The DTC Business Framework

Smallest Viable Audience

Updated: February 13, 2019

Okay, so maybe you're believing that the niche your pick is really the type of person you're picking.

But that doesn't mean you know what you will write about.

You still need topics to write about so how do you pick those topics?

What approach do you take?

Before we dive into that we need to talk about a very important concept and that is the Smallest Viable Audience.

This term was coined by Seth Godin in his book, This Is Marketing.

The general idea is that you don't need the largest audience possible to succeed with your business. You need the smallest viable audience possible and this is something that is really hard for people to accept.

It's not that the concept is hard, it's just that the idea of pursuing the smallest viable audience is tough.

To truly understand the concept of the Smallest Viable Audience let's take a look at where the idea came from and that's Kevin Kelly's theory of 1,000 True Fans.

1,000 True Fans

When people think about running a business they usually have some profit number they want to hit. For example, let's say you're ready to start your own online business and you want to replace your current income.

What do you need to make that happen?

For you, maybe it's just $40,000 a year. This is after taxes and expenses. As an online business, how do you achieve this number?

The theory of a 1,000 True Fans is that you only need 1,000 people to truly love everything that you do. If you can achieve that number then you are set.

In the case of your $40,000 number, that means your 1,000 True Fans just have to give you $40 worth of profit apiece each year.

If you want to account for taxes and expenses then let's go crazy and say you just need 1,000 True Fans to give you $100 apiece a year.

1,000 people.

Over a year that's a little less than 3 people a day.

You don't have to do crazy numbers to have a successful business. You just need to find the right people.

This is why the Smallest Viable Audience is such an important concept to keep at the front of your mind.

Big Traffic

The reason people like to brag about their traffic numbers is that it makes people's eyes light up. In the Credentials section I showed you traffic numbers to boost my authority, but that doesn't mean I believe you need all of that traffic to succeed.

The reason why people like big traffic is:

  1. Who doesn't like big numbers?
  2. If you get enough people to your site, eventually someone is going to buy something

However, if you're pulling the right people to your site then you don't have to worry as much about the big numbers. You just worry about the right people.

Initially, that's hard to achieve because you might not have a solid grasp on the people you want to pull in.

If you go to Obstacle.co and read some of my posts you can tell the type of person I'm trying to reach. It's not just anybody that wants to make money with a blog.

If you read my emails you know the type of person I'm trying to reach. Some people absolutely HATE my emails due to the language I use and the approach I take.

I'm not trying to reach those people. If I was trying to reach those people then I would have to change things and those changes might mean I don't have as strong as an effect on the people I am reaching now.

Your smallest viable audience can't be everyone.

The people that become your True Fans are the ones that have the same worldviews as you. They admire the same people. They have the same fears.

The reason why a niche can never be saturated is because your worldview is going to differ than other people that share some of the same audience.

Your Exercise

Sit down, grab a piece of paper and write down two different numbers.

  1. The first number is how much you need to make with your business to live a sustainable life. Not one where you can buy everything that you want, but one where you also won't struggle.
  2. The second number is your so far out of reach dream number. This number makes friends and family roll their eyes at you.

Now, divide each of these numbers by 1,000 and that's how much you need to make per person.

If you did things correctly you'll notice something. The first number you might be able to achieve with just ad revenue alone.

The second number though is not achievable with ad revenue. It requires you to possibly step outside of your comfort zone and create products, services, whatever else that will get you to that number.

We'll talk about both of these approaches when we cover the Reward System.

This framework is created for the second number. In most cases, the first number can be achieved just by writing popular content and doing well on Pinterest (I just revealed the secret to 99% of the bloggers you love).

The second number is for those that want to create something greater than themselves. They don't want to create a site or blog. They want to create a brand that resonates with people.

For that to happen you need to establish your Why.