View Marketing as an Investment – Not an Expense

Marketing is a powerful engine for growth and success. Stay fully invested in your company’s vision in order to achieve superior returns.

Peter Drucker, known as the father of business consulting, once said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

Although modern business owners are often inclined to see marketing as an expense, Drucker’s view of marketing as an investment that drives results is far more accurate. Although many businesses cut their marketing when sales are low, in order to save money, they should instead increase their marketing in order to return sales to a healthy level.

FOCUS ON BUILDING A MOAT AROUND YOUR BUSINESS

When businesses treat marketing as a cost, they focus on short-term sales and ignore the long term. For these companies, most of their marketing dollars go toward tangible purchases, for example, an ad or a click on Google. These expenditures provide returns, but they have minimal ability to continue to drive value after the money has been spent. A coupon placed in a newspaper may result in a sale, but it is unlikely to help to retain that customer or to continue to draw customers after it has gone out of print.

If you want your company to continue growing, your goal should be to build as much of a moat around your business as you can. This is achieved by continuous investment of marketing dollars into your company’s owned assets. Such investments may include updating your message and website every year, producing customer video testimonials for use as sales tools, developing a series of educational webinars, and investing in the development of relevant content that can be used for thought leadership and for SEO. Although these efforts may not produce short-term returns, they will certainly aid in strengthening your business over time. The problem is that if you only look for marketing initiatives that guarantee an immediate ROI—consistent with a view of marketing as an expense—you will never plant any of these long-term marketing seeds and therefore never begin to build the moat that is necessary for a sustainable competitive advantage.

WALKING THE WALK IN MY OWN LIFE

Examining my own life as an entrepreneur, I know that I have “walked the walk” while growing TribalVision. The reason that TribalVision has achieved such success is that, from day one, I understood the importance of marketing in order to create something special and separate it from the dozens of other marketing firms in the local area. Before even opening the doors for business (and with little money), I wrote a book, spent months crafting my company’s message and coming up with the name TribalVision, built a website that made TribalVision look like an established company worth talking about, developed an animated video to explain the Why behind TribalVision, wrote six white papers, developed multiple marketing presentations, and crafted a thirty-page marketing plan to identify and capture new business. If I had viewed marketing as an expense rather than an investment, I never would have done any of these activities. As a result, I would have started TribalVision with only a business card, an average-quality ten-page website, and nothing else, which is what most startups do.

Looking back five years later, although I cannot attribute a specific ROI (i.e., how much business was generated by a message that stands out rather than just being average) to each of those investments, I can state with confidence that those investments taken as a whole have provided a much larger payoff than I would have earned by saving that money in my bank account. TribalVision is now a multi-million dollar firm, fifty employees strong and reinvesting in marketing efforts more and more each year.

KEY TAKEAWAY

If we are to build something great, we must take a leap of faith—a calculated leap of faith but a leap of faith nonetheless. If Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, or Elon Musk invested only in efforts backed by guaranteed results, they never would have built the empires that they have. Hopefully, you too will view marketing as an investment. This very simple message and mindset can make the difference between gradual growth and dramatic growth.