Okay. So you’ve spent a few months and thousands of dollars on a new marketing campaign, but you aren’t seeing any meaningful results. Your top marketing advisors insist that this is only because you haven’t spent enough time to get to the strategy’s true potential of the marketing campaign, but you’re worried that investing more will result in an even greater loss. It’s true that most marketing strategies pay off more with long-term investment and planning, but you can’t keep dumping money into a strategy that isn’t doing you any good.
At what point do you cut your losses?
The Investment Dilemma
The biggest problem is the fact that different strategies require different types and levels of investments to truly pay off. Understanding what each strategy’s investment threshold is, and what type of investment you’ll need to make (usually a combination of time and money), you’ll be better able to determine when you’ve invested too much.
There’s also the “get what you pay for” problem in marketing. Though the rule is not without its exceptions, generally, the more you spend on marketing services and the more time you invest in your efforts, the more they’re going to pay off. Of course, higher investments also mean higher risk, making it even more difficult to tell when to draw the line.
Types of Marketing
To try and resolve this dilemma, let’s take a look at a handful of marketing strategies, and how each should be considered in terms of investment:
- Paid ads. Paid advertising is all about coaxing snap decisions; as soon as you start paying, your ads will go into rotation immediately, and you’ll start seeing results immediately too. Though you can improve your results by making tweaks over time, you won’t need long to ballpark how effective this strategy is.
- Content marketing and SEO. Content marketing and SEO, on the other hand, are strategies that only start paying off once you’ve invested considerable time and energy in them. Both depend on your visibility and reputation, and those can only be developed through consistent output—and there’s no way to achieve that overnight.
- Social media marketing. Social media marketing is similar to content and SEO in the sense that its earning potential greatly increases with every month that you develop it. Every new follower you get will increase the visibility and potential spread of whatever you publish, so try not to rule out this strategy too early.
- Other areas. There are hundreds of other potential marketing strategies, each with their own demanded blend of time and monetary investments. Do your research before you invest too heavily in any of them, and try to loosely evaluate how long or how much you’re willing to spend in each area.
The Seductive Reduction of ROI
Again, we’re left without specifics here. If only there was some numerical metric that could tell you exactly how effective your campaign was—but wait, there is. Your return on investment (ROI) is a comparison of how much money you’ve invested in a given strategy to how much you’ve gotten back from it in the form of new sales and consumer interest. The theory goes, if you’re seeing a positive ROI, it means the marketing campaign is worth pursuing, but if you aren’t, you should drop it.
This simplified thinking is seductive, but unfortunately, it’s also incomplete. Even the most in-depth ways of calculating ROI gloss over some important fundamentals and hard-to-measure variables like brand awareness and reputation, which need to be considered as part of your return. Plus, it doesn’t factor in the curve of ROI development; for the most part, ROI increases over time as you learn more about a strategy and invest more time and money in it. It’s like thinking about speed but forgetting about acceleration.
The Case for Experimentation
It’s also worth noting that experimentation is one of your most important tactics in the marketing world. Because no two businesses and no two demographics are alike, even the most informed marketers can be surprised by how your results actually play out. No strategy is guaranteed to be effective, and there are likely some strategies you haven’t considered that have enormous potential payoffs for your brand.
The only way to see whether these strategies are effective is to try them out, for weeks or even months, to see what potential they truly hold. This will always cost money, but will reward you with information that you can use to improve your overall approach. In this way, you can consider any money you spend on a marketing campaign to be valuable; each new strategy is an individual gamble in a system you know will pay off eventually (when you find the highest-ROI approaches). As long as you keep your best-performers in rotation, don’t be afraid of cutting off a strategy early.
The Bottom Line
There are tons of marketing strategies out there, and each one should be invested in a little bit differently. If you’re pursuing content marketing, for example, you won’t want to stop investing until you’ve given it at least a few months to develop, but if you’re going with direct paid ads, you’ll know almost immediately if your results are paying off. Don’t be afraid to invest money—it’s the only way to see a potential return—but be sure to diversify your approaches, and always be on the lookout for ways to improve.