The Other Side of Scale

We know it’s important to do things that don’t scale, but what does scale even mean?

Scaling a lemonade operation t0 10 lemonade stands is insane; scaling a fast food joint to 10 locations is child’s play.

Thus scale isn’t only relative to the business, it’s relative to the growth channel.

How most people define scale:

Propensity of X to be infinitely or automatically replicated.

The missing half:

…the maximum N times that X can be done.

Advertising is perhaps the poster child of scalability, particularly in the digital format where “scaling” literally means clicking a button.

Compare ads with Quora, a community of people doing the least scalable thing imaginable — writing.

No two answers on Quora are alike. It is the aggregation of our world’s sharpest minds, sharing expertise and ideas, for free. It’s amazing.

But if Quora were like advertising, and there was an unlimited supply of folks wanting to know more about your expertise, then there would also be an endless supply of competitors willing to pay to share it (ads).

Here’s what happened after I wrote about product usability:

quora-ryan-kulp
Did I answer every question about usability? Yep. Did I become a “market leader” in the subject? Apparently, yes.

And what all this cost:

  • 2-3 hours
  • 15-20 questions
  • $0

“Propensity to be infinitely or automatically replicated the maximum [47] number of times that [writing about usability testing] can be done.”

Could you answer every question about your area of expertise?

Alternatively, can you show me an advertising campaign that gets better results with fewer resources?

TL;DR — Rethink scale. Stop advertising. Thanks.

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