Plant Short-Term Seeds While Building for the Long Term

Consider the following questions:

  1. Do you care more about a long-term relationship with a customer or a single sale from a customer?
  2. Would you rather have $1,000,000 in five years or $100,000 right now?

Most marketers pick the long-term option in these cases, but regardless, their behavior often adheres to short-term principles. It’s easy to focus only on short-term marketing initiatives, such as cold-calling and sending solicitation letters, that will bring immediate, tangible ROI. However, doing so ignores valuable activities such as content marketing. It is crucial to recognize that long-term marketing investments generate value, even though they may not drive revenue immediately.

You probably won’t see immediate results from a new blog post, thought leadership article, white paper, or online video. But those things will gradually build the credibility that your company needs in order to differentiate itself from the competition in the long term. All businesses aspire to long-term profitable growth. Focusing only on the short term precludes that. It is your company’s long-term plan that will build brand awareness and credibility.

Your company needs immediate results—sales and revenue—to maintain its health day-to-day. But if you view marketing as a long-term investment, you’ll find that marketing activities that provide a less tangible ROI are equally important as those that generate immediate revenue. These long-term investments, which can range from website design to salesforce training to marketing strategy, will drive value for the company long after they have been paid.

Increasingly, buyers are educating themselves behind closed doors. These buyers won’t be influenced by an ad in the newspaper or on a billboard. They will, however, be influenced by assets such as great website design, compelling content, credible thought leadership, strong sales presentations, and creative initiatives such as a video library of happy customers.

You will never be able to accurately measure the ROI for these types of marketing investments, but they are certain to pay off in the long term. They will strengthen your credibility in the marketplace while building a moat around your brand to hold off the competition.

Ultimately, you must strike the right balance between generating profit and cash flow in the present and building a strong foundation for long-term growth. As former GE CEO Jack Welch (under whose tenure the company’s revenue grew 4000%) said in Lynn B. Upshaw’s and Earl L. Taylor’s book, The Masterbrand Mandate, “You can’t grow long-term if you can’t eat short-term. Anybody can manage short. Anybody can manage long. Balancing those two things is what management is.”

Your company’s long-term strategies will establish brand awareness and value, while its short-term strategies will trigger the sales that are needed now.


You must think both short term and long term: short term for lead generation and long term in order to build a moat around your brand. The right balance between short term and long term, between meeting payroll and fulfilling your company’s vision, can be found in the phrase “long-term greedy,” which was coined by Gus Levy of Goldman Sachs. Rather than simply searching for as many immediate sales opportunities as possible (being “short-term greedy”), you can plant seeds so that your company will continue to grow stronger and outpace its competition. In order to build long-term credibility, your company must maintain consistent, quality effort across all chosen initiatives. Focus your time on these initiatives intensely, and resist the temptation to allow your attention to be diverted by myopic projects that will not pay off for the company in the long term.