Let’s say that you’re the owner of a startup that hasn’t launched yet. You know that you’ve got the perfect product or service. You also know that you selected the perfect team to help you get your idea off the ground and bring your vision to the marketplace.

You’re pretty much ready to conquer the world at this point right? There’s only one barrier in-between you and world domination. That one thing is standing in-between you and your dream car. Your dream house. And maybe even your dream spouse…that one thing is sales.

I don’t have to tell you that a business cannot exist for long without sales…but I’ll tell you anyway (sorry, but this must be emphasized…you’ll thank me later), a business cannot not exist for long without sales. So how can your startup get enough sales to stay afloat and pay that great team of yours while before you scale? The answer is simple — find your MVA (minimum viable audience).

A minimum viable audience is the fewest number of customers that a business can serve to survive before scale. In other words, they’re the lifeblood of every business. They’re the most important people outside of your organization. Here are a few steps to take to attract your brand’s minimum viable audience.

Don’t fish for carp in the ocean

I’m sure you’re probably wondering, “What the heck does fishing for carp have to do with helping my business survive?” Relax, it’s just an analogy. It basically means don’t invest time trying to catch a fish in the ocean that’s only found in lakes and ponds.

That same logic pertains to finding your minimum viable audience.

If you want to find your MVA, the first step is narrowing your search specifically to platforms that your audience is known to frequent. Looking for them anywhere else is like fishing for carp in the ocean — you’ll always end up highly disappointed.

The simplest method to understanding the places where your MVA is known to frequent is to do a psychographic profile of your target customer (don’t worry, this doesn’t require the expertise of a writer from the show Criminal Minds).

All you really have to do is know who your target customers are. Where they’re likely to work. How much money they make. What they like to do for fun. And where do people like them gather with their friends? Then turn that data into a profile. You and your team can actually make a game out of figuring this out. Once you do, you can focus your marketing efforts on reaching them wherever they are…sorta like fishing for carp in a pond.

Articulate your distinctiveness

There are a few ways for a brand to convey distinctiveness to an audience. Some of my favorites are:

  • Being first in a category
  • Only serving a certain demographic (exclusivity)
  • Emphasizing a particular culture or set of ethics
  • Having a unique process in the way you provide service to consumers that will benefit them (like serving hamburgers to customer faster than your competitors)
  • Being the total opposite of the current leader of the category

Whichever one of these five methods of conveying distinctiveness you choose for your brand, be sure to articulate it to your audience in a way that anyone could understand.

Incentivize Early Adopters

For those unfamiliar with early adopters, they’re the people that are the first to support a new product or service. These are the people that every brand must appeal to initially because they’re the ones that will become an unofficial spokesperson for the brand and will recruit others to do the same.

To attract early adopters, you should incentivize them to give your product or service a try. A way to do that is to give free trials to a percentage of your MVA…especially those that have the most influence amongst their peer groups –which brings us to our next step.

Highlight Influencers

As a brand director, I’ve seen the power that influencers can have on a brand first-hand. I’ll even go as far as to say that besides word-of-mouth advocacy of a brand by peer groups — influencer marketing is the most effective form of marketing that there is.

That’s because we’re all influenced by someone. It can be a co-worker, a relative, a neighbor, your favorite athlete, your favorite actress, or just an attractive person that you’d like to be around…it doesn’t matter who it is or who you are — we’re all influenced by someone.

Your mission as a brand manager is to find the influencers that your audience follows and partner with them to endorse your brand. Their endorsement of your brand will accelerate both sales and the growth of your brand exponentially. Once you acquire them, highlight them in every advertisement that your brand produces as well as on all of your social media platforms. If done correctly, they’ll serve as the magnets for your brand to attract your minimum viable audience.


The harsh reality of business is that about 20% of small businesses in the U.S fail within the first year of operation. And about 50% go out of business before reaching the sixth year of operation. It doesn’t have to be this way for your business. To avoid this fate, find and attract your brand’s MVA. If you do, the kind reality will be that your business will become part of the 30% of businesses that makes it past the 10 year mark.