Playing the Long Game

In today’s immediate gratification world, businesses often look for a quick answer to get more leads and sales. Many companies out there are willing to play into this impatience by selling you a solution guaranteed to drive leads and sales right now. Hire them and within a month (maybe two) with barely any work on your end, you’ll have so many leads, you won’t know what to do with yourself!

We all know that what sounds too good to be true often is, but it is still tempting to fall into this trap. There is something appealing about a promise of fast, massive results. Especially when you are a small business and your cash reserves are running short and you can’t remember the last time you had a new customer and the bills are piling up…yeah, of course, I’ll say yes to that “get leads or sales now” solution.

The reality though is that when it comes to lead generation strategies, there are no quick answers or guaranteed solutions. And those “get leads/sales now” schemes that sound too good to be true almost always are. Do they work for some businesses? A few. Mostly, though, these schemes only manage to help the companies selling them.

It is easy to understand the temptation. To be fair and transparent, I’ve tried some of the supposedly more reputable ones—I was always skeptical, but curious and hopeful. They never worked for me, certainly not to the degree promised. Maybe a client here or there, if that.

It isn’t just me though. These schemes and solutions have never worked for anybody I’ve ever talked to. Nearly every client I’ve worked with over the years has, at one point or another, at least considered using one of these solutions. Many have, like me, skeptically and hopefully decided to adopt one of the solutions just to see what worked.

But they don’t work. Because a lead generation resulting in high ROI and the creation of a successful business more generally aren’t outcomes that can be gained quickly. They aren’t outcomes that can be gained with just one solution—there is no magic bullet that will change your business around.

A Better Approach: The Long Game

So, what does work? A simplistic answer is to say “patience”. While success requires patience, I’ve never found this a satisfying answer. Yes, good things come to those who wait. But, while waiting you have a lot of work to do.

Most of the work is about getting really good at what you do. Slowly and steadily you learn more about your industry and the best ways you can serve customers. Slowly and steadily, you find ways to ensure your marketing, sales, products, services, customer service, and every other aspect of your company better suit the needs of your customers.

Of course, this work is often tedious and boring. It is fun to invent new products, but somewhat boring to tweak the same product over and over again. It is fun to design a completely new website, but boring to revise content on the same website for the seven-hundredth time. But success demands sticking to one thing and finding ways to do it better—name a successful company and odds are good, they’ve been delivering that product or service for years, slowly and steadily perfecting what they do.

Part of this work requires listening to feedback from your customers—this is largely how we help the clients we work with at Elementive. By reviewing data, you can start to understand who your customers are and what they want from your business. From there, you can determine what people are liking (and more importantly not liking about) working with your company. This informs those small and steady changes you need to make on the road to success.

Slowly, over time, you’ll collect enough data where you can start to make informed choices about what kinds of changes would like you to make. As you use the data to listen to your customers, you can start to steadily make some changes. Listen carefully enough, make more right choices about what to change than wrong ones, and you’ll start to see some signs of success.

This is the long game. Time and again, the clients who play this long game, who work hard slowly and steadily tweaking their company to work just a little bit better for customers today than it did yesterday, are the clients who eventually see big gains. These are the organizations who “all the sudden” have double the leads, triple the sales volume, or are doing amazing things like speaking at MozCon (ahem). They have done a lot of hard work over many years and it is finally paying off.

Hard Work Is Required

The long game does require a lot of hard work. The clients we see who have the most success have employees and founders who slave away through many weekends and evenings to make sure everything is steadily improving. These are the clients who take the time to respond to every sales inquiry quickly, even those that come in on weekends and evenings.

But it isn’t just the long hours that occasionally arise. The hardest work of all is being disciplined enough to commit to routinely doing what is required to build toward success. It is tempting to change course when something doesn’t go quite right. It is tempting to throw out your entire product or service because of a few customers who really didn’t like the service. It is tempting to give in to the temptation for the quick solution promising immediate leads and sales.

The Long Game Is Worth It

Success isn’t something that will happen in a matter of weeks or months. Success is something that can take years before you start to see the success you are hoping for. Success is hard to come by, but achieving it requires being willing and committed to playing the long game, knowing you are working toward something bigger than a quick win.