How Much Does Marketing Cost?

by Debra Andrews | June 3, 2014

Everyone knows the price and exactly what to expect when ordering a McDonalds #4 meal. A mani/pedi (that’s a manicure/pedicure combination for you men out there) – expect to pay $40 + tip. How about an iPhone? It’s pretty easy to know what your all-in price will be when getting your smart phone. So why is it so hard for marketing firms to answer the simple question, “How much does it cost?” Since “marketing speak” can be confusing at times, I’m going to use the analogy of grocery shopping to explain why the “cost of marketing” is difficult to answer.

It’s time to shop!

As your grab your cart, there are going to be many factors that determine the cost of your shopping experience. Here are just a few:

• Who are you shopping for? If it’s four growing teens, your grocery bill will be a lot higher than if it’s two middle-aged empty nesters watching their waistlines.

• What are you going to make? A menu of surf and turf is going to be a lot more expensive than pasta primavera.

• Are you shopping for supplies to last a few days, weeks or months?

• Do you already have some ingredients at home? If so, you won’t need to invest so much this trip down the aisle.

• How much do you have to spend? Clearly, your budget will impact your purchase. But, if you’re a clever, experienced shopper, there are ways to stretch the dollar!

• Are you looking to freeze a lot of leftovers and repurpose them for dinner later in the week?

And, your bill will “all depend…”

Just like grocery shopping, the cost of marketing for professional services firms depends on many different factors. Some of these include:

  • How hungry is your firm for growth?
  • Have you been consistently doing some form of marketing, or are you making up for a lot of lost time?
  • What type of marketing infrastructure do you have in place?

o Does your firm have a CRM system?

o How about a client-centric Web site?

o Do you have a blog and a repository of rich content?

  • Is your firm simply looking to maintain brand awareness, or build a new niche?
  • Do you have any internal resources to assist with marketing, or will most of it need to be outsourced?
  • How competitive are your geographic and target markets?
  • Are your clients feeling engaged, or do they need more nurturing?
  • Does your firm and most of its Partners believe in marketing as a core function? 

In general, professional services firms should plan on investing between 2-5% of revenue on the marketing function in order to remain competitive. You may think your brand is solid today, but its strength will begin to fade as the next generation takes over at the leadership of your largest clients, and new marketing-savvy competitors move into your local area and penetrate your target markets.

Sure, offering “quality service” still stands for something but without a consistent investment in marketing, your shopping cart will look like all the rest. And that approach only leads to one thing – competing for bargain shoppers! 

However, the purpose of this blog post is not to tell you how much to invest in marketing, but rather to make the simple point that is really does “all depend.”