Patient Capital and Content Marketing

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Christopher G. Fox

Can marketing adopt a “patient capital” mindset?

In the world of investment management, the term “patient capital,” as pioneered by the brilliant Jacqueline Novogratz and Acumen, refers to a willingness to make investments without insisting on quick returns. The rationale is that the investment will drive substantial social impact and, ultimately, significant returns.

Consider, for example, an investment in innovations that will improve access to clean water for Africa’s rapidly growing population, tapping into the continent’s increased spending power. A small investment stake today could achieve 100X returns within a couple of decades — provided that investors can bide their time.

Key to the patient capital investment approach’s success is providing strategic support to these emerging high-impact companies, both investing in and nurturing their growth.

“Patient capital” suggests a powerful metaphor for the practice of marketing. It applies well to the world of fintech and sophisticated banking products and services.

Don’t get me wrong…high-volume, high-noise tactics have their place. They work very well for launching a consumer product or app. You have to hit a lot of people at a lot of touchpoints if you want to onboard tens of thousands of users a month.

In other contexts, however, building relationships requires building trust. If you focus on hitting prospects with in-your-face, high-pressure, high-frequency marketing messages, you end up undermining that trust.

Adopting a patient capital mindset means slowly building up an audience by delivering the highest value thinking in the highest quality manner possible. People may not buy today. It means planning at longer timescales — quarters and years rather than days and weeks.

As a patient marketer, you meet your audiences where they are. You deliberately and intentionally build your reputation by developing your ongoing credibility. In the same way that a patient capitalist defers expectations of return, you defer your expectations of immediate buying decisions by focusing on the long haul.

As a result, you build mindshare. You position yourself as uniquely the best and most trustworthy. You nurture the category-defining ideas and leading thinkers in your company who develop them. As a result, even though you have competitors, you differentiate yourself from them in ways that make you virtually a market of one.

Patient marketing means focusing on longer-term strategy, and therefore it takes different metrics to analyze success. Opens, clicks, SEO data, traffic, impressions, etc. all measure the world of short-termism. Sometimes it requires committing to what you know deep down is right rather than what the immediate numbers tell you. Stepping back from the data can be an uncomfortable feeling.

Nonetheless, patient strategy promises significant returns over time. Look at McKinsey’s outsized mindshare versus its top-tier consultancy competitors, or IDEO’s among the many, many design consultancies. Look at the rise of thinkers like Brene Brown, investing an entire industry based on her research and thinking.

In highly innovative, ideas-driven industries such as fintech and financial services, the same strategic opportunities are there…for those who are both bold and patient enough to pursue them.

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