“We’ve Tapped Out The Universe”

Advice For When User Growth Starts To Slip


It’s an all too common occurrence.

A marketing strategy that had been working, shows signs of slowing down.

Stakeholders start to get nervous.

A frantic team works to figure out what can be corrected, when and where.

Situations like the one I’m describing require more than increased output, but all too often, this is the solution I see teams applying.

Left unchecked, a situation like this one can quickly get out of control.

I’ve written a little bit in the past about a handful of ways you can identify what you should test, as well as a handful of ways you can use information like geographic breakdowns to better explore anomalies in click data, but getting value from information like this presupposes that you haven’t encountered a situation that to be frank, teams often do.


Sometimes what you’re doing stops working.

There are a lot of different ways that you can take a step back from the situation you find yourself in. For some, there is a very real temptation to start identifying each way that a program has failed to meet an objective.

The trouble with this approach is that things don’t really happen in a vacuum. When your ad begins to saturate, for example, you might only notice when the cost per click begins to rise. Information like cost per click proves retroactively useful, but it doesn’t necessarily shed any light into a problem that’s developing. As an example, it is quite possible that you could have detected a problem before it developed by observing ad frequency or response rate.

While it may be true that large portions of a marketing program may need to change, it is unlikely for example, that lists of customers are truly worthless. Design assets have a much longer shelf-life than many businesses allow them to enjoy. Recognizing the value in the efforts is part of the path to getting back on the right track.


More often than not, the reaction to proclaim “everything is broken,” is a reaction stemming from a frustration that has a good reason for existing. Instead of continuing to apply pressure to the situation, it is often a good idea to step back and take a look at the work that is actually being performed.

Many times this can reveal powerful opportunities for growth that had previously gone neglected. For example, many platforms have similar sizing requirements for assets. It is likely possible to begin experimenting in a new direction with minimal startup cost. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can use the same strategies on every platform, but if you have good performing copy from a blog post, there’s no reason not to see what happens when you place it somewhere else. You can always go back and improve on a promising development.


That’s why when you find yourself in a situation like this, the only way out is to make a left turn. Ask yourself why you’re making what you’re making. Is there a tactic that could be more effective at reaching that goal? Giving yourself the space to take a broader approach can be just the change you need to get through.

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