Business marketing and lead generation is a lot like investing. Unfortunately, just as with investing, lots of business people make costly mistakes and fail to capitalize on their advantages. Getting better results from your business marketing requires you to make wise investments and implement a careful strategic plan with long-term perspective. People in business often talk about marketing and operational strategy in terms of “making investments,” and it’s true: the same attitudes and strategies that make for successful investing also help you make better business decisions.
Here are a few ways that business owners can “think like investors” in managing your marketing and lead generation efforts:
1. Make a long-term plan.
One of the first questions that investors need to ask themselves is: what is the long-term plan? Investing – unless you want to get lucky with picking stocks and day-trading – is a long-term endeavor. Sure, some people are able to game the market and make a lot of money quickly, but most people who are saving for retirement and investing for their futures should not consider investing to be a get-rich quick scheme. Instead, investing requires you to create a strategic plan for the long-term: however many years you have until retirement, or until your children go to college, or whatever is the long-term goal that you are saving and investing for.
In the same way, marketing and lead generation require long-term planning. Especially in B2B lead generation, it might take 12-18 months or more to work with a major account prospect throughout the sales process – from the first introduction to the prospect to closing the sale. You need to understand your sales cycle, understand the average time to close a deal, and calculate your conversion rates for each stage of your sales process so you understand how many leads you need to get vs. how many sales (and how much revenue) you can expect to generate each year. None of this is simple or immediate. All of it requires a long-term perspective and a detailed long-range strategic plan.
2. Build a diversified portfolio.
In investing, unless you are a once-in-a-generation talent at picking stocks, it pays to diversify your portfolio of investments: stocks, bonds, international and domestic, perhaps with a blend of alternative investments such as exchange traded funds that track precious metals, or real estate investment trusts if you know what you’re doing. But basically: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The goal of diversifying your investment portfolio is to generate the most possible long-term growth while minimizing your investment risks.
It’s the same in business when deciding how to apportion your investments in various marketing and lead generation strategies. You can’t rely on just one (or a few) marketing channels or lead generation services to provide the majority of your revenue. It’s better to have a diversified approach, including a range of inbound lead generation where inquiries come in to your organization (content marketing, search engine marketing, SEO) and outbound lead generation where you go outside the organization to contact customers (direct mail, email marketing, cold calls).
Don’t be afraid to try new things and diversify your efforts even further. Is there a new marketing platform that you’re curious about, a big industry trade show that you’ve been wanting to attend, a new industry association that you’d like to join? Whatever “it” is, give it a shot. Of course, you have to be careful not to spread yourself too thin – there’s nothing wrong with doing more of what works. But be careful not to get complacent. Always be thinking about how you can expand the base of business leads that drive your sales.
3. Don’t get distracted by short-term emotions.
In investing, it’s important to stick with your plan and try to maintain a level-headed, cold-blooded, rational approach. Too many people let themselves be ruled by their emotions and over-react to short-term moves in the markets: the market drops, and they panic and sell all their stocks; or the market suddenly goes up, and they overpay for stocks because they finally feel confident enough to get into the market. Instead of buying low and selling high, too many investors end up doing exactly the opposite, because they’re not sticking with a plan and they’re not acting in their own long-term interests.
Business marketing is also driven by these same cycles of greed and fear. Business owners need to stay disciplined in the face of adversity and not get distracted by short-term fads or shocks. What is popular today might not last. Don’t feel like you have to go with the crowd or pile in to every new buzzed-about marketing channel or product category. Even if times are tough for your industry, you can still find a way to make your business thrive as long as you keep focusing on serving your customers, improving your product or service or solution, and strengthening your company for the long haul.
Being a great investor takes hard work, research, talent, and a bit of luck. It’s the same with being a great entrepreneur, business manager or marketer. But despite all the things in business (and investing) that are beyond your control, often the most important skill is to manage your own emotions and impulses. Stay the course. Focus on your long-term plan and stay true to your core strategies.
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