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Success Factors: Why we Crave Spikes When we Should Chart Steady Growth

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 by in ThiNK First | 5 comments



Spiked Growth is the 1.0 model. 

We all crave spikes. Sales spikes. Traffic spikes. Any form of attention spike usually does it.  Like a hamster on the exercise wheel, your whole business comes focused on feeding the spike.

  • Spikes appeal to our vanity, to our egos.
  • Spikes validate our dreams.
  • Spikes beget more spikes.
  • Spikes are crack.
  • Spikes skew behaviours and distort our ability to think rationally (beware vanity metrics)
  • Spikes leave us with nothing more than a void to fill (with more sales, more traffic, more something)

Well let’s be honest we all crave exposure. Most sources of media exposure comes in one size – the instant spike.

  • You can hit the home page of Techcrunch or Huffington Post or the Washington Post.
  • You can get an interview on TV
  • You can even get some celebrity adoption of your product.

Our world is built to create more spikes not less. Media is structured around the spike and it’s all wrong. Sorry, someone has to say it. Spikes suck the life from your soul.

I was just in Boston at InboundMarketingSummit and  Pepsi’s Shiv Singh told a funny story about how he fantasizes about Lady Gaga drinking Pepsi walking down Madison Avenue. It’s gratifying and disturbing to know even Pepsi craves spikes!

I should know better.

 I spent 2+ years working on promotional modelling in the UK for Safeway and that’s where I first noticed how “spike addiction” is a slavish lifestyle for retailers everywhere. When you get growth from spikes the only solution is more spikes. All big promotions are spike addicting. The UK still runs bigger/better deals than in US and Canada. It’s true.


The BOGOF – Buy one get one free is definitely a UK invention. Groupon like deals to draw traffic have been a UK phenomenon for more than a decade.

We all know what happens with spikes, or we should. We can’t control how we feel in the moment and we run around like headless chicken. We share fervently with our friends (as if that’s going to sustain things). It’s almost laughable. I’m guilty for sure, despite trying not to be so.

Attention is the scarcest resource in the world today.

Our attention is driven by many sources. So many it’s hard to sustain. We crave newer news. Your spike can be replaced in an instant. A low or poor performing spike is history. I learned this from Huffington Post.Your headline will be pulled for the next thing. Your moment of fame can be dashed by so many things. Perform or die.

Spikes are like cupcakes or candy. They give you a rush, but you know you’ll need another one shortly. Spikes are a 1.0 phenomenon. Spikes are sexy, but they are fads. You can date them briefly, but don’t get married to the idea, they will be around for very long.

Spikes encourage all the wrong behaviours. Spikes are not habit forming (for customers). Spikes are distractions. Spikes bring “here today, gone tomorrow” people to your door. You don’t want that. So don’t seek it out.

Spikers are sales guys that can’t forecast, yet close big deals. They leave you thinking you want more of the same, when you really don’t. But “steady-eddy” isn’t sexy.

Spikers are heros for a moment. Spikers leave us hoping they can do it again. They are like winning the jackpot on a Vegas slot. You want to believe it can happen again. Spikers and spikes gamify our emotions and skew our view of business performance.

Let me reintroduce you to an old friend, steady growth.

Steady growth is the 2.0 model. 

Steady is dull. Or is it? I believe steady is the new sexy. Steady is what we all crave, but are too scared to admit. Steady isn’t manly. Steady is testosterone free.

Steady is when you see the flaws in your product and your process, even better, you can fix them and keep testing and improving.

You want steady growth because you can measure it, you can repeat it.

You want steady because,  steady produces a flow of data

  • Steady lets you A:B test.
  • Steady lets you learn
  • Steady takes the emotion out of decisions and we all need that

In a fremium world you want steady. Steady means you can keep running small experiments.

There is one caveat: if you can consistently spike, that can be your steady. I believe consistent spikes from from steady growth. That’s when your hyper growth engine kicks in. Focus on steady to build your business with solid foundations. You can learn about your product and your community.

  • Spikes are just frenzied, so you don’t learn.
  • Spikes = moments of fame
  • Spikes don’t buy you awareness.
  • Spike are forgettable.

People leak like balloons. Spikes fill us with a burst of energy. Spikes fill our balloons with hope. We needs lots of small injections of energy into our customer base in order to fill their balloons and float their usage of our product.

Spikes attract the wrong type of people – tire kickers – spikes attract hero followers and bargain hunters. This feels like such a contrarian view, but it’s deeply rooted into 2+ years of promotional modelling and living and breathing the launch of a board game and my involvement in Listly.

Steady attracts proof that you are valuable when you are all there is.

Steady proves your utility. And utility is the ultimate sexy beast.

Image Credit :   jodilynn via and Creative Commons


Nick Kellet (164 Posts)

Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Connect with Nick on Twitter · Linkedin, Facebook and G+ and follow his writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at and


  1. Hi Nick, great post! Just want to say I totally embrace the steady Growth. Always good to be reminded that steady leads to long-term results, like a sustainable business.

    • JuanFlx People forget that you have to replace a spike, but steady growth fill it’s own wake. It’s hard to not be distracted by its shinyness!

  2. Thanks:) @SociallySavvy4U So true! : Success Factors: Why we Crave Spikes When we Should Chart Steady Growth

  3. Excellent post, Nick!
    As I was reading, I recalled my last visit to a local casino, where I got to win 1,200 credits one second. The next one, my entire 20-dollar bill was gone. 
    Spikes give us a sense of importance but can also make us feel like failures if they don’t happen often enough. Steady growth, on the other end, is dull and boring, but ultimately brings self-awareness, and ultimately growth!

  4. @intimaterainbow Thank you u much for the RT


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