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4 Examples Of Doing Things That Don't Scale

Marketing seems to be synonymous with performance marketing for the past decade.

With the instant reach and scale via Facebook, Instagram, and Google, why wouldn’t brands leverage the arbitrage for fast growth, especially if (or precisely because) they have access to funding?

But before you are equipped with any of those armers, how do you acquire the initial batch of customers, how do you know which solutions are good enough to scale?

Paul Graham’s 2013 essay “Doing Things that Don’t Scale” gives the answer in the title. He argues that sometimes, the most effective way to grow a business is to do things that don’t scale. These are things you can't do forever, but if you don’t do them, you won’t be big anyway.

In this case study, we will show you some examples of unscalable things brands do that you can start doing right away.

Nick Gray Promotes His Book In Restaurant Reviews

This is super clever.

To promote his book (or just for fun), Nick Gray included a photo of his book in his reviews for restaurants. Anyone that read the reviews will see his book in the photo and maybe want to check it out.

Going out and manually recruiting readers like this seems like an unimaginable thing to do that would result in little impact.

Well… the fact we are featuring this in our case study and many of you might share this with others means the k-factor is already growing.

Reddit Creates Hundreds Of Fake Profiles To Attract Users

When Reddit first launched, it was a blank page with no users, no posts, and no communities, which means it was unlikely to have traffic or engagement — a classic chicken and egg problem.

Rather than sitting back and waiting for users to come, the founders created hundreds of fake profiles. Their job, in the beginning, was to use those accounts to seed the content and create the communities themselves, to make the website seem active and diverse in content, They did this until other users come — when they went from 0 to 1.

Poplight “Over-Engages” Future Customers

Poplight is a brand that’s still in the Kickstarter crowd-funding stage. However, in emails to their first round of supporters, they proactively ask to learn more about their future customers by offering to jump on calls with them.

Founder talking to each customer is unscalable as the brand grows big, however, in the initial stage, the invaluable learnings from these interactions could determine success or failure:

  • Narrowing down and gaining a deeper understanding of the target market that’s most excited about your product
  • Gaining feedback about your products to make them better for users

Glossier Interacts With Every Mention On Social Media

Glossier didn’t build its community in a vacuum.

The founder Emily Weiss mentioned that she initially managed Glossier’s social media accounts. Every morning she likes, follows, and reposts every account that mentions Glossier on social media.

Community building seems like this unattainable thing that requires some grand strategy. The simple unscalable thing you can start doing today is simple as that.

In a previous case study on Beehiiv’s rocket growth, we also touched on how their team is doing an incredible job building a community on Twitter this way.

Paul Graham also noted in his essay:

You can and should give users an insanely great experience with an early, incomplete, buggy product, if you make up the difference with attentiveness.
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