Why Every Marketer & Digital Analyst Should Learn To Invest
In 2007, I wrote a post saying that every tech & marketing pro should blog (and later why Tweeting isn’t enough). I’ve also been vocal that you should make art. I stand by those ideas and am happy to have motivated several friends and contacts to try new things.
Today I wanted to challenge you to take something else on as well: investing. Not index funds / Vanguard / Wealthfront or passive investing. That’s all well and good and you should be doing that also for retirement. I’m talking about active investing: whether as something like an angel investor in a startup or two or equities in the public markets.
Some reasons why I think this is something all good analysts and data-driven marketers should be interested in:
Marketers / analysts are already conditioned to see trends – and are really good at it
A lot of finance guys are great with numbers but not all of them have the creative vision that marketers have to be able to see trends in different sectors before they happen. All good marketers innately have this and are skilled with using their own intuition and data to predict the future. Since you already nurture this skill you should put it to work in the markets too.
It’s fun to make predictions, follow companies and learn about sectors you know nothing about
If you are in marketing you take an active role in life. You probably already follow technology companies and popular brands but when you have skin in the game you’ll really be motivated to follow closely. Additionally investing is a great way to broaden your scope of awareness of the world. I’m personally really interested in life sciences as my father was a doctor, so have chosen biotech sector to study, invest in and follow closely. Choose something that is interesting to you and it’s a great excuse to learn about new sectors and ideas, something you will never regret (learning is even more valuable than money – so whether your have gains or losses, you still win!).
It’s a stock picker’s market
The indexes are at crazy high levels and in the near term, you’re probably not going to make much on them. Individual picks are a real chance to improve your financial situation. Additionally, if you’re young it’s good to have some risk in your portfolio.
Look even if you didn’t want to learn about a new sector, you already know about marketing and data. So with that you probably could have called that Tableau, for example would be a big winner from IPO since most of us know how widely used this is. Would have been a cool double for you with long term gains if you bought the IPO and held until now. My point here is you likely already know a few picks that will be big winners with your unique background and experience. Take advantage of this.
You’ll learn about financial sector which is incredibly valuable
In my experience most marketers and digital analysts don’t know much about financial side of companies, or even much about how public and private markets work. Learning this is important so if you ever work at a startup or public company you can negotiate a fair amount of equity and also simply to understand how companies fund their operations.
You may already follow / bet on sports – why not also follow and invest in something real?
While there’s nothing wrong with following sports, if you’re going to engage in things like fantasy football and whatnot, I think you should also consider investing and following the markets. This is essentially just following our world and the change happening within it. I think once you start you’ll find that sports are fun but just a game, and the markets have real implications on our lives and path society takes.
Most of us in marketing are naturally contrarians
Marketers naturally love to take the non-obvious side of things. It’s just what we do to come up with great creative, synthesize novel ideas to grab media attention and be strong consultants. This type of mindset in modern markets is incredibly valuable as you have to learn to buy things which are out of favor or invest in a startup people say would never work if you want outsized returns.
Stock metrics are simpler than digital Analytics
Understanding how to build an attribution model or connect data sources is fairly complex. But with investing all the data you’ll need is right within one app. You already won’t be daunted because you work on more complex dashboards in your daily life and the data isn’t nearly as accurate or real-time.
You’ll make new friends on Finance Twitter and investing social network StockTwits
Finance Twitter (for biotech, tech, QSRs, airlines, etc) is a vibrant place for conversations with smart people, as is the finance social network StockTwits. I’ve personally made lots of new friends here that I now spend time with in person too. Who knows, you might even find a business partner you create your own startup with one day.
Also StockTwits is cool because you can keep a public record of your picks and cultivate a reputation as a savvy investor. Here’s a sample conversation in StockTwits (you can follow me here).
It’s never been a better time to be a retail investor
We have brokerages like RobinHood to make $0 trades, access to so many trend and research tools, access to other investors and ultimately ability to make smart decisions. Ignore that high frequency traders might skim a few cents off a trade or that there are some people who try to game the system. As an individual investor you have unique advantages like being able to move quickly and not ask permission of a team. You are the preverbal mouse in the kitchen, able to easily grab pieces of cheese and small bits of food. Of course, don’t get too greedy or you’ll get swatted!
Before anyone says it, I’ll end with the obvious: plan your finances and put aside a % for speculative capital to invest with. Also don’t put money in the market or startups you need right away. One other comment: I do not advise advanced tactics like day trading or options trading when you’re just starting out but you can explore them too if you want later. I’m talking about doing research and making old school, buy & hold investments you see through.
And some transparency and proof! Eating my own dogfood here, I wanted to share my YTD % return in my speculative individual equity portfolio (green) vs the S&P as an index / representation of the broader US market (blue). This is really what has motivated me to write this post, I think these types of returns are possible for all of you too if you put in the work. I have no professional finance background, just the same marketing & analytics skills you do.
Note, I have been investing several years now and (even in the bull market) had plenty of painful lessons. This year is by far my best yet. But with some effort I believe it’s possible to beat the indexes in any year, and I stand by the fact that as marketers and analysts, you can do really well.
Also final note, I’d like to personally call out out 4 friends: Louis Gray, Linus Chou, Brad Loncar and Gaston Mendez for helping be investment mentors to me. They spent time answering my annoying questions / helped improve my due diligence process / and generally helped me up my game in early days. A majority of my effort to learn was on my own, but I think because of that existing experts (and friends) were more willing to spend time to help (they saw the effort I was putting was genuine). I’d absolutely recommend you find similar folk willing to give back to someone just starting out.