in “fan/idol” status for so long before it becomes awkward. Building a true relationship with those you serve is one of the most important things you can do in your lifetime. Together, you will build a powerful and enduring body of work.
Pamela Slim, best-selling author of Escape from Cubicle Nation and Body of Work.
2. Share Fun Little Things About Yourself
It was when I decided to put more of ME and what I do in my life into my brand. Doing that has helped me become a real person people can connect with online, to a point where when people see me in person – people I’ve never met before – they say things like, “Pat, I feel like I know you.”
In 2010, primarily on my podcast, I started to share fun little things about me that may not seem like they have anything to do with my business, like the fact that I’m a huge Back to the Future Fan, or I am deathly afraid of spiders, or that I play fantasy football or hang out with my kids all day, but those things are who I am and what people connect with and remember, and when you really think about it, it has EVERYTHING to do with my business, building my brand and turning casual visitors into raving fans.
Pat Flynn is the founder of Smart Passive Income and author of “Let Go”.
3. Get Clear on Your Why
1) Get clear on your why – that is why you do what you do. Once you figure that out, it’s amazing how people want to buy into your why and come on the journey with you. For me I’ve always been on a mission to ensure 100,000 entrepreneurs achieve freedom in business and adventure in life by 2020. When I announced that I got people telling me they’d help me achieve that.
2) Be yourself – I’ve always been beyond transparent about my journey into entrepreneurship and being a suitcase entrepreneur. I’ve allowed people to grow and change with me, and be part of that. I’ve showed them the good, the bad and the ugly and they appreciate that. I think that’s when people really started the shift into being fans, not just visitors. Being real and resonating with people is super important to turning them into loyal fans.
3) Build a community – if you do this from the get go, much like Lady Gaga and her ‘family’ you build real connections as people feel they belong. In my case on my podcast and blog I refer to my community as freedom fighters, and use language that shows they’re part of a community that counts and cares.
Natalie Sisson is a best-selling author and founder of Suitcase Entrepreneur.
4. Help Your Visitors Without Asking for Anything in Exchange
The one thing that helped me turn visitors into fans is that I continually help them. And I do so selflessly. I never ask them for anything in exchange, I just help them because I enjoy seeing other people succeed.
If you help your visitors without asking for anything in exchange, you will convert them into fans.
5. Make Everyone a VIP
Karl wants to use the word “fans.” I’ll tell you a secret. Fans are still on the outside. To me, the real gold is in making everyone feel like a VIP. How? Let’s be clear. Business is about belonging. That warm handshake, the eye contact, remembering someone’s name – that’s the gold standard.
It’s not that difficult. For instance, software wise, remember the user’s information and purchase history. Amazon knows an embarrassing amount about me. In email, use the first name field, and make the reply go to a human not firstname.lastname@example.org .
Give people your attention and your response. That’s what makes everyone the VIP they deserve to be. Once you get behind the velvet rope, you’ll never want to be anywhere else. I promise. It’s the best feeling to be that person, and it’s the best feeling to offer that experience.
6. Tell Your Truth
Gosh, I wish I knew. Who and why they resonate with my work is a mystery to me. Something about how I tell my truth is my best guess. I have worked to be less of a victim in telling my truth, to own what I experience and know with more pride, to stand in it and proclaim it cleanly and boldly. That might be part of the visitor to fan magic.
7. Give a Damn
I could say it’s my tell-it-like-it-is style. I could say it’s my focus on helping people improve their businesses (and their lives). I could say it’s my bold tone or sharp wit… but that’s not the ONE constant that built my fan base.
It’s that I give a damn.
I care about people, no matter where they are on the success ladder. I’m interested in helping them, and I’ve always genuinely wanted to do what I can to help make their day, their business, their life, a little bit better than it was before, without asking anything in return.
It’s how I’d want to be treated, after all!
8. Be Vulnerable and Share Often
Can I give two answers?
The first big decision was to increase my vulnerability. I struggle with the same things as my readers and when I decided to be honest and open about those struggles, people started connecting with me on a whole new level.
Instead of acting like I have it all together and never make mistakes, I shared the behind-the-scenes mess and people trust me more now than ever.
The second decision was increasing the amount of communication with my audience. When you signup for my email list, you get a series of 10 emails sent to you over the course of the first month. I also email at least once a week with new content.
The more your fans hear from you, the more connected they’re going to be to your journey. Don’t worry about the people that get annoyed that you send too much email — they don’t care enough to read it anyway. Focus on creating long-lasting connections with fans that can’t get enough of what you produce.
Those are the two things that changed everything for me over the last year — be vulnerable and share often.
Tim Grahl helps best-selling author’s take their online presense to the next level over at Out:think Group.
9. Reveal Your Fears
Honesty. And more specifically: giving equal weight to my challenges alongside the “expert” style posts. I love sharing innovative ideas to improve people’s lives, so in the beginning it was easy for me to default to (and hide behind) lists and templates. However, over time I’ve found that although it can feel counterintuitive in the moment, sharing my own struggles only deepens readers’ trust and my connection to my audience. As my good friend Derek Shanahan once told me, “People respect perfection, but they fall in love with imperfection.”
When I first started blogging six years ago, I hid behind the comfort of sharing other people’s ideas, tips, books, and strategies for living. Things felt safer that way. If I didn’t have an opinion, people wouldn’t judge me or shoot me down. I was afraid that I hadn’t yet earned the right to be publishing my thoughts, so I hid behind advice posts without opening up to my most vulnerable thoughts and experiences. But slowly, one by one, I started to reveal more and let people in behind the scenes during the process of writing my book, finding and agent and a publisher.
I got better at revealing my fears, my wins and my failures in real-time. At first I thought for sure people would start pointing fingers, revealing me to be the insecure fraud they thought I was all along—but instead of unsubscribing in droves, it just brought people closer and encouraged them to share my content with friends.
Each time I felt nervous to hit “publish,” sure that THIS post would be the one to break my blog, people would email, tweet, and tell me I had somehow changed their day—even their life. To truly be of service is to be vulnerable. I’ve learned that the way to help someone reading feel less alone in their own hero’s journey is to reveal all the bumps and twists of my own.
Jenny Blake is a bestselling author and business coach.
10. Own Up to Your Mistakes
I’m not sure there’s one *change* that I made to turn visitors into fans. I haven’t really changed my method from the start. I’ve always just been myself. That said, I think there are a few things I do that attract readers.
First, I tell stories. I don’t just regurgitate the same old personal-finance advice. I frame the lessons in terms of stories, both from my own life and the lives of others. This helps readers identify more strongly with the information.
Second, I engage the readers. I ask them questions. I let them ask *me* questions. I share their questions with my audience, so that we’re able to draw upon our collective knowledge and experience.
Along the same lines, I share reader stories — both of successes and failures. Again, people relate to story, and they learn from anecdotes better than from dry advice presented in a vacuum.
Finally, I’m willing to admit when I make mistakes. I’m human. I don’t have all the answers, and I do dumb things sometimes. I own up to these mistakes, and I think that makes me more relatable.
J.D. Roth is the Founder of Get Rich Slowly.
11. Create Content that You Think Your Audience Will Enjoy and Find Valuable
In my personal experience, a blend of value and personality is what makes visitors connect with me and stay in the community. I don’t really think of people as fans, more like an audience that I’m there to help. My readers are a mix of people who want to become copywriters, and business owners who want to use copywriting in their business. Because most of my client work is focused on training time-poor employees how to write better copy I need to be make the principles easy-to-understand and easy-to-apply.
So one approach that makes my site quite different is that I break down copywriting techniques and find a simple way for people to understand and use them quickly. I create a lot of templates, checklists and tools that people can use to improve their writing pretty much straight away. I guess that’s the value side and with my online video series AmyTV that I launched last year I injected more of the light side of my personality into my content. The videos are a humorous take on copywriting and content marketing and they’re working well to further engage my audience as well as attract more clients.
Ultimately, I think it’s just continuing to create content that I think my audience will enjoy and find valuable.
12. Be You All the Time
The big decision I made that prompted the biggest change in the way I built an audience and then converted that audience into customers was simply being me, all the time.
Before I made the conscious decision to focus on building my brand and turning the brand of me into the business of me, I used to hide behind ‘quiet’ language and tone. And everyone that knows me knows that I am far from ‘quiet’!!!
Being me all the time, focusing on my brand, allowed me to instantly connect with my visitors and subscribers in a natural way, which in turn took everything I did (and continue to do), to the next level.
I like to think it all boils down to one word.
If they feel like you truly care about their situation, from your words, video, responses etc., then they will be more likely to like you back. It’s super simple, but go to your site and see if you FEEL that at the very start of reading.
Jaime Tardy is and author and founder of Eventual Millionaire.
14. Take Small Actions Every Day
What do you think was the one change you made that helped you turn visitors into fans?
It’s tempting to try to reduce a whole process like getting new fans into one defining action or approach… I’ve found that it’s a multitude of things that have made me successful in this endeavor.
Taking small actions every day that add up over time, being consistent in putting out great content and asking people to join my email list. It really does add up, and the longer you are in business the more momentum this takes on.
But beyond the “step by step” stuff that I cover in my free 30 Day List Building Challenge, this is the one thing that has helped keep things in perspective as I focused on increasing my business metrics and fans:
Remember, each new subscriber is an incredible human being with their own hopes, dreams, and fears. Keep that in mind as you pursue the more abstract goal of list building, and you’ll be well on your way to building a great relationship with each new fan.
And that’s why I think that being grateful for each fan will help you attract new ones, because what you focus on expands. It’s only when you focus on your “lack” of fans that you get stuck there.
15. Build a Sense of Community
I’ve written content for years at Productive Flourishing, but the last year has hands-down been the best for converting visitors to fans. What changed? Two things:
1) We killed our newsletter so that there’s only one conversation happening at Productive Flourishing.
2) We focused on what we now call Creative Giants.
While one would have made us more successful at converting visitors to fans, I think we’ve benefited greatly from the synergy of the two. What doing both means is that we can speak more directly and exclusively about what our Creative Giants are going through and having one conversation has made it such that I feel like we’re all learning and growing together, which in turn ties the community together. We know who we are, we know what we do, and we know what we talk about.
Visitors stay because of content; fans stay because of community. So do the best you can to think about how your content builds a sense of community than how it gets you clicks.
Charlie Gilkey is an author and founder of Productive Flourishing.
16. The Importance of a Good Story
The most important part of our community is the story around our mission. The story of our brand. The story of WHY we exist.
Taglines, logos, messaging are all lovely and unfortunate necessities, but if you do not have a story you can tell your community members, who in turn can tell others about the story and how they I identify with it, then you will have a hard time building something with any semblance of being a community.
Any Hayes is an author and founder of Plum Deluxe.
17. Give People Something to Root For
The one change I made to help turn visitors into fans was giving them someone to root for: the unpolished, non-posturing and completely “human” human being behind the computer. Me.
After a good year or two of hesitating to even show my face on my blog, I started to share my picture throughout. I looked at the camera deliberately to make “eye contact” with visitors through the computer screen. That makes a genuine difference in offering some form of connection to visitors. And, after only dancing around telling my deepest experiences, most important stories and devout personal beliefs, I started to finally share them, and I owned them. This gave visitors real context for who’s words they were reading. They got to see more of who I was as a human being. It gave other human beings a chance to understand another human being.
When I say that I gave visitors someone to root for, I mean that I finally pulled back the curtain of trying to be “someone” who was anything different than who I already was. Not an “expert” or a “guru” or a “source” or “brand” or “authority.” I revealed the imperfect, raw and completely “human” human being behind the computer, and strangers who visited my blog became friends. People gravitate to that. It’s how we’re hard-wired.
By revealing your true self–your incomplete self, your imperfect self, your honest and real self–you give people someone to root for. Sharing yourself and your stories is how we connect, empathize, relate to and understand one another. What you’ll discover is that by giving visitors a human being to root for, they’re actually rooting for themselves. They see themselves in you. It makes them feel understood, less alone, and a part of something bigger than themselves.
Dave Ursillo is an author, yoga instructor and teacher.
18. Show Your Readers that You Care About Their Opinions and Problems
When I took over as editor of DailyBlogTips in September 2013, I ran a survey of our readers. Of course, Daniel (owner of the blog) already had a very loyal following, but this helped me come up with new post ideas, plan our paid courses, and produce content that’s tailored toward the experience level of most of our audience.
In fact, surveying readers has to be one of my favourite things to do. It’s really illuminating (trust me, there will ALWAYS be surprises!) and it’s also a way to demonstrate to your readers that you care about their opinions and problems.
19. Invite Your Community to Share Ideas
The turning point for me was the realization that rather than pontificate to a bunch of readers, I was inviting my community to share ideas. It was a discussion instead of a “my way or the highway” blog post. I treat the people who read my stuff as they should be treated – as peers whom I respect.
Deborah Ng founder of Freelance Writing Jobs and Social Media Marketing for Dummies
20. Understand Who Will Use What You Create
As a developer, I’ve written thousands of lines of code for tools and features that seemed seemed awesome to me but ultimately went completely unused by people in general – for a long time, that was simply the norm for my work.
Spending money, time and effort on a project that ends in crickets chirping is one of the most gut-wrenching parts of entrepreneurship (or creativity of any kind) so I found myself thinking a lot about why what I was building wasn’t being used.
What changed everything for me is something that anyone serving an audience can apply with great results:
You see, for a long time I was just making what I thought was cool or what would be fun to build. And, hey, that’s fine if you’re enjoying it.
But, if you want to turn visitors into fans then what you need to be doing is thinking about them – living and breathing the person on the other end who’s going to be using what you create.
When developing a new product, book, conference – anything – we’re constantly looking at our work with different lenses as we go.
Some lenses might be:
“Will this be fun to work on or a pain in the ass?”
“Will anyone pay for this?”
“Has anyone done this before?”
“What will my friends think of this?”
The lens I was missing for too long was:
“Why would someone use this?”
That question is so powerful.
Why would someone read your book? Why would they attend your conference? Why would they buy your software? What is happening to them and around them that drives them to what you’ve created?d
A lot changed for me when I started looking at my work through the lens of the person on the other end.
I started creating things people wanted and even more than that, I was able to communicate it so they knew that what I was creating was for them.
What are you working on right now?
Have you thought about who’s really going to be using it and why?
Nicky Hajal is the founder of the WordPress App Pippity and a developer.
21. Write the Way You Speak
I think the main factor was being “me”. People have many choices of websites to read, many on the same or similar topics, and an alternative is one click away. So, given the choice, people would prefer to deal with people they feel some kind of connection.
It’s the “know, like and trust” thing. I feel like “know” is superficially the easiest part, given the tools at our disposal, and especially if you have a budget, but being aware of you, or getting attention is not the same as really getting to know you. Just because they are aware of you does not mean that they trust you yet, and getting people to like you is setting the bar even higher.
In the programming space I started out in, I was very social on the email lists and discussion boards. I was answering questions, and some of my answers I repeated often enough, or required enough detail, that I wrote up articles. At first I thought I had to match the voice of the major sites at the time, but I realised that was not me, and it certainly wasn’t going to help me stand out.
What I changed was I left the “teacher” voice and wrote more like how I speak in person. I used personal anecdotes. Most of all I tell people where I fail, what I am not good at, what makes me scared. I’m actually really sensitive, overly-so, but I listened to people I respect when they say you can’t connect with everyone. Christine Kane said at SOBCon one year “some will, some won’t, so what?” and I try to keep that in mind.
When people realise you are a person, and a person with something valuable that can help, that is the first step to getting a fan.
Chris Garrett is a best-selling author and blogger.
22. Consistent Caring is What Builds Heart-Relationships
As in most things that really matter, if you try to do the thing, you are already a little disconnected from the reality of what you’re trying to do.
Assuming you have expertise, and you care, and you can express yourself, you will hopefully gain readers. Those readers turn into people who care about what you say, and are willing to share it with others, when they see you consistently showing up with care, compassion and expertise.
The consistency of the caring is what build heart-relationships, and that’s a big piece of what creates fans. At least in our case. You have to care. The other things are important- expertise and an ability to express yourself well. But without the caring, it’s a shell, and others can sense that.
Mark Silver is an author and founder of Heart of Business.
23. Be Vulnerable
Telling the truth about how hard it is to be an entrepreneur, how scary it is to share the message in your heart with the big wide world, how terrifying it is to live a wild crazy meaningful life. Being vulnerable can feel like the wrong thing to do – it can feel like you’re sacrificing your authority instead of building it. But you know what? The internet (and the outernet, too) is filled with people all puffing themselves up and trying to impress others. Your advantage is your authenticity. Your advantage is your heart. Let it shine through. By sharing a glimpse into your own struggle, you help your readers know that they’re not alone, and that you’re a real person who cares.
The difference between a visitor and a fan is connection – and the only way to create a true connection is to put your heart into your business.
Pace Smith is an author and blogger.
24. Splash Your Brand’s Personality All Over Your Site
At Solamar, we’ve built our reputation on getting stuff done. Early on, we decided to place our focus on our clients’ needs, rather than emphasizing a narrow set of expertise. We’ve become good at what we do because we do it; and if we don’t know how to do something, we find a resource that can get it done.
I have to say this approach grew from my experience, and it’s truly an extension of who I am. We work primarily with small businesses and solo-entrepreneurs — people who are operating at high speed with lots of moving parts, who don’t necessarily have time to sit down, figure everything out, and hire a bunch of individual service providers to meet a wide range of needs.
So I started saying, “Just hand it over to us, and we’ll get it done. No worries!”
Once I realized this get-it-done approach set us apart in a marketplace of niched service providers, I
began to infuse it into our brand and web presence by simply stating: “Whatever you need, we get it done,” and emphasizing “unlimited possibilities.”
Then we backed up our claims by delivering excellent customer service that resulted in testimonials from happy clients, who rave about how our team eased their concerns and took uncertainty off the table.
These clients handed over their visual branding, web development, product launches, customer support, and so much more to us, and we handled it.
Reading glowing reviews and viewing our portfolio piqued the interest of visitors, because all potential clients looking for help really want is to feel confident that we can do the work. They want to see evidence to reassure them that hiring us would be good for their business. This helped us turn visitors into fans.
I want to share one more change that set us apart, and that was the choice to splash our brand’s personality all over the site. We take our work very seriously, but we’ve built a fun and casual company culture at Solamar. That’s incredibly important to me, and I want it to show. So we include vibrant photos of the team and office and entertaining videos that introduce viewers to our easy-going, fun-loving group.
Visitors can see that we’re inspired every day to rock out amazing work that lets us keep doing what we’re doing. We can’t do that without creating fans!
Chelsea Berler is an author and founder of Solamar
25. Focus on Deepening Connections
When I first started my business I focused on making products and services that people would want to buy. This worked relatively well, but there was a missing piece. I was grinding away for sales instead of letting the process naturally happen.
I remember a few years ago I was chatting with a client and before we even got through the pleasantries I asked them what they thought of the proposal. As I blurted out the words I hung my head. I knew I blew it.
When I stopped making the sale my main goal and focused on deepening connections that’s when people sought out my products and services.
The change was a small and yet very BIG. I turned my focus toward building real connections with people because it was more fun. I became more of the real me instead of who I thought my clients/customers wanted me to be.
I always start with generating excitement then I focus on earning their trust. It’s this process that tips people from visitors into fans.
When people feel that they will get the better end of the bargain, which I always strive for, then the decision to work with me becomes easy for them.
If you enjoyed this article then I suggest you sign-up for updates so you can learn more about how to connect with your ideal people and turn them into fans.
What has helped you convert visitors into fans? (Please leave a comment and let us help each other. Pretty please with a cherry on top, as my son likes to say. Some polite begging never hurt anyone.)