Marketing isn't expendable - it just takes time

Marketing isn't expendable - it just takes time

So I just read the headline about Elon Musk sacking his marketing team after 4 months. Additionally, the article cites Elon mentioning in a tweet regarding the advertising "far too generic – could’ve been any car.". And it was the most triggering thing I've read in a while.

Not because I care what Elon or Tesla does. But the article itself, the headline, the Elon tweet - It's indicative of a view that I see held by many businesses. That marketing should be bringing in leads in the short term. And if it’s not, it’s an expense that should be cut.

That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of marketing as a business function. 

And being a business owner myself, I’ll be the first to admit it took me a long time to understand and experience how marketing supports a business. 

Yes, I understand the irony. 

Yes, we do run a digital marketing agency that does extremely well for our clients. 

Laugh if you will!

But marketing for yourself is so different to marketing for someone else. Especially if I’m the only resource.

So I want to cover from the point of view of a business owner:

  1. What is the marketing function supposed to be doing?
  2. What is the value that marketing should be bringing?
  3. How do we give our marketing the best chance of success?

What is the function of marketing?

Marketing is about helping to secure the future of the business. It does this by opening a dialogue with your target market today so that they may work with you tomorrow.

I love Mark Ritson's recent post. There's one true test of marketing effectiveness: Marketing (t)

"Time is the variable that most defines marketing success, because consistent growth is the truest test of a brand and its team." - (Mark Ritson, 2023)

Of course, there is a part of marketing that looks to generate sales straight away. Google Ads are the best example. But we know that not everyone wants to buy right now. And that this is a relatively small and expensive audience to target.

There is a bigger audience.

They may not be interested in our services now. But in three to six to twelve months?

I argue that the greater, harder task is introducing your brand and message to this audience consistently, over time.

I'm not the only person saying this. Check out Mark Ritson, Peter Fields and Les Binet. I’ve just seen a piece about businesses that focus on building the brand outperforming performance marketers by 60%.

But it’s hard for me to justify spending on something that’s hard to measure.

Let me tell you something.

I haven’t invested in marketing during the last couple years. And it has been tough for marketing agencies. Mine included. We used to do eBooks but I had to make cuts. Check out our brand impressions over the last 12 months.

brand impressions

Brand impressions halved over the last six months. There are many external factors, but I can’t help but think. What if I had carried on building my audience in some way?

My guess. If I’d continued to invest in marketing, we’d be coming out much further ahead. We’d be more resilient with a stronger lead pipeline.

It’s like… securing the bank overdraft BEFORE you need it. And that to me, sounds like a pretty damn valuable activity.

So this year, I’ve restarted with three marketing initiatives. Things I believe will bring medium to long term value to my business.

  1. Partnerships
  2. Workshops & Speaking Engagements
  3. Personal Branding LinkedIn (Apologies if you’ve seen me EVERY time you’ve logged in)

Not everything that marketing does is measurable.

Marketing impact in many cases can’t be captured on a spreadsheet. That does not mean it's not valuable.

But if you want a suggestion. Here’s what I’m looking for as an indicator:

  1. Brand searches and clicks - How many people are searching for my brand over time? 
  2. Total and new visitors to the website - Regardless of channel, are we receiving more people to the website.
  3. Channel metrics e.g. LinkedIn: Post engagement, follower count, profile and company views.
  4. Audience growth including email lists but also retargeting lists

We’re looking for correlation between different sources of data. All going up or down or not moving? This could give us at least an idea of what’s happening.

Taken over time, year on year, it gets much stronger as an indicator. Consistent focused effort with long term time frames. It sounds like a bloody fitness programme.

So how can we set up marketing to succeed?

If you're a business owner and this is your first foray into marketing. Consider this. After having done your market research and built your marketing strategy (which can be simple, come and grab a coffee if you like).

We ask ourselves:

  1. What are the top marketing activities that we believe have the best chance of success for our business context?
  2. What can we sustain in terms of time for 6 - 12 months?
  3. What can we afford over 6 to 12 months?

That's a decent amount of time. That’s why the time and money invested has to be at sustainable levels. Because if you don’t have that consistency, you might as well not start.

Marketing should be a strategic mid to long term activity because it takes time to really bear fruit. That’s why when I hear of entire departments being sacked after four months (not just Tesla), it really reeks of short term thinking. That department that got sacked had no chance to begin with.

Initial results for us over the last quarter have been promising. The first wave of leads coming through have said “oh I’ve been meaning to get in touch”. So who knows if that will continue. But I’m betting on it. It takes time to move people. It takes time to get it right.

Kim Voon

Kim Voon


With over 15 years of experience in search and online marketing, Kim is the Founder of Insight Online. Kim started Insight as he saw an opportunity to build an agency that focuses on business results and strong working relationships with clients.

As the face of the business, Kim will likely be your first point of contact, chatting with you about your work and what you’d like to get done. The best part of his job is meeting new people, getting to know their businesses, and making a tangible, measurable difference for them.

In his spare time, Kim loves playing disc golf, strumming a little guitar and is an avid bookworm.

His favourite charities are Zeal which supports youth in their development over a number of years and Lifewise, an organisation focussed on getting homeless into homes.