Investing in Your Business (You Get What You Pay For)

By Lucinda Gunnin

There’s a temptation in business, especially if your business is new, to cut corners wherever you can. But the reality is that sometimes it’s more important to invest in your business than it is to save money.

I know, I know. That goes against everything you’ve ever been taught, right? Maybe, but from engineers to artists, the truth is that you get exactly what you pay for and that’s not a good thing.

Back when I had the misfortune to work for someone else, I spent several years as a purchasing agent for a small – think $5 million in annual sales – manufacturing company. One thing I did was negotiate with suppliers to get the materials we needed to make our product. The company owner, an engineer, and I learned the hard way that not all steel should be treated equally.

The company was developing a new product and we needed a lot of that particular steel. We called a major distributor or two, sent requests for quotes and received prices. The first time we ordered it, our product came back perfect, so we ordered more. This time the steel easily pitted and did not machine well or evenly. Basically, the steel was crap.

We jumped through all the hoops that happen when you complain that thousands of dollars of what you bought was subpar.

The one thing we identified as different – the origin of the steel. The crappy steel was imported, the stuff we bought the first time was American made. It’s not always the way it breaks down, but that time it did. From then on, we bought nothing but American-made steel. It cost more, but it always performed the same way. We learned that we paid a bit more for the quality we wanted.

Maybe you already know that when it comes to the product your business is selling. Maybe you already buy your team the best tools, buy the highest quality parts, and spend a little extra for the top-of-the-line materials, tools or products. I’m glad you’ve learned that lesson, but do you apply it to marketing as well?

Whether your business is a product or a service, you may be mistakenly thinking that “good enough” or “whatever is cheapest” is good steel for your business.

Excuse me while I cringe.

Good enough is not acceptable when you are talking about marketing for your company. Every bit of information that goes out about your company needs to project the right message to your customers. You control that message; how you communicate it makes a difference.
Your message is what you tell people about your company and the product or service you deliver. If your message is sloppy, misspelled, or messy, that’s what you are telling your potential customers about your business. You don’t want people to think of you as the sloppy restaurant on Third Street or the messy house painters.

The primary way your business controls its message is via marketing, but many business owners don’t invest in marketing because they don’t understand how it works or how it impacts their bottom line.

Here are some ways people try to save money on marketing and the ultimate fail:

  • A self-storage facility owner decides that, rather than hire a professional graphic designer to create a logo for him, he will use his AutoCAD program to draw a picture of a disk lock. Not sure what a disk lock is or how it applies to his business? His customers didn’t know either.  If he had hired a professional graphic designer, the designer could have found an image that resonates with customers and helps reinforce his business’s message.
  • A company hires the least expensive writer they can find to compose pages for their website. The low bidder doesn’t speak English as their primary language and has no concept of American phrases. They get a website that says they are the very gooder plumbers in the Atlanta city.  A better option would be to find writers who specialize in your business and speaks English as their first language. This potentially creates two problems: 1) Some people will not do business with a company that engages in offshore outsourcing, and 2) If the plumber’s writer knows nothing about plumbing, that will show through in the writing, making the plumber’s website look like he knows nothing about plumbing!
  • An American car company picks a name for a vehicle that inspires thoughts of stars and the future. They call it a Chevy Nova and then try to sell it in Mexico. In Spanish, “No va” in Spanish means “It doesn’t go.” The car doesn’t sell well. With even a small bit of market research, the company would have known that a different name would be more appropriate in Spanish-speaking countries.

You don’t want to have to spend the time and effort it takes to recover from marketing gone wrong. Instead, remember that marketing is an investment in your company’s future. Cheap steel might just cause your company to collapse.

Lucinda Gunnin is a well-rounded, award-winning author, with experience in many different areas of both business and writing.  She also serves as president of the Southern Illinois Writers Guild and is a founding member/administrator at the Accentuate Writers Forum.


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