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August 24, 2021

If you see a grow overnight scheme, that’s someone else trying to grow overnight off of you.

by
Raffi Salama

Raffi is one of the co-founders of Passionfruit and author of ‘The Raffi Report’, which is read by 3500+ senior marketers. The home for expert marketing freelancers, connecting them with companies whose missions are aligned with their passions.

If you see a grow overnight scheme, that’s someone else trying to grow overnight off of you.
Table of contents

Get real about what it takes to build a brand.

You know it’s summer when all your favourite podcasts are reposting past episodes. Of course, tragically, not everyone in the world - from Afghanistan, to Haiti, to Tennessee - is enjoying a restful August. But for millions of SMB founders around the world, these couple of weeks are a rare opportunity to reflect.

Zooming out and seeing a business with fresh eyes often leads to a grand new moonshot plan. Gazing out into the summer sun, that speedy, definite tactic to achieve immediate growth and prosperity finally seems clear… But it falls on us to remind you that, no matter the season, marketing your way to growth is less about moonshots than we’d all like to believe. The reality is that the path to growth looks a lot more like this...

@jackbutcher

Toilets matter

Take any behemoth company and it’s tempting to believe that there was a mystical, magical jet pack inherent to its success. Some singular moment of inspiration which attracted new users or customers to the product overnight. To the outsider, this folklore is easy to swallow. AirBnb aficionados often cite the moment the company began taking professional photographs of their listings. The truth is, however, that nugget is part of a much wider story; a well-known fragment of Brian Chesky’s overall and lesser-known approach to brand growth. To illustrate this point further, let’s take another startup-turned-corporate-giant: McDonalds… What’s the special sauce behind the world’s largest and most famous fast food chain? Apparently, according to their founder, it’s their toilets.

The reality of growth

Of course, a whole lot more went into growing the Golden Arches than some routinely well scrubbed urinals, but this kind of consistent attention to detail points to a three pronged picture of reality which a lot of startups and SMBs try to ignore.

  1. Big results are built of small acts performed repeatedly.
  2. The last few pieces of the jigsaw get all the credit, but those are the easiest ones to place. The hard part is at the start, when nobody is paying attention.
  3. Brand growth is about allocating resources to ensure your beacon burns consistently bright for a long time, rather than extremely bright for a short time.

Lenny Rachitsky and Dan Hockenmaier speak to this reality when they separate the components of growth into engines, turbo boots, lubricants and fuel.

@reforge

You can’t build the core of a startup’s growth off a flashy PR campaign, for instance. It serves only (but wonderfully!) as a complementary boost to an existing, more self-sustaining engine. Or, in the words of startup guru, Paul Graham, don’t be one of those founders who “seem to believe startups are projectiles rather than powered aircraft”.

What does excellence look like?

If you’re looking for examples of what a real, high-quality engine looks like, here are some of the best in recent years:

Brex x Performance Marketing (OOH)

Masterclass x Content/SEO

Strava x Performance Marketing

Kuaishou x Virality

You can pretty much Google any unicorn startup you admire + “growth strategy” and you’ll find their unique path to growth. What links them all? They weren’t overnight phenomena…

Infamous startup investor and philosopher Naval Ravikant has a rule of thumb: “If you see a get rich quick scheme, that’s someone else trying to get rich off of you.” When it comes to growth, the same rule applies: if you see a grow overnight scheme, that’s someone else trying to grow overnight off of you.

Professor Passionfruit Illustration
Table of Contents

Get real about what it takes to build a brand.

You know it’s summer when all your favourite podcasts are reposting past episodes. Of course, tragically, not everyone in the world - from Afghanistan, to Haiti, to Tennessee - is enjoying a restful August. But for millions of SMB founders around the world, these couple of weeks are a rare opportunity to reflect.

Zooming out and seeing a business with fresh eyes often leads to a grand new moonshot plan. Gazing out into the summer sun, that speedy, definite tactic to achieve immediate growth and prosperity finally seems clear… But it falls on us to remind you that, no matter the season, marketing your way to growth is less about moonshots than we’d all like to believe. The reality is that the path to growth looks a lot more like this...

@jackbutcher

Toilets matter

Take any behemoth company and it’s tempting to believe that there was a mystical, magical jet pack inherent to its success. Some singular moment of inspiration which attracted new users or customers to the product overnight. To the outsider, this folklore is easy to swallow. AirBnb aficionados often cite the moment the company began taking professional photographs of their listings. The truth is, however, that nugget is part of a much wider story; a well-known fragment of Brian Chesky’s overall and lesser-known approach to brand growth. To illustrate this point further, let’s take another startup-turned-corporate-giant: McDonalds… What’s the special sauce behind the world’s largest and most famous fast food chain? Apparently, according to their founder, it’s their toilets.

The reality of growth

Of course, a whole lot more went into growing the Golden Arches than some routinely well scrubbed urinals, but this kind of consistent attention to detail points to a three pronged picture of reality which a lot of startups and SMBs try to ignore.

  1. Big results are built of small acts performed repeatedly.
  2. The last few pieces of the jigsaw get all the credit, but those are the easiest ones to place. The hard part is at the start, when nobody is paying attention.
  3. Brand growth is about allocating resources to ensure your beacon burns consistently bright for a long time, rather than extremely bright for a short time.

Lenny Rachitsky and Dan Hockenmaier speak to this reality when they separate the components of growth into engines, turbo boots, lubricants and fuel.

@reforge

You can’t build the core of a startup’s growth off a flashy PR campaign, for instance. It serves only (but wonderfully!) as a complementary boost to an existing, more self-sustaining engine. Or, in the words of startup guru, Paul Graham, don’t be one of those founders who “seem to believe startups are projectiles rather than powered aircraft”.

What does excellence look like?

If you’re looking for examples of what a real, high-quality engine looks like, here are some of the best in recent years:

Brex x Performance Marketing (OOH)

Masterclass x Content/SEO

Strava x Performance Marketing

Kuaishou x Virality

You can pretty much Google any unicorn startup you admire + “growth strategy” and you’ll find their unique path to growth. What links them all? They weren’t overnight phenomena…

Infamous startup investor and philosopher Naval Ravikant has a rule of thumb: “If you see a get rich quick scheme, that’s someone else trying to get rich off of you.” When it comes to growth, the same rule applies: if you see a grow overnight scheme, that’s someone else trying to grow overnight off of you.

Written by
Raffi Salama
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Professor Passionfruit Illustration

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