Optimize for global maximums and not local maximums, says everyone.

Totally. I get it. The idea is incredibly catchy, and the diagrams are no-brainers. If your local maximum (the best you can do in the short-term) is X and your global maximum (the best you can do in the long-term) is X times 100, then duh: optimize for the global maximum.


So why wouldn’t everyone go for global maximums all the time?

Well, the biggest problem is what goes unsaid in the conversation of global maximums: What if the global maximum doesn’t exist? What if you’re already at your global maximum?

The global maximum chart looks fantastic, obviously, but it looks fantastic because we have the complete picture, and we have the complete picture because either a) we know the future or b) we’re living in the future and looking at the past.

What do we truly know today?


We know for sure that we’re up here, and we used to be down there.

If you embrace the downswing hoping that it leads to a global maximum, things will end up going one of three ways:

Down then up. [Global Maximum]


Down then flat. [Plateau]


Down then down some more. [sad trombone]


Yes, absolutely you should pursue global maximums if you know they exist. But if you don’t know they exist, then you have to be aware of the other outcomes. Two out of three are worse than your current maximum.

Here’s how we do our best to predict when a global maximum may exist:

  1. Is there an equivalent in the market? If we’ve seen similar tactics reach higher ceilings elsewhere, then we can predict a similar possibility for us. A good place to look is case studies on sites like Growth Hackers and Sparktoro Trending.
  2. Run a lean test. Understand what you can expect in the future by running a minimum viable test.  Rather than put all your eggs in the “global maximum” basket, first test out an egg to see if the basket exists.
  3. Develop quant models. The more explicit and quantifiable you can be about how your growth and marketing works, the more confidence you can have in predicting what lies ahead. Here’s a good primer on getting started with quant models.

And if by chance you’re not sure and you go chasing global maximums anyway, then no worries: just watch the data closely. Find some health indicators that can tell you whether or not you’re on the right track.

Blindly chasing global maximums is the same as standing atop a mountain, blindfolded, and guessing there’s probably a bigger mountain just beyond the valley. You could be standing on Mount Everest, assuming there’s an Everest 10X beyond the horizon. You could be on Mount Kilimanjaro, surrounded by flatlands, blindly hoping for altitude in the beyond.

Or maybe there really is a bigger mountain out there.

Take the blindfold off and make sure first.

Then go get that global maximum!

Posted by:Kevan Lee

VP of marketing currently living in Boise, Idaho. I work with the lovely folks at Buffer. You can join my email list to get an inside look at marketing and branding and team-building in tech.

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