How to survive the 3-year cliff.


Most businesses fail after 3 years because the founders’ initial networks can no longer deliver enough new leads. It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you’ve found yourself in that slough of despond, or if you’re 2 years in and think that your business is going to keep growing happily without any further work from you—I’ve talked about how I was in that exact situation before in one of my podcasts Agency Real Talk—there are ways to make sure you don’t just quietly die.

The most important thing you can do is to add resilience to your business lead generation techniques. You can’t just rely on referrals like it’s your grandpa’s cabinet business. You need to create at least 2 and ideally more like 5 different dependable ways to find new people who want what you have to offer.

If you’re flush with leads from your referrals & content marketing? Good for you. Go get 2 more channels so you don’t suddenly find your content marketing channel has dried up and you have to lay off people.

Got a phenomenal sales person who sources leads and closes ‘em? Make sure you have other channels so that when that sales person leaves your company—which is bound to happen someday—you don’t find you can’t make payments on your new office space.

Here are some key tactics I’ve found that add resilience to your lead generation as long as you’re disciplined about pursuing them and that will help you stay alive past that dreaded 3 year cliff.

  1. Grow your network further
    • Attend industry conferences, trade shows, and networking events to make new connections
    • Join relevant professional organizations and actively participate
    • Speak at events or host workshops to establish yourself as a thought leader
    • Engage with people on social media and online forums in your niche
    • Partner with complementary businesses for cross-promotion and referrals

Why it sucks: The challenge is that scaling takes a lot of time and effort, and founders only have so much bandwidth. Choose high-leverage activities.

  1. Implement a referral system
  • Reach out to past happy clients and ask for referrals
  • Create a referral partner program with incentives for sending new busines
  • Stay top of mind with past clients through newsletters, holiday cards, etc.

Why it sucks: Referrals can be inconsistent since you’re relying on others. You have to continually nurture referral sources and there can be long sales cycles.

  1. Invest in paid media
  • Run targeted Google/Facebook ads to your best gated content like whitepapers
  • Sponsor newsletters or podcasts that reach your ideal clients
  • Use retargeting to bring leads back to your site to convert

Why it sucks: Paid media can be expensive, have a slow sales cycle, and attract lower quality leads compared to referrals. But it’s scalable if you can make the economics work.

  1. Implement a content marketing strategy
  • Publish genuinely helpful blog posts, videos, and resources that address your target clients’ key problems
  • Appear on podcasts and webinars to reach new audiences
  • Use SEO best practices so ideal clients can find your content through search

Why it sucks: Content marketing is a long-term play that can take months to pay off. Consistency is key. But it’s one of the best ways to attract ideal clients.

  1. Partner with other businesses
  • Identify companies that serve the same clients in a complementary way
  • Reach out to explore co-marketing campaigns
  • Co-create content like webinars, whitepapers or courses

Why it sucks: Partnerships can give you access to a larger audience. But you need to find partners that are a good fit and put in the work to make the relationship win-win.

You should not depend on only one channel to grow your business; I had 2 in 2022 and ended up having a terrible 2023 as a result when they both dried up. I aim to have 5 by the end of this year to give my business resilience against market shifts.

You should do the same.

Hope this helps. Keep launching cool stuff!

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Signup and you’ll never miss out on the next post from CrowdTamers. Click that button–you know you want to!

Share this post with your friends


I’m gonna give the key idea to CrowdTamers as a business away here as a thanks for reading this far. You can boil all good marketing down to 2 ideas: content and growth. CrowdTamers specializes in using content to discover how to build a growth engine. Sound interesting? Let’s chat!