Market Like an Investor (Because Marketing is an Investment)Tuesday April 26th, 2016
How lessons learned from financial investment strategy will help your business execute stronger, more successful marketing.
I think we can all agree that marketing is an important investment for businesses looking to grow. Sure, there are businesses that grow organically over time without putting large budgets into advertising and promotion, but fast-growing companies without some investment in marketing are few and far between.
So, if we know that investing in marketing plays a pivotal role in growth, and we all want our companies to grow, then why do we have to fight for a strong marketing budget? Why is marketing often the first thing to get cut in a time of uncertainty?
We need to realize that marketing isn’t mysterious or magical.
Would you invest in a stock that would return 10% over the course of a year? If you answered “no” then you must have a very aggressive portfolio. So, why does it seem so natural to expect to double your money on every marketing investment? I think it’s because businesses often look at marketing as a mysterious black box that costs money, with little indication of results- a scary, high-risk undertaking. In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to look at a high-risk investment as the most natural place to make cuts.
It doesn’t help that we often treat advertising as an enigmatic art that is only understood by a few romanticized heroes, as portrayed by Don Draper in Mad Men. This projected idea helps a select few command ridiculously high hourly rates, but it also gives many business folks the idea that they can’t possibly understand this marketing stuff. This is illustrated perfectly by the famous Wanamaker quote “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” I hate that quote. These are dated visions of marketing that businesses need to leave behind.
Marketing is a quantifiable investment like any other.
We don’t have to look at it this way anymore. We have the tools and technology to track almost every aspect of our marketing campaigns to know exactly how they’re performing. You should be able to form a very clear idea of the return on investment from any marketing initiative, just like you do for your stock portfolio. As a matter of fact, not doing so is just plain irresponsible.
Let’s all agree to approach marketing as a sound financial investment like any other.
If you are to truly consider using marketing to invest in your company’s growth, then you should treat it like any other investment, with a measured and logical investment strategy. Too often, people enter marketing in a spastic or piecemeal way, easily distracted by shiny things. Would you do the same with your long-term investment plan? No. You wouldn’t. You shouldn’t approach your marketing this way either.
Here are a few ways that you should approach marketing like your financial investment strategy:
1. Invest with patience
Warren Buffett is known for saying “The stock market is a device for transferring money from the impatient to the patient.” Nobody, except maybe the most aggressive venture capitalists, expect to see a huge return from their investment in a year, so why do we expect this from marketing investments? This can lead to very high-risk, all-or-nothing marketing efforts that do not make a stable long-term impact. Instead, look for steady means of increasing awareness and sales, then work to improve ROI over time.
2. Diversify to manage risk
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, even if it turns those eggs to gold. You might net greater short-term gains from focusing on one hugely successful marketing channel or campaign, but the rapidly changing nature of digital platforms and current marketing methods means that you could quickly find yourself up a creek. One big change to Google’s algorithm could crush your organic search traffic, or your top advertising spot could triple their prices.
A marketing presence with a diverse collection of many channels and lead sources will be much more stable and able to weather storms like these. I recommend a balanced portfolio of marketing initiatives with a foundation of stable investments, and a few big ideas (read: higher risk investments) that could take your presence to the next level. If you want to dig into this idea more deeply, Steve Miller recently wrote a great article about Diversification vs. Optimization for the Brolik blog.
3. Quantify your results
Do you know exactly where your marketing resources are going and what you’re getting out of them? Unless you are with a large, national brand, I would bet that the answer is often “no.” Would you be so willing to blindly throw money into the stock market without looking at the results? Of course not. If you aren’t taking the time to track and calculate your return on investment, then it’s past time that you started. This is just as true with your time as your money.
4. Know your goals
One of the first steps to laying out an investment plan is to decide what you want out of life, and when you’ll need the money to do it. This allows you to plan for short-term needs like the kid’s college fund and longer-term goals like retiring to travel the world at 55. Don’t approach marketing with simply “I want to grow my business;” you need a more specific framework and a set of quantifiable performance indicators. If you can’t picture your desired outcome, then you’ll never make the right decisions to get there.
Now, go forth and market!