Focus on the Smallest Viable Market: This Is Marketing by Seth Godin

Marketing has come a long way from the days of targeting as many people as possible and hope that some might fit the perfect customer or client demographic. In fact, Seth Godin’s latest book, This Is Marketing clearly speaks to focusing on the smallest viable market. It opens the reader up to a world of possibilities.

This Is Marketing - a book by Seth Godin
This Is Marketing – a book by Seth Godin

If you have followed Seth Godin’s thinking over the years, you realise that This Is Marketing derives a lot of its inspiration from some of his other books. He takes it leaps ahead this time. From the idea of Tribes to Unleashing the Ideavirus, Seth Godin demonstrates how marketing has evolved and continues to be about the community you seek to serve. In this book, marketers are persuaded to listen more, to create meaningful connections between their brands and the people they have identified as their customers.


Listen and see

All marketers purport to understand their customer, to have a handle on who their potential clients are and to have messaging that reaches the right people. Some brands get it wrong about their customers, about people in general and this is because most companies don’t invest enough on learning about who they are targeting.


“Marketing isn’t a race to add more features for less money. Marketing is our quest to make change on behalf of those we serve”, says Seth Godin.

He goes on to share how companies that are devoted to understanding the culture of their audiences are more likely to win than those that focus largely – and mostly – on product improvements.

The more we listen and truly see our customers, the more likely we are to communicate authentically and create a marketing message that resonates.

The Smallest Viable Market

We have long been segmenting our customers, analysing demographics and communicating with people based on these. Or least who we believe are the most relevant people. The market we choose needs to be smaller, more specific and clearly defined.

Your work is not for everyone, it shouldn’t be and the more clearly defined your audience the smaller that community is. Part of the challenge Seth talks to is the fact that marketers dilute their messaging by trying to be more inclusive, while missing out on the opportunity to connect better with the right people.


“It’s impossible to create work that both matters and pleases everyone.” – Seth Godin (This Is Marketing)

From: This Is Marketing

Invest in trust and earn enrollment

Many brands invest getting their message out there, in making promises that they fail to keep which causes damage and destroys the affinity that people had. The opposite is to build trust, to encourage connection and to create unmatched customer experience through positive action. Especially when the worst happens. 


 “The goal isn’t to maximize social media numbers. The goal is to be known to the smallest viable audience.” – Seth Godin (This Is Marketing)

Trust, Seth Godin suggests, leads to enrollment. In this case the idea of enrollment is when people lean in, when they effortlessly connect and become part of the change you are working towards.

This book signifies a shift in marketing, in how we interact and connect with people for change to happen. Whether that change is to make a sale or to increase newsletter signups, this book has a compelling message about why you should focus on a small audience and grow that community. It also comes with a unique code to join a community of peers from across the globe who are changing the status quo in marketing.

Are you listening?

When I met Lindsay – our first guest blogger – she was more than keen to share her experience as a communication specialist. This is her guest post on listening to your customers and converting potential ones.

By: Lindsay Grubb

I grew up in a home where none of us stopped talking long enough to take a breath. We were certainly not really listening to what the other person was trying to say. I doubt we’re unique in any way. There are a lot of people out there who suffer from the same quirk.

The first question I always ask my clients is, “What are you trying to say?” It is an important question whose answer is critical to the formulation of their entire communication plan. It is an answer I need to listen to very carefully, so that I know what I need to do to help them find their voice.

How well are you listening to your customers?

Do you really hear what their needs and wants are or are you making assumptions, and putting words in their mouths?

Imagine you have a shop where you sell hats, bags and jewellery, and a customer is eyeing a particular bag, but she seems unsure about taking that next step. This is the critical phase where she will potentially convert from a mere browser, to being a paying customer, and swiping her card.

You watch her as she turns the bag over in her hands; her tactile senses seem to be enjoying the experience. She opens the bag and looks inside at the compartments and plays with the zips. She closes the bag and takes one last look, before shaking her head and putting it back on the display stand and leaving the store.

You just lost a customer. How could this have been avoided? What should you – as a supplier – be listening to and looking for in communications from your clients?

Making the connection

Imagine the scenario differently now. You see the customer looking at the bag, and you approach her, smiling:

Shop owner:         “Good morning Ma’am.”

Customer:              “Hi”

Shop owner:         “I see that you’re interested in our Cleo handbag and I wondered if I could assist you. The Cleo is an excellent quality product and one of our best sellers. Did you have any questions about the bag that I could answer for you?”

Customer:             “Actually, I do like the style of the bag, I was just wondering if it came in any other colours. I like the red, but I was really looking for something just like this in green.”

Shop owner:         “Unfortunately we only received this style in red, but can I show you a bag that is very similar to the Cleo, which we have in two shades of green. Perhaps it would suit your purposes? What is it that you are looking for in a bag – is it all about colour or did you need it to fulfil more of a specific purpose for you?”

Customer:             “I have this particular outfit and I have been looking everywhere for a bag to match. I have a bag at home, it’s the right colour but it’s huge and everything tends to fall down in the middle of the bag and I cannot find things easily or quickly. I keep losing my car keys in there.”

Take action

The shop owner takes the customer to the Chloe, a bag in a very similar style to the Cleo and hands it to her. The customer picks the bag up like before, and runs her hands over the mock crocodile leather outer. She opens the bag and checks inside and smiles.

Owner:                  “The main difference between the two bags is that the Chloe has two extra zip pockets inside for all those little items like your keys, that often get lost in these carry all style bags. I hate it when I arrive home at night and spend ages looking for my house keys. I feel so vulnerable scratching around in the dark and I forget to do it before leaving for the trip home. With these compartments things are easy and quick to find. It just makes things so much neater.”

Customer:             “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I think the darker green will go better with my outfit. I have this thing about matching the colour of my bag and my outfit. All those pockets will be perfect as I can separate everything I need and will be able to find them quickly! Thank you so much, I will take it!”

It is so easy to make a difference through your interactions, to engage your customers and to really hear what they are really saying when they give you feedback.

Some quick and easy ways to learn more about your customers needs and wants:

1. Ask them what they want – Rather than making an assumption, try asking your customer what they want. If you have it, tell them. If you don’t tell them you will see if it is possible to get it and then do your best and communicate your progress with them regularly.

2. When your customer complains listen to the complaint and take action – take time to honestly assess what your customer has complained about. Don’t take it as a personal attack – use it as a learning tool going forward.

3. When your customer compliments you listen to the compliment and take action – thank them and use it as a learning experience

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About the Author

Lindsay Grubb is a passionate communicator with 15 years experience working in fields including advertising, public relations, conventional and experiential marketing.

In addition to running L Communications, Lindsay is a freelance writer who has been published in the likes of Mamas&Papas Magazine and on numerous local and international websites.

She also runs Hiccups and Giggles SA : a parenting website – for parents – by parents.

Follow her on:  Twitter for the latest updates, her parenting website and make contact here to improve your communication.

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By Lindsay Grubb