Sometimes, it’s our fault as an industry. If you’re talking to someone about their marketing (or lack thereof) and they tell you that they “can’t afford it,” it simply means that they view marketing as an expense — and not as an investment. If they believed in marketing, meaning they saw it as an investment with a positive return on investment (ROI), their position would be that they couldn’t afford NOT to market. So, as an industry and as individual marketing companies, it’s important that we begin the narrative that marketing — when it’s done well — is an investment, not an expense.
Along those same lines are two other objections to investing in marketing that come up on a fairly regular basis. The first objection is: “Business is terrible and I can’t afford to advertise.” The second, on the other side of the coin, if you will, is: “Business is great, I don’t need to advertise.”
The first case, unfortunately, often is true. I wrote toward the end of last year about two to three companies that came to us with (extremely) limited budgets and a very short window. We walked away from them, and the truth is that they would have been better off buying lottery tickets. Marketing requires a commitment and some time in order to be successful. It hurt to have to tell these companies that painful truth, but I would feel unethical if I took their money, knowing the odds of success were infinitesimally small.
The second case is much harder to stomach. No business stays “on a roll” forever. We all hit rough patches due to the economy, internal mistakes or, sometimes, just plain bad luck. But the companies that are successful long term are the ones who recognize that, plan for it and take action steps to minimize the down times.
One of the ways to do that is to invest in marketing, when budgets allow. Marketing can help reinforce current business and fill, or refill, the new business pipeline. Never assume that the next generation of customers knows who you are and are just waiting for an opportunity to write you a check or that all of your customers will be with you forever. Plus, if you truly are that successful, don’t you think competitors will know that and come after you?
Invest, don’t spend, and invest when you can!