Marketing is an Investment in the Future

Marketing Investment

For some, marketing is nothing more than a necessary evil and when they can, they will avoid it. It’s an expense stealing from the bottom line.

When budgets are tight, one of the first things to go out the door is marketing. Why market if the budgets are lean? There are certainly other places where the money is needed more.

When business is good, some companies make the decision to stop marketing. Why spend extra money on it if it’s not needed? There are certainly enough customers. If business drops off, then they will take action.

Unfortunately, marketing isn’t like a faucet that can be turned on and out pour the customers. Beyond that, marketing can be complicated. There are so many options it can feel overwhelming.

However, it’s hard to get away from marketing. It’s literally everywhere and the success of your business depends on it.

Marketing Is An Investment

I worked at Intel when the dot-com bubble burst in 2001 and the economy spun into recession. At that time, Intel and its main competitor, AMD, were in fierce competition. Intel was Goliath to AMD’s David but AMD was producing fantastic products and stealing market share away from Intel.

Despite the recession, Intel made a decision to continue investing in its products. The argument that was made to the employee base was that at the end of the recession, Intel would be a generation ahead of AMD who had decided to cut its investment in its products.

When the recession ended, Intel was a generation ahead of AMD who has never been able to catch up to Intel and it has struggled financially for years. It’s a lesson that I’ve always remembered.

I understand that we are currently in a recession. To make matters worse the world has been turned upside down by COVID-19 and we have no idea when we are going to have a vaccine. The future is murky and we don’t know what the world is going to look like when it’s all over.

I’m dealing with many of the same obstacles and realities that you are. Revenue has shrunk dramatically and some days I don’t even want to get out of bed but I’m still investing in marketing and you should too.

Marketing Isn’t Just Ads

Most people think of marketing as ads. That’s one aspect of it but not a complete picture. In fact, ads are only one piece. Besides paid media, where ads fall, there is earned media, shared media, and owned media.

If you are integrating all these pieces as part of a strategic plan, you will be using the PESO model. This model, created by Gini Dietrich at Spin Sucks, is near and dear to my heart because of its flexibility and the fact that it is measurable.

I’m not going into great detail about the PESO model in this article but you can read more about it here.

Let’s look at what PESO has to offer.

Paid media is digital ads. You’ve seen them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, on Google, and many other places. If your budget is strained, chances are that paid won’t be the best choice but you do still have many other ways to market.

One of the best investments is owned media. Owned media is where you own the content and the channel. This is going to boil down to two things: Your website and your email list.

Chances are you already have website which means you’re already investing in owned media. If you’re doing and content marketing, it is going to reside on your website. Even if your not, you will have pages such as a home page, service pages, product pages. Whether or not you are doing content marketing, you should always make sure that you are using search engine optimization (SEO) so the search engines can find you.

In the future, I’m going to talk more on both content marketing and SEO but in the meantime, check out the Orbit Media blog. It’s a must-read when it comes to content marketing and strategies for SEO.

Shared media includes all the usual suspects such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and TikTok to name a few. These can all be great platforms to market and build relationships.

Earned Media is placing stories about your organization with media outlets. In the past media has been seen as newspapers, magazines, television, and radio but has expanded to digital media such as blogs and podcasts. These are all great places to tell your story.

I don’t mean to suggest that owned media, shared media, and earned media are free. They come with a cost whether it be time or the money you’re paying an employee or agency to manage them for you but they don’t typically come at the same cost as paid media.

It Isn’t Easy

I know you’re probably thinking. “He does digital marketing for a living. Of course, he thinks I should continue to market.”

That would be a fair point but you also need to consider that my top client is me and if my top client goes out of business I do too.

However, I’ve given you the pros so it’s only fair that we talk about some cons. To be clear these are the cons whether we’re in a recession or in the best economy the world has ever seen.

There is one big con you need to know. It isn’t easy.

Better put, marketing is hard. There are is no shortage of options but that doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, it can make it more difficult. Especially, if you’re not sure what you’re doing.

Should you be marketing on Facebook? Instagram? Google? YouTube? Snapchat? What about other digital mediums like email, native advertising, and geofencing? Of course, there are also traditional mediums such as television, radio, and print to consider.

You have to define your audience(s) and create marketing funnels. Content creation in itself takes time and you have to test everything you do to see what works and what doesn’t. Regardless of what course you take, you will still have to worry about SEO.

To top it off, marketing is always changing. It can be a full-time job just trying to keep up with it.

If your not sure where you’re going, marketing isn’t only time consuming but it can be an expensive lesson in what not to do. If you don’t have a big budget, and even if you do, you might see little to no results which is why you should be doing your research before investing.

This is really no different than if you were to invest your money in the stock market or an IRA or any other financial activity.

Some of you will feel comfortable enough to do your research and invest on your own while some of you will do no research and learn the hard way. Others will decide they don’t have the expertise and hire a financial adviser to make sure you are making the right investments based on your goals

Marketing as an investment will follow the same path. Some of you will do your research, create a strategic plan, and execute it on your own. Some of you will just jump in and start doing things which will likely get mixed results. Others will hire somebody like an agency to help you do it so you get the most out of your investment based on your goals.

A Quick Example

I’m going to use myself as an example because, believe it or not, I go through the exact process for myself that I go through with clients. The only difference is it’s my money I’m investing.

I sat down last December and determined my business goals and went through the process of doing a SWOT. I tied my business goals to my marketing which is what I advise all my clients to do. It took me several days to plan because the process is thorough.

I made a strategic decision that owned media should be a priority. I was already making a significant investment so it wasn’t a big deal to increase that investment. The website was at the center of my activities so it just made sense.

Part of that was to make sure that I was properly using search engine optimization (SEO) to help drive traffic to the website. The other piece was to upgrade the design and content.

There was a big focus placed on content that wasn’t part of the blog. The service pages, about pages, etc. I wanted to be clear and transparent about who my agency is and how we worked. I’m not the right agency for everybody so I want to weed out the organizations who aren’t a good fit and that’s part of what my content does. The other piece is to draw in those who are a good fit.

I use shared media channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to promote the website but I felt the best long term investment was SEO. This was largely based on the data that I was seeing when I sat down to plan.

Last year at this time my primary marketing driver to the website was shared media. SEO was down the list but by the time December rolled around, organic search was my top driver of traffic. Organic search is driven by SEO.

Cut to today and I’ve seen organic traffic jump by 196% from a year ago and it accounts for nearly 55% of all my traffic. I’m getting more traffic now than I have ever got before. All the metrics I use to determine how well the website is doing have gone up.

Because I chose to invest in owned media, COVID-19 and the recession have had zero impact to my marketing budget. It’s exactly the same budget I had in December when I sat down and my planning. My biggest cost is my time and I’m not putting in any more time than I planned.

To be clear, I didn’t make the SEO investment in December but I did make the choice to continue it. I made the investment a couple of years ago. SEO is a long term investment. The fact that I made it a couple of years ago is big help now.

It may sound like I’m patting myself on the back but I’m not. I’m not a genius. I listened to the advice that Gini Dietrich others gave. I sat down, determined where I wanted to be, and then made an investment.

It’s Not About Today, It’s About Tomorrow

There is no way to circumvent the marketing funnel. Everybody goes through it. Some may go through quicker than others but it’s unlikely that somebody is going to see a single piece of marketing and immediately buy.

For those of you who rely heavily on referrals, it’s the same thing. Chances are they are going to still do some research before they buy. This means they will still be going through the marketing funnel.

Let’s look at a quick example.

Cars are expensive. Even used cars can be expensive. When somebody is looking to purchase, they have most likely done research before they ever walked into a dealership. It’s not an overnight process. Research and consideration could be measured in days, weeks, or months. It all depends on the customer and their situation.

What I am telling you is that marketing is for the customer you want to walk through the door next week, next month, six months from now, or even next year.

Believe me, I know it can be frustrating. I know I’ve frustrated my share of businesses because my timeline wasn’t the same as theirs but that’s the reality we all face every day. Your customers work on their schedule, not yours.

Final Thoughts

If you wait until you feel like you have to market because business has slowed down, you could find yourself in a difficult situation because the process takes time.

Marketing is even more important now because when people have money to spend, the first businesses they will think of are the ones who have stayed visible through marketing. They will be top of mind.

Don’t wait for the river to completely dry up before opening the dam. Keep the water flowing so your business will continue to flourish and grow.

The actions that you take aren’t for today. They are for tomorrow.

Shane Carpenter
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