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Field Notes

Field Notes #65: The Art of Tradeoffs and Commitments

Field Notes #065: the art of tradeoffs and commitments

It’s been a busy time at Omniscient. We expected a summer slump but ended up in one of the busiest business seasons in the (short) history of the business.

We recently signed on some big clients, and while we aren’t ready to share them yet, it got me thinking about why were able to win these logos as one of the newer organic growth agencies.

When I look back at the decisions we (myself, Alex, and Allie) have made for Omniscient, I believe they’re the exact same types of decisions that marketing leaders need to make in their roles.

  • Clear positioning and messaging
  • Committing to the positioning and messaging

Positioning and messaging.

We had to be explicit about which types of companies and people we work with and which we won’t. You can see this on our website where we state “We’re an organic growth agency that helps marketing leaders at B2B software companies turn content & SEO into growth channels.”

We agreed that our goal isn’t to work with every person who fills out our contact form. We regularly turn down prospects who aren’t a good fit, i.e. they aren’t in a leadership role or they aren’t at a software company or they don’t have goals for organic growth. Those who resonate with our messaging are the ones we want to work with and hopefully also want to work with us. We also had to clearly define what services we provide and which we don’t.

Let’s look at one piece of our positioning: while other agencies label themselves as content marketing agencies, we bill ourselves as an organic growth agency. 

While others talked about traffic growth, we talked about business impact in the form of leads, pipeline, and revenue (and we actually have the case studies to back that up).

That meant we also held ourselves to the metrics that business leaders cared about. It doesn’t matter how great traffic growth is, the question that follows is always, “What’s the pipeline/revenue impact?”

I look at our approach to positioning and messaging and think about the clients and prospects I speak to.

In my experience working with dozens of clients from early-stage startups to scale-ups and enterprises, I’ve found that the tradeoffs of clear positioning are uncomfortable for many people.

Rather than be very clear about “who we serve” and “who we don’t serve,” I’ve observed that marketers naturally have a broader definition that results in unclear messaging that in turn confuses prospects.

For example, “We serve remote teams” begs the question of, “Which teams? Marketing teams? Engineering teams?”

The answer might be “Our product works for all of them,” and it might be true, but in a world where software is commoditized and most products can do almost the same thing, you need to be hyper-clear about who you serve. The winners are the companies that can speak to a particular persona and say, “Hey, we got you.”

Yes, that means making a tradeoff of alienating some people.

But I’ll bet money that if you gather the data, you’ll find that a majority of your users or customers come from a particular background or experience. That’s where you have to commit.

We’re constantly testing our messaging and still have some refinement to do, but I think we’ve landed at a good spot.

I got validating feedback from a client who recently signed on when I asked, “Why did you choose to work with us?”

“Out of all the agencies, none were as performance-driven. The more you lean into that, the better. You should highlight that earlier even if the data you share are just projections with a lot of caveats. If someone is evaluating you against another agency just say to them, ‘Tell me if other agencies gave you a growth model.’ Other agencies only forecasted traffic.”

The funny thing is that we make the growth model publicly available. However, it’s one thing to build a forecast, it’s a whole different skill to know how to use it as a communication tool and to inform how you build an organic growth program. We intentionally leaned into the “mathy” side of marketing as our strength that is difficult to replicate.


This is the most difficult part of it all (not just marketing, but in life).

Once you decide on your positioning and messaging, don’t be rattled when you lose a deal because of it. It’ll be very tempting to do so.

Imagine the following scenario where a prospect asks, “Your app is for marketing teams, but we have engineering use cases that your competitor says they can support.”

It would be tempting for the salesperson, the marketer, or even the CEO leading the call to say, “We can support that too,” in hopes of closing the deal and getting revenue in the door.

That will happen.

But if your positioning was developed based on data that tells you, “Our product best serves marketing teams. Engineers who use our product are more likely to churn and have a low NPS,” then you have to hold steady. A short-term revenue gain is not worth the headache of your customer success team having to support a bad-fit customer who inevitably cancels their contract in a month.

Committing doesn’t just apply to big decisions like positioning but also building and executing on marketing programs.

For example, a friend recently posted on LinkedIn about how SEO is simple. I agree. It’s simple, but not easy. It’s easy to get distracted by the plethora of other marketing channels and tactics people talk about on LinkedIn in an effort to not make tradeoffs. It’s hard to commit to a handful of activities and say no to everything else.

The most difficult part of building an organic growth program is committing to it, even if (perhaps especially when) results aren’t coming in as fast as you’d like. That’s where we support our clients as a strategic partner and, oftentimes, a coach.

Saying yes to one thing inherently means saying no to an infinite number of things.

It’s all about taking bets and being comfortable with the tradeoffs.

Want more insights like this? Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  1. What is Strategy?: An oldie but a goodie from Harvard Business School, published in 1996. The words “trade-off” and “tradeoff” appear 41 times 😉
  2. Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: This book was very influential on my understanding of strategy. It’s dry at times but worth the read for folks hoping to make the concept of strategy less abstract and be able to teach it to others. 
  3. Podcast episode about conducting a SWOT Analysis on our own business: We share a behind the scenes into how our whole team did an analysis on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to our business.
David Khim

David is co-founder and CEO of Omniscient Digital. He previously served as head of growth at and Fishtown Analytics, and before that was growth product manager at HubSpot where he worked on new user acquisition initiatives to scale the product-led go-to-market.