I’ve just returned from a meeting where the Johannesburg sales manager for a local electronics company said: “…marketing doesn’t really work, it just costs money…”. You’ll be excused for sharing his view.

The first thing I see when I speak to business owners about marketing is the fear of money going down the drain. And so often, it does. It costs money and makes very little in return.

But why is marketing so expensive? I believe it is primarily because it ends up being an expensive mistake! Companies build websites that don’t work. They invest in social media that wastes time. They spend money on brochures that get thrown away.

The biggest driver of marketing cost is marketing errors. But why so many mistakes?”

The reason is that the act of doing marketing gets confused with the subject – the area of study – that is marketing. There is marketing the verb, and marketing the noun. You can only do the verb part after you have done the noun part. First strategy, then tactics. Think, then act. Unfortunately, marketing has become all action!

What do you think they teach students in a university marketing course? Do you think the lecturer says, “right students, pull out your phones and let’s start tweeting”? Or, “open your laptops and let’s build a website”? Is that the curriculum? It’s not.

The world’s most well-known marketing textbook, Marketing Management, was first published in 1967 and is now in its 14th edition. Its author, Philip Kotler, is arguably the leading marketing thinker of our time with a PhD in economics and, wait for it, a post-doctoral year studying mathematics. How many pages do you think Prof. Kotler devotes to “social media” in his nearly 700 page textbook? About 5.

The point is this: as an entrepreneur, don’t be confused by the marketing hype around you, and certainly, don’t be tempted to waste money on the latest fad. First study your customer, your competitor and your business and then experiment with the best mix of marketing tools to maximise profit. This is marketing.

Is marketing expensive? Maybe. Does it deliver results? It should!