Why do some businesses become huge yet others never grow beyond being small? On the internet, why do some people seemingly get massive social media followings, attract tons of leads and web traffic, and others, despite producing similar quality products or content, never grow?

Meet the Mississippi River. North America's largest river system has a watershed that covers 1.2 million square miles and roughly 40 percent of the continental U.S. Every other river in America has the same core features: Water and a source of water. So why aren't they all the same size? Common logic goes like this: A massive river must have a massive water source to feed it. 

Yet, what's the source of the mighty Mississippi? The tiny 1.7 square mile Lake Itasca. So how does the Mississippi become so impossibly massive? The secret isn't that there is more water at its source, it's that the majority of the water is supplied from thousands of tributaries.

Similar assumptions happen when comparing a small business to an imposing competitor. Common logic dictates: Because they have more money and resources they get more customers. Their source is massive. 

Reality reveals a different truth: Larger competitors simply have more tributaries. Hundreds of tributaries all add a little bit more traffic (people visiting). Because they spread the burden of growing customers across many tributaries, there's little "do or die" pressure on a single method to produce results, which allows for the time and effort necessary for each tributary to mature.

Most businesses operate the opposite way: They invest into something like social media or advertising and expect that one tributary to produce all the results they need. This places all the sales pressure in one place and makes growth a matter of luck. The most common result? It "doesn't work" and so it's onto the next thing: Only to be met again with the same frustration and wasted money.

Mimic the Mississippi to radically scale online

There's a simpler and more reliable way that mimics how the Mississippi River becomes unstoppable. I call it the "Traffic Tributary Formula."

Getting one person from 10 different tributaries (methods like Facebook, ads, SEO, etc) is much easier and cheaper than trying to get 10 people from one tributary. Scaling becomes a matter of either adding a tributary and/or increasing traffic results from existing tributaries in small chunks. Want to double the result? Just get one more person to each tributary.

Finally, you need somewhere to send the tributary traffic. That's where your website comes into play. Why? Because it's the only real estate on the internet where you have exclusive attention and control of the customer experience. Imagine how silly it would be to hold a meeting at a billboard instead of in your office. You'd never do that and you shouldn't do the digital version of that, either. Always send them to your website.

Growing across many sources is easier than relying on a single channel for growth

The Traffic Tributary Formula: WT (Website Traffic) = T (x) T (Traffic times Tributaries)

Action steps are simple: When you make a social media post, place an ad or add any tributary, link back to your website when you post content. Most people make the mistake of assuming a profile link is enough. It's not. You need to directly send people back to your website and to pages with content specifically related to whatever it is you posted or advertised about.

Your traffic, SEO, and sales results will naturally increase without needing to rely on lucky breaks or spending a fortune on one platform hoping for it to work. Plus, because you've linked everything back to your website, if one platform goes viral, odds are good all your other tributaries will see a surge in traffic because you've connected everything together.

The bottom line? All sophisticated growth strategies boil down to some version or implementation of this core strategy.