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Marketing to the Smallest Viable Audience

If you are a marketer, you’re in the business of making things happen.

Whether you’re trying to get people to vote or buy your environmentally-friendly fertilizer, your goal is to grab attention and make people respond.

To do this well, you need to continually ask yourself, “who’s it for?” This simple question can guide the product you make, the story you tell, and where you share.


Narrowing Your Focus

If you have to choose 500 people to become your true fans, who should you choose? By selecting people based on their needs and dreams, you can group people based on psychographs instead of demographics.

For example, you might zero in on . . .

  • Bargain Bill, who’s playing a sport when he shops, while simultaneously wrestling with his internal narrative about money
  • Hurried Harry, who’s always looking for a shortcut and is rarely willing to wait in line, read directions, or weigh complex decisions
  • Paranoid Paula, who’s suspicious of the cab driver, is convinced she’s getting ripped off by the desk clerk, and would never drink out of a hotel minibar

To force your micro-focus, ask yourself questions like:

  1. What is the smallest market my business can survive on?
  2. If I could only change 30 people, who would be the ideal customers for my product or service?
  3. Who is in the greatest need of our idea?
  4. Who is most willing to pay me for the change I’m promoting?



The goal of the smallest viable audience is to find people who will understand you and will fall in love with where you hope to take them. That love leads to traction, and to attitudes and choices that become part of their identity.

And it certainly shapes the storyline you share. One template that can help craft that highly specific narrative is this:

My product is for people who believe _______________.

I will focus on people who want _____________.

I promise that engaging with what I make will help these people get _____________.

Ideas that Spread, Win

If you want to multiply your advertising impact, don’t hide behind “anyone” and “everyone.” Ruthlessly define your smallest possible audience and speak to their hopes, dreams, and needs.

Start with empathy to see a real need, and match your messaging to the worldview of the people being served. Here you will build momentum as you engage a tribe and make change a reality.

This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See

by Seth Godin

Great marketers don't use consumers to solve their company's problem; they use marketing to solve other people's problems. Their tactics rely on empathy, connection, and emotional labor instead of attention-stealing ads and spammy email funnels.

No matter what your product or service, this book will help you reframe how it's presented to the world, in order to meaningfully connect with people who want it. Seth employs his signature blend of insight, observation, and memorable examples to teach you:

  • How to build trust and permission with your target market.
  • The art of positioning--deciding not only who it's for, but who it's not for.
  • Why the best way to achieve your goals is to help others become who they want to be.
  • Why the old approaches to advertising and branding no longer work.
  • The surprising role of tension in any decision to buy (or not).
  • How marketing is at its core about the stories we tell ourselves about our social status.

You can do work that matters for people who care. This book shows you the way.