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.

Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin can transform your business model

When developing a business model, we often overlook implementing marketing tools to spread our concepts virally. Unleashing the Ideavirus, a book that I think requires a sequel, transformed the view I have of my current business model.

While there many concepts covered in the book, for the purpose of this post, only 3 significant highlights will suffice.

Loosely referencing The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell on how some ideas turn into social epidemics and others don’t. Seth takes us through the process of how companies such as Hotmail and Vindigo spread as viruses and the Toyota Prius, while an award winning vehicle, didn’t.

The second mind altering concept, though disputing all known marketing ethic, is focusing on a smaller target audience (called ‘a hive’) instead of setting out for large numbers. This makes sense if you view your client base as a community that can reach friends and recommend your product or service better than adverts and large marketing budgets ever can.

The steps below, a very short summary, are how you develop an Ideavirus.

Step By Step, Ideavirus tactics (summarized from the book)

  • Make it virusworthy – If it’s not worth talking about, no one will talk it.
  • Identify the hive.

You won’t get the full benefit of the ideavirus until you dominate your hive.

  • Expose your idea

Expose it to the right people, get them into the experience as quickly as possible and pay them if necessary. But never charge if possible.

  • Once attention has been volunteered request permission.
  • Amaze your audience.
  • Some viruses don’t forever, embrace the lifecycle of yours.

Any business model that has a viral marketing method built into it has a better chance at longevity, besides why not make it easy for your clients and customers to spread the idea? If there’s one thing I would recommend, it would be read it with an open mind and download the ebook or get the shiny collector’s version here.