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Field Notes

Field Notes #037: Beyond the Blog (Hill Climbing and Holistic Growth)

beyond the blog (hill climbing and holistic growth)

You know that saying, “the average millionaire has seven streams of income?” 

What most people miss is correlation vs causation. Rich people diversify to preserve wealth; they get first rich usually through one propitious income stream. 

Similarly, startups just need to get one marketing channel to work at scale to grow. Big brands diversify to expand their growth and de-risk their strategy. 

Many brands make the mistake of diluting their time, attention, and resources across too many efforts all at once.

Climb One (Marketing) Hill at a Time

Think of growth like the “hill climbing algorithm.”


“It is an iterative algorithm that starts with an arbitrary solution to a problem, then attempts to find a better solution by making an incremental change to the solution. If the change produces a better solution, another incremental change is made to the new solution, and so on until no further improvements can be found.”

Basically, you start at the base of a “hill” and iterate your way up until you reach the peak, which is called the “local maximum” (the top of this specific hill). This is not the “global maximum,” which is the top of the TALLEST hill. To find that, you need to jump over to different hills.

Before moving onto a second hill, we want to find the local maximum of the one that we’re currently working on. As we reach saturation of our current efforts, we can then deploy some percentage of resources to building towards our next hill.

In organic growth marketing, we know there are a few propitious hills to climb. There are only a set amount of truly scalable channels. We can identify scalable channels because they resemble a “flywheel” or “growth loop” instead of an isolated campaign or action.

The benefits of flywheels accumulate over time and have increasing marginal returns, whereas the benefits of singular campaigns are linear. If you stop running PR campaigns, your efforts go away.

If you stop running SEO efforts, you still benefit from all the previous effort you put in. SEO efforts build on top of previous work, making it more and more lucrative the more you invest. 

Most brands only need one compounding channel, and for most content programs, these efforts are generated through the blog. Either you build organic traffic or you build an email list, or both. These efforts compound over time. 

I call this a “core” organic growth channel. 

For each core organic growth channel, I visualize a pyramid with three parts:

  • Foundations: infrastructure that allows success in this channel (e.g. technical SEO, link building, conversion funnels)
  • Core: the work put into the channel (e.g. your content strategy & production)
  • Force multipliers: efforts and content franchises layered on top of or working in conjunction with the core efforts to drive more value (e.g. lead magnets, video and multimedia, interactivity, social repurposing)

Many brands should just keep focusing on building out their core channel before expanding too quickly to new hills. 

However, some clients we work with reach a stage of saturation or maturity with their single core organic channel (usually the blog). This begs the question, “What’s next?” 

Instead of venturing out into the unknown, I like to learn as much as possible about what is resonating by using our “force multipliers” as experiments. 

For example, if your blog (SEO-driven) is the core growth channel, eventually you’ll build out some force multipliers, which may include:

  • Gated content and conversion assets
  • Original research
  • Video to supplement search
  • A customer hall-of-fame that showcases cool use cases for your product.

Let’s say the last one, the “customer hall-of-fame,” gets some solid traction.

I can then build a hypothesis that we can scale this out into its own core compounding channel. That may look like a programmatic set of landing pages with UGC recipes and use cases submitted by customers. 

This works especially well for horizontal SaaS products like automation platforms, no-code builders, and AI tools, where the use cases are limitless and there’s a huge long tail of search volume to be captured. 

We would then start building a new pyramid with its own foundational layer (which, technically speaking, would differ from the traditional blog) and start building out that channel in tandem with our horizon one effort.

When I build out new horizons, I’m also looking to cap risk – because the hill we choose to climb in horizon two may actually be much smaller than Horizon 1. We don’t know how impactful it will be…yet. 

So I never fully stray from Horizon 1. I want to continue to harvest value and continue building out that channel because I KNOW it provides ROI.

This is where a portfolio mindset comes in handy:

  • 60% effort goes to execution on core playbook
  • 20% effort goes to optimization and innovation on core playbook and force multipliers
  • 20% effort goes to horizon 2 and big bets

If the hypothesis rings true, then you reallocate or pull more resources into Horizon 2 over time. If it fails to produce ROI, you experiment with different hills until you find another big winner. 

This is holistic organic growth beyond the blog.

1. Kitchen Side: The Future of B2B Demand Gen, Generative AI’s Impact on Content, and Leveling Up Content Marketing– our most recent Kitchen Side podcast

2. From Content Manager to CEO, The Future of AI and Content, and How Content Marketers Need to Evolve with Devin Bramhall– recent podcast with ex-Animalz CEO Devin Bramhall.

3. Growth Loops– the original Reforge essay on growth loops (a great framework for content / organic marketers)

Alex Birkett

Alex is a co-founder of Omniscient Digital. He loves experimentation, building things, and adventurous sports (scuba diving, skiing, and jiu jitsu primarily). He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit.