build a community of superfans

How to Build a Community of Superfans with Pat Flynn

How to Build a Community of Superfans with Pat Flynn

Pat Flynn is back, and in this episode, he is talking about why it’s important to build superfans in your business.

In his new book, Superfans, he’s talking about why your business isn’t built on subscribers, followers, or likes. It’s built on Superfans and Pat is going to teach us how to get superfans so your business thrives.

This episode is for you if you’re a solopreneur or you run a Fortune 500 company.

And yes, we talk about that Instagrammer who has 2 million followers, but couldn’t sell 35 shirts to her following as well as what NOT to do and what you should be doing to get superfans in your business.

Some resources mentioned in this episode:

Please subscribe to this podcast and leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

For more on the episode, click here to download it and listen!

Superfans by Pat Flynn

Pat, you are back again. This is your second time on my podcast.

I’m back again. I must’ve done something right the first time I had to come back on. But I’m, I’m thankful to be here.

Well, you did teach me everything I know about podcasting, so I guess if I am going to have somebody on twice, it should be you.

Get the Audio Version of Superfans for Free

Thank you. And I’m super excited about what we’re going to talk about today, which is building super fans and that just so happens to be the title of your new book, which I have already pre-ordered and you just told me that I can actually get the audio version for free if I submit my receipt to

Yes. If you pre-order before August 13th, whether it’s on Amazon, Target or Barnes and Noble, submit your receipt at before August 13th and during that week I’ll give you the audiobook for free.

I love that. Okay. So we can buy it in a couple of places.

I remember when I bought Will It Fly, I went into Barnes and Noble and I asked for it because you were doing some kind of experiment where we could see if we could get it in the stores by people actually going into Barnes and Noble. So how do people buy it at Target and Barnes and Noble?

The Self Publishing of Superfans

Just online right now and it should be available at the stores we’re working with. So, this is self-published again, just like Will It Fly but Will It Fly was published through Amazon’s Create Space, which is a, they’ve sort of combined companies now, but those are like print on demand books that you can kind of publish. And when people order them, Amazon prints them and ships them.

It wasn’t really able to get into stores, so we experimented back in 2016 with what would happen if we just had everybody go to Barnes and Noble one day and ask for it. It ended up on the shelves which was pretty interesting, but this time we don’t need to do any fun experiments like that because I’m working with a company called New Type of Publishing, which has connections to the buyers at those stores, so it’ll actually be at Target, Barnes and Nobel, and even in a few airports too, even though it’s still self-published which is really incredible and I’m excited for that.

free PR course

We’ll see what happens. It’s a little bit different because I have to, this time, instead of print on demand, I have to sort of guess how many to print beforehand and invest a little bit of money up front and then it will get shipped to Amazon and everybody else who orders it as pre-order and as it comes out. So it’s different, but it’s fun and exciting. I like just, I love trying new things.

Yeah. And I love that you take us all along for the ride when you’re trying new things.

So, we can just preorder everything and let’s give Pat a good idea of how many to order because we already preordered everything. Okay?

All right, so 100,000 from Christina’s audience. (Haha, Pat.)

Why Pat Flynn Wrote Superfans

So tell me why you wrote this book. Your last two books were amazing. You are just celebrating being let go, hence Let Go.

That was my first book. Yes. So that was a, it’s sort of a double meaning – let go like I was let go from my architecture job, which is what turned me on to entrepreneurship. But let go because letting go of who I thought I was supposed to be.

It was really the answer to how that all happened. And then my next book Will It Fly came out, which was my first sort of like business book if you will. And that did really well, became a Wall Street Journal bestseller, and then this time it’s Superfans.

Why Your Business Needs Super Fans

I’m really excited about because I think a lot of stars are aligning right now to have it come out at the perfect time, for not just me, but for everybody else because we’re in a time now where you know when you’re trying to reach people, social media is sort of getting kind of wonky. Algorithms are getting in the way. Search engine optimization is getting difficult and you know, even though people have subscribed to follow us or have subscribed to our email list, not everybody is seeing everything that we come out with.

However, when you have super fans, they’re going to make sure they capture everything that you come out with. They’re going to buy every single product. They’re going to market for you without you even asking. They’re going to talk about you and your product and your, your mission, your creative, whatever it is that you do to everybody they know because they just feel like they’re a part of it with you.

And that is what I want businesses to build for us, for super fans, because as much as we are focused on Facebook ads, SEO targeting, and all this stuff to bring new people in, it’s kind of a waste because what happens when people get to our brand or discover our product, it’s like, well then we’re losing the opportunity to take them on this journey to become somebody who could be our ambassador, who could market for us and without us even having to pay them.

How Pat Flynn Learned About the Importance of Super Fans

It’s something that has happened in my business. So really this stems from a couple of things, so it starts with really when I became an entrepreneur. I remember, back in the day, I was an architect.

I got laid off in 2008 and then I started a business helping people pass an architectural exam. It was around that time that I discovered this article by a man named Kevin Kelly called “a thousand true fans” and it really inspired me because the real thesis behind that article was, you know, just imagine you had a thousand true fans, super fans, who do all those things that they love about you and you know, they support you.

If you’re a musician, they’ll travel eight hours to listen to one of your songs. If you’re a product designer, they’ll have a collection of all your stuff like that.

Those are super fans.

If you have just a thousand of them and they’re each paying you $100 a year, which is less than $10 a month, I mean, some of us spend over a hundred dollars a month on things we don’t even use, right? So it’s on the low end. That’s $100,000, right?

Christina Nicholson on YouTube

There are a thousand, times a hundred, and it really puts into perspective for the entrepreneur, for the artists, for the creative, the musician, that you don’t need a blockbuster hit in order to have a massively successful business, and have something that could support your life. You just need some true, super fans.

And when you want to put that into more perspective, a thousand fans is a fan of day for less than three years. And if you only worked on that in a relatively short period of time, you could have something amazing.

Maybe, in the beginning, it’s one fan a day, but then it becomes two fans a day and those fans bring new fans in and et cetera… because you know it’s going to happen sooner than you know it.

When Pat Flynn Started Building Super Fans

Then right around that time I was starting my business to help people pass an architectural exam, very dry. This exam called the LEED exam that most people don’t know about. And I remember when I started that business, it became pretty successful.

I remember getting an email from a woman named Jackie and in this email, she was expressing how it took her over a year to study for this exam. But after downloading my guide, it only took her a couple of weeks to pass because I just made everything so simple for her.

And she’s like, “Can I take you out to dinner? Like, I owe you so much, you helped me get a promotion. I can take my family to Disneyland now. This is amazing. I’m a fan of yours. I’m a true fan.”

And I was like, how are you a fan of me? I just helped. I just was the author of this study guide about this really dry exam. Like, how are you a fan of me?

But what ended up happening was months later, I checked in my customer list and I saw that there were like 35 people from her from that also bought my guide. And I was like, what happened here?

So we started talking and I found out that she had convinced her boss and all of her coworkers to buy my guide. Like, she could have just shared her version with everybody. But she was so thankful for me helping her.

She became a super fan and was rallying for me and got, you know, 35 more customers from just one person.

If we just had like a thousand Jackie’s imagine what you could do with your mission, your message, your business, whatever. And it just really inspired me from that day forward to focus on the super fan journey.

How to Build Super Fans

So the moment people find you, there’s a responsibility that you have if you want to create super fans to take them from that initial moment, triggering them into your business, but then working on that experience that they have for you over time. Because the truth is, a person doesn’t become a fan of yours the moment they find you.

You’re never the fan of a band the first time you hear a song from them, right? But you are activated perhaps by the lyrics that they describe, or by the style of the music, or just kind of the song itself, or whatever. And then you kind of go deeper and then there are many, many, many more moments over time that turn you into a super fan.

It’s when you buy the album and then you play that one song on repeat, and then you see them on TV, and then you see their first concert, and then you get the VIP tickets to go backstage, and then all of a sudden you have this giant bin in your closet of all the bobbleheads and action figures and framed photos of the entire band.

And this is exactly what happened with my wife, April, who was a super fan of the Backstreet Boys. She was sort of telling me a bunch of her experiences with the Backstreet Boys, for example, and it just definitely wasn’t a sort of one time – now I’m a fan thing. It was just like so many moments over years that turned her into a super fan and this is how we become super fans of sports teams and actresses and actors and musicians and movies and brands. It’s the experiences.

What the Book SuperFans Teaches You

That’s what this book teaches you – that the thousand true fans by Kevin Kelly is the sort of the super fans is the how. And it takes you from the moment people find you to, a number of strategies that you can use in sort of pick and choose – sort of like a recipe book, if you will, to determine your special way of creating those fan moments for your brand and bringing them into the community and helping them become evangelists for your message and what you do.

I feel like this is something that people are just catching on to. Like, there’s a lot of people who still haven’t caught onto it because people are putting so much emphasis on things like followers, which is something you have on the cover of your book that’s scratched out.

Why do you think it is – either taking people so long to understand that the importance of what they do isn’t in their number of followers or maybe they do understand it, but they are not acting or running their business in a way to build super fans because they still are focusing on things like vanity metrics, like followers for example.

It’s our own fault. We’re the ones, the marketers, the people who, who created Facebook, the people who created Instagram, they know what triggers people and it’s numbers. It’s vanity metrics. It’s likes, it’s hearts.

It’s all those things which really goes into these sort of dark parts of the Internet and how certain companies that we use every day have purposefully designed it in a way for us to kind of get obsessed with it… and it’s our own fault for making this exactly what people want.

Numbers are easy, right? Numbers or things that can grow and they make you feel good when the next day you wake up and it’s bigger or you doubled in size. That’s really cool, and I’m not saying followers aren’t important. It’s important to collect your email subscribers. It’s important to have Twitter followers or Instagram followers, your platform of choice. And it’s because it’s good to continue to grow that because that’s how you connect.

But if you are doing it just to grow and you’re forgetting about, well, what happens when people are experiencing your brand? I mean, those numbers mean nothing to the individual. They mean nothing to the subscriber. Like, who cares? What really matters is, are you actually providing them a service? Are you actually helping them in some way?

And it all starts with those sort of initial trigger moments to help people go, “oh, like I actually belong here. I should dive deeper and I should go a little bit further into this person’s sort of library of stuff”.

Why Start Small When Building Super Fans

It’s just who we are as humans and I think that we’re starting to see just how the numbers don’t matter. I mean, there’s a number of different people out there with millions of subscribers who aren’t making a dime.

And it really doesn’t really matter if they aren’t making a connection with their audience and that’s where I think a lot of people who are starting their businesses can actually take advantage because you don’t have millions of people you have to pay attention to.

You just have a few people and you should get to know who they are, what they need help with, how they talk about their problems, what you can do to solve them and like who, what are their names and that’s your advantage. You have the ability to make those connections that bigger brands aren’t able to commit to making and that’s going to help you create those super fans even sooner and quicker.

The Instagrammer with 2 Million Followers Who Couldn’t Sell to Her Audience

And I think a great example of this is recently an Instagrammer actually put herself on blast on her own Instagram and this is what went viral. She has 2 million followers on Instagram. She had to sell 36 or 37 shirts. I don’t know why that number, I don’t know if she was launching something or if it was some kind of partnership, but she couldn’t sell 36 or 37 shirts to her, 2 million followers.

So when you heard that, coming from your perspective, just launching this book Superfans, what was your reaction? Were you like, “thank you, this is great timing”.

It was good timing. If the book was already in print, I would have totally used that example in the book because that’s what happens when we get so jaded by the numbers and followers does not equal dollars. F

Followers do not equal customers. Followers don’t equal fans. They’re completely different.

I would bet that there’s an Instagrammer are out there with 36 followers who could sell a shirt to each one of their followers because they’re that connected, and it might be in a small niche, but they got the people that need them to be there and that’s so key.

So it’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality of the people. And plus, that shirt was just like a plain white shirt, right? Like why would people buy that, number one?

Number two, if you do have a group of followers, you have to understand – what do they want? You can’t just kind of go, “hey followers, I created this thing. Buy it now”. No.

It starts with my book, Will It Fly? which is, “hey followers, tell me what you need. What’s going on in your life? What do you need help with? I’m going to do what I can to find something that’s going to actually make sense for you”.

I don’t know what her business was or what her Instagram was about, but I would imagine that if she does just did a little bit of research on the things that resonated with her followers, they would be a group of people who perhaps would benefit from a shirt with perhaps a saying that was maybe something she said all the time that people really enjoyed it and connected with because it made them feel something and made them feel like a part of something versus, “hey, goes by my torn white shirt” and then feeling sad about it.

The Kardashian Culture… and Why it Works

Maybe she was going for the Kanye West Kim Kardashian thing now where they can sell that stuff like that. I swear, I look at some of their stuff and they look like homeless people with some of these outfits, but because it’s them, and they are actually true influencers, they can sell it like that.

Right, they’ve created a culture behind that. And that’s one of the important things when it comes to your business, especially after you have a community, the sort of culture that you have within and sort of what things mean – where to the outsider might look ridiculous, but to the insider it’s everything, right?

And that’s what you can build in your business too. But it doesn’t start there. It starts with sort of those initial moments.

What to do and What NOT to do While Building Super Fans

So what not to do is to build an Instagram following up 2 million and then just sell random things.

1. Don’t guess what your audience wants.

You don’t want to guess what your audience needs help with. You need to know what that is. You need to know who they are and you want to have, you want to have conversations with them. Those are the things you do want to do.

And going back to the sort of example of the Backstreet Boys with April, I was asking her about the first time she remembered hearing that their song and really paying attention to it. And she brought me back to when she was 15 she had a breakup and it was in a room blasting the radio. And a song came on that she had heard many times before, but she paid attention to it a little bit more closely this time because every lyric in the song was describing what she was going through at that moment with her breakup.

And it was because of that, she was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Like they get me’ and you want to have that like, ‘oh my gosh, they get me’ moment with your audience. That’s, that’s what I call like learning the lyrics of your audience.

2. Speak your audience’s language

So what are your lyrics? What are the topics that your audience wants to know about and what are the lyrics that they would resonate with?

That’s why paying attention to the language that they use is so important and if you can get that right, they’re going to automatically assume that you’re the right person to go to.

I mean, that’s very close to a quote from a guy named Jay Abraham who said, “if you can define the problem better than your target customer, they’re going to automatically assume you have the solution”.

3. Give your audience a small win for free

If you’re in the fitness space, for example, it’s very difficult to convince a person to go, “hey, like follow my lead and I’m going to help you lose 50 pounds in three weeks”.

First of all, that’s kind of unhealthy in that regard. That’s a big ask and I think for people who are finding you for the first time, when you can promise these giant things, it’s almost kinda really like, I don’t even know you yet. Why would I take that chance? Why would I spend this money? Why would I devote my time and energy to you before I even know you?

This takes me to a lot of strategies that kind of are influenced by my video game experiences, which are about the small, quick wins. If you play any good video game that you get addicted to, go back to the first level. You’ll see how quickly some mechanisms in there get you hooked, right?

It’s because of that first few, those few moments, you’re giving a little bit of a reward. And so in your business and your brand, can you in some way, shape, or form – the moment people find you – offer them something that they hadn’t had before or given them something that they could take home with them within the first 10 minutes?

If you can do that, you’ve got them. They’re activated now, they’re going to subscribe now, and they’re going to follow you. Now they know and now they’re going to keep coming back for more. And that’s when you can get into the bigger things. So as much as you want to maybe change somebody’s life, you want to start by changing their day first.

A good example of this is when I followed a bunch of personal finance blogs. This was before I became an entrepreneur when I was back in architecture. I used to follow a ton of personal finance blogs and it was one in particular like I was sort of iffy with because it had a funny name. It was, “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi, who’s a good friend of mine now.

Back then I was like, “oh, this guy sounds a little crazy”. But then I read an article of his. It was titled like, ‘read this script to your cable company and save 20% off your cable bill in 15 minutes’. And I was like, really? Okay, I got 15 minutes. I’ll give this a shot. So I opened the post, he has this script for you that you can literally call your cable company and read off. And then I was able to save in 10 minutes, 25% of my cable bill.

I got that win. And then I calculated it out. I was like, ‘oh my gosh, over a year it’s like this much money. Ramit, you’re, you’re a genius. Like, thank you’.

And then I just like literally spend all my time on his site because he gave me that quick win. Whereas everybody else was like, ‘all right guys, invest for 40 years and then retire at 65 you’re going to have millions of dollars, but you got to wait until you’re 65 to get these results’. Ramit gave me that result in 15 minutes. And that’s something that more brands should be doing to.

There is no Shortcut to Getting Super Fans

I think some of the strategies that I mentioned earlier are kind of just one time tasks that you need to figure out and then you can automate perhaps after that point. But again, we’re not at super fan status yet after that.

After they’re on your list, after they’re your follower, then you have to make them feel like they belong to a community. And that’s the hardest part because it takes some time, some people management, and it takes understanding those experiences.

And again, the book goes over all of that because the truth is you can be on a basketball court, but you could still never be passed the ball. You could still never shoot the ball. You’re not going to have a good time. Even if you’re in front, if your friends invite you to come to play with you, unless they pass you the ball, you’re just kind of there doing nothing.

And I think a lot of us treat our subscribers like people who are on the court with us, but we never give them a chance to play or get involved or feel like they’re a part of the team. And that’s what my later chapters in the book go into is how to make those people who are in your brand now feel like they’re a part of something.

And there’s a lot of great brands that do some really amazing things, like Lego for example. They really encourage user-generated content. Meaning, if you look up Lego on YouTube, you’re going to find 12 million videos of people using Lego and like featuring it and little movies they make and they reward that. They love that. And that’s cool.

And there’s a lot of other brands who don’t want that because they’re like, ‘oh, they’re using our intellectual property for their benefit’, but Lego knows better. It’s their own fans who are creating this and are spreading the word for them.

Highlight your Audience

There are so many things you can do at the community level. One of my favorite things to do that I think is a great takeaway that a lot of people could do and should do. And it’s one of my favorite things to do is to highlight my students on my platforms – bringing members of the community on and highlighting them and rewarding them, showing them off to everybody else.

It makes everybody else feel great. And you know, I’ve done that with certain episodes, inviting people who are my podcasting students on my podcast to talk about their journey. Not like ask them questions like, ‘Oh, tell me why my course was great’, but more about their story and their journey.

Of course, naturally, my course becomes a part of that and then it becomes this very authentic testimonial that rallies everybody who goes, ‘oh my gosh, I guess I could do it too’. And it rallies everybody.

It’s those personal experiences that people have.

Then at the top level, and this is where people who are all about automation fail because it’s those unexpected one on one interactions that, that get people excited and to get people to remember you.

Like if you go to bed with your spouse every night and you say, ‘I love you’ every single night, right? It just becomes usual. It becomes routine. It doesn’t become special anymore, even though it’s still is special, but it’s not something to talk about or remember, right?

You go to her office at 3:48 PM on a Tuesday with a flower. Just say, ‘I love you, honey because you’re awesome’. Why’d you give me this? No reason.


That’s the thing that gets remembered. Those are the small things in the relationships that matter. That’s what gets talked about. That will get shared on Instagram. That’s what the other people in the office go, ‘oh my gosh, I wish my husband did that’. You know, those are the things that people remember.

It’s those small things. You don’t have to buy a whole bunch of expensive things to impress people. It just takes a little bit of time and care and we all have the opportunity to give that to our audiences, to our customers.

You have your customer list. Why aren’t you sending videos to them once a month or even once every quarter to just say thank you? Nobody’s doing that, although we have all the tools to do that.

You can just send a video through Instagram right now to somebody and make them feel special and then you’re going to get those people to talk about you screenshot and share it with their friends or the next time in a conversation somebody goes, ‘hey, where do I get one of those?’ you’re going to be the name that pops up.

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