5 Ways a Minimum Viable Audience Gives You an Unfair Business Advantage

5 Ways a Minimum Viable Audience Gives You an Unfair Business Advantage

Reader Comments (27)

  1. “Serving an audience is market research”

    I hadn’t thought of it in that way before.

    Since I started my blog, I have seen different responses to different types of posts. As a result, I write more of the types of articles that (in the past) have received a strong reader response.

    Basically, the comments and social shares that my articles have garnered, have been a kind of Market Research (all be it, without my even realizing it).

    • For me it’s one of those amazing, “hidden in plain sight” ideas. It’s very powerful, it’s something that is very achievable for most businesses, but most don’t think to do it.

  2. I had to laugh when I read the “how do I get funded” question above. This seems to be coming up more and more in my circles as new players come on the scene immediately wanting to “monetize”. It is interesting how online content producers used to be scared to monetize and we had to be very cautious when we started asking for money by giving a lot away first and becoming an active participant of a community. Then as more premium sites showed up and this became more the norm, new content producers were less cautious and more quick to ask for money with little to no building of a following. This gold rush of sorts has changed the playing field dramatically with a lot of people clamoring for attention (and money) without any vested interest from the audience. I say all this mainly to reinforce Brian’s message about building the audience first. I see a great many people forgetting that step and launching right into product mode and while his point of doing research based on what they buy is valid, it still scares the BLEEP out of me without a strong presence and relationship within your customer’s community.

  3. Very insightful. I’m wondering how you reach the minimum. We have a few hundred facebook followers, but they’re mostly silent. The times we’ve asked questions, (aside from a few “likes”) the silence continues. Wondering: Is there a critical mass or certain number that must be reached? Is the silence a sign of a non-viable audience? Any insights appreciated …

    • Make sure your questions are directed towards attributes you think your audience members organically have. In other words, don’t ask them how they see your business or offerings. Ask them what they like to eat, or what sorts of cars they drive, or about their school or work lives. Their answers will help you to get a better picture of what they are like, which in turn will help you to make better products and services for them.

  4. Great post. It’s been evernoted for future reference 🙂

    The relationship between a blogger and his audience is quite symbiotic, isn’t it?

    The better you serve them, the better they serve you.

    Give them what they want, and they give you feedback. They help you grow. And eventually they let you know what you can sell to them.

    I think a lot of bloggers cripple their efforts because they’re thinking about their own wants more than they think of their audience’s.

    Put your audience’s wants before your own, and eventually you’ll get the kind of business you want (although it might be in a slightly different form than you first thought it would be).

    Write about what they want to know about, and sell them what they want to buy. Think about them more than you think about you, and in turn they’ll help you succeed.

    See? Symbiosis.

    • “I think a lot of bloggers cripple their efforts because they’re thinking about their own wants more than they think of their audience’s.”

      Maybe that’s because a blog’s status is stuck somewhere between a personal diary and a business model these days. In a diary your own self and your perspective of things are central to the message. But from a business perspective that message must also mean something to someone. I think that finding the golden mean is the most challenging thing when it comes to blogging.

        • Maybe not on the surface. But that is the intrinsic essence of the blog format, and a large part of its appeal. A company wants a blog because they want to get ‘personal’. Otherwise they can stick to pamphlets and annual reports.

          Besides, there are different gradations in the personal:business ratio across different blogs depending on the blogger’s goals.

      • That’s my point.

        If you blog as a business model, you should shift your inspiration from “What do I want to write about?” to “What does my audience want to know about?”

        And then you can still inject that message with your personality and perspective.

  5. Thanks , Brian, for bringing “Lean Startup” to attention.

    Among other ideas, I’ve taken from Eric Ries’s book the idea that even an established company is better to have a “lean department” that will let the company try different stuff, and thus improve its current system, adjust to changing environment, improve staff’s productivity, and put innovation to the next level.

    As he says about himself:
    “I’ve always been a bit of troublemaker at the companies at which I have worked, pushing for rapid iteration, data-driven decision making, and early customer involvement”.

  6. I hadn’t thought of the benefits of building a minimum viable audience in that manner, so thank you.

    Your post has really underscored for me the importance of interactivity and interaction with the audience, in terms of having a minimum viable audience.

    Would you say that the numbers associated with a minimum viable audience for any startup would be dependent on the niche or industry?

  7. I am a bit skeptical of using the lean start up model in the way Copyblogger has done. I have done it both ways and much prefer to have the product first. I built an audience via podcasting and blogging and then had to figure out a way to make money with it. That was really difficult for me

    On the other hand when I started with a business and model (online psychotherapy conferences) I was able to ramp up and make more money every year and get better with every event. That was much better for me.

    Though to be fair, much of my success in the first niche did come about from tracking keyword searches. My google analytics gave me several specific words representing products that people were looking for and I created the product and then started selling them.

    Great food for thought on this article. Thanks!


  8. Love the idea Brian! Learning and earning on the run makes sense to me. In a sense I am a boot strapping blogger, hitting the ground running with a minimal investment and tweaking things along the way.

  9. I love this process. The idea of an MVP changed how I was interacting with my audience and what eventually led me to pursue my dream, being able to turn the attention of a blog readership into a legitimate business. Thanks, Brian!

  10. Digital media company – I just got goosebumps.

    It never dawned on me to “monetize” first. Sure, I offer my services on my website, but I’m aware that in the online world, that will be meaningless until I prove that I know what I’m talking about. My first concern has been to create valuable content and build the audience. Beginner’s luck for doing that first? Who knows. Maybe just dumb luck.

    And yeah, I understand bootstrapping…a couple hundred dollars and a TON of hours losing sleep later, I still have things to fix and improve upon.

    I guess I’m saying, thanks – for validating what felt natural to do in the first place.

  11. Good points all, but it’s important to consider the differences when considering what leads to the success of any business model.

    In this case, some of the success of Copyblogger could be attributed to a business model I call the “Snake Eating Its Own Tail.” For instance, teach a course on creating an online course, and place it on a site that provides online courses. In this case, write a blog to teach bloggers how to blog. It’s a great way to build an audience and therefore a platform from it — very smart.

    • Robbin, that’s true. Despite that, it’s been my least favorite way to build an audience. We get “meta” here out of necessity, but it can present its own challenges. The important thing to realize is that being meta is not a requirement for this approach to work — in fact, if anything it requires an extra emphasis on transparency in order to build trust when compared to a more straightforward approach.

      • I don’t think it’s a matter of choosing a favorite path; it’s just the path that worked, and very well.

        If I understand what you’re saying, it’s a subset of the idea of building an audience first vs. a product/service-oriented approach. The former requires more transparency or let’s say personality with an emphasis on the “person” writing the blog vs. delivering a product/service on its own merits (if that’s what you mean by “straight forward”). That personality is then used to build an MVA or minimum viable audience, but that’s the crux of the matter really. Figuring out the formula, then building on it. And that’s the most difficult part of all — the Snake Tail model is one way to solve that problem.

        Most people, no matter how much research or writing they do, have a tough time creating their MVA. Rather than just research and experimentation, what we need is to come up with other models (a strategy) to help them build that first active audience. Perhaps a good start would be to analyze other successful blogs to see how they did it.

  12. This is an incredibly validating post. I learned some of these lessons the hard way. I think that so many of the missteps are ultimately ego driven – we have the nerve to presume that we know what people want, before we get something to market. A minimum viable audience is helpful, no doubt, but even then, you must always lead with a minimum viable product. Thinking that you can ‘perfect’ your product is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

  13. The new way to become successful in the digital age is to build and serve an audience first. Then you can think of ways to make some money from it. Without an audience though, no one is looking for you.

  14. i read that book and it was amazing… lots of things to learn for people like us who are doing businesses. thanks anyway.. keep updating!!!

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