Why businesses NEED to see Marketing as an investment and not a cost

Today I want to talk about something that really grinds my gears. It’s something that is slowly being phased out, but there are still so many, too many, businesses that think of Marketing the wrong way.

There are two schools of thought:

Marketing is an investment for a business

or

Marketing is a cost for a business

Before we dive in to why it’s 100% an investment, and why ALL businesses need to start thinking this way, let’s just clarify what an investment vs a cost actually is:

Investment

An investment requires putting in time, money, resources, into something with the objective of retrieving more money, resources back. You invest $1, with the goal of making $2 over time. Examples include:

  • Investing in stocks
  • Investing in real estate
  • Investing in a business or idea

Cost

A cost is something that has to be paid in order to get something. It’s seen as an inevitability that one has to accept to pay out to get something. Examples include:

  • Electricity/gas/water bills
  • Delivery charges
  • An item from Amazon

In some ways, investments and costs are similar — they both require an input. But the output differs. With an investment, and output should grow, so you get more for your money over time. With a cost, you always get a fixed return. You’re exchanging one thing for another.

So why is it important for Marketing to be an investment and not a cost?

Let me tell you a little story of my first job in Marketing many years ago. I had graduated from University, and had been trying to find my first step on the ladder for many months. When I finally got that step I was so excited and pleased. It wasn’t until I left to take my next challenge several years later that I realised that the business saw Marketing as a cost.

They saw it as something that needs to happen and needs to be paid for, like an electricity bill. It was inevitable. They saw Marketing as something that just needs to be done as part of the process of running a business, to make sales, get customers etc.

But because of this, their Marketing strategy was absolutely dire. Despite having a decent budget for a business of their size and review, a good half if not more of it was spent doing the same Marketing year, after year.

The same exhibitions, the same magazine adverts. This by itself might not be such a bad thing if the exhibitions and adverts consistently produced results. But because the business saw Marketing as a mere cost, they didn’t bother to really measure the results from anything we did. So decisions on a lot of the Marketing activity for the year were made on just one fact: They had done it last year.

That is 100% NOT the right way to carry out Marketing in any business. How Marketing should go is this:

  • Try a new activity, campaign or strategy
  • Measure in depth the results gained from it, in terms of clients and eventually sales/clients
  • Determine whether it was a success or not
  • Decide whether to run the same again or to scrap it if it wasn’t worth the investment
  • Alternatively, run it again with certain changes and tweaks to optimise it — which should always, always happen

In order for this process to happen, a business MUST switch it’s mindset when it comes to what it classes Marketing as. Sure, it costs money, a lot of money. But by seeing it as an investment, and treating it that way, and not just a fixed cost you have to put up with, you will absolutely get more for your money.

And after all, isn’t that why any business is in business? To make more money than they started with! And Marketing can help any business get there, but a business must be willing to switch how they view it.

I’ve seen a great shift in how businesses view and use Marketing over the last decade. More and more are starting to view and treat Marketing as an investment, and focus on getting greater results from it. But sadly there are far too many businesses out there who are still living in that cost mindset, where Marketing is just an inevitable cost that needs to happen year after year.

Dan

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