Many people are pouring their hearts, wallets – and water – into house plants in a booming trend among millennial’s. Forget mortgages and kids, the bigger challenge and mark of success seems to be that of keeping a houseplant alive. Being a ‘plant parent’, especially a first timer, is mentally draining. Sensitive to their entire environment, and the unpredictability around how they’ll grow and perform is just the gamble that all plant parents knowingly take and try to overcome (although it often ends up in manslaughter).

Much like parenting a houseplant, marketing tactics and content strategy appear risky, especially not knowing for sure what the return on investment (ROI) will be. ROI is used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the performance of several different investments – which is why it’s important to keep track of. It’s a key metric of success, but also difficult to calculate. Just as a plant can provide constant oxygen, marketing can deliver you good ROI and help your business thrive. Or not.

Is marketing a gamble in terms of ROI?

  • If you’re a first-time plant parent, even if you’ve done your research and consulted a garden specialist, you never really know how your plant is going to react. Light, humidity, draughts, water type, soil type and frequency of watering can all wildly sway the health of your plant. Every decision can seem like a gamble. Like marketing, you can’t say for sure what tactics are going to have to have the best pay off or the best return for your investment – this is the biggest gamble. Calculating the true return on your investment is a complicated process that may be difficult to place into numbers because there are so many factors that play into each sale. You may not know when customers have seen some of the material you’ve created as blog posts can show they’re been read but you can’t know if they influenced a sale – making it hard to determine which interaction was the tipping point for a customer.

Is the gamble worth it?

  • The first thing you need to understand when investing in marketing is not just the ROI but the pay back period. Some marketing activities for example are not about making the phone call or the till ring, instead they work towards the long-term strategies of building brand or market awareness and perception that will then align to a sales process. Some sales could take 3 to 4 years to produce a result – much like the slow growing palm tree. Eventually providing aesthetics, shade and privacy – that long time waiting should all be worth it.

Negative or low ROI – To panic or to not panic?

  • It’s quite appropriate to use the phrase ‘Never water a dead plant’ right now. A negative ROI is not good, but at least you’ll know what doesn’t work and you can then alter your tactics accordingly. The worse thing you could do however is try to salvage the situation by watering the plant for hours on end to put off confronting your bruised ego (marketing) or ease your guilt (plant parent). Sometimes you have to make the call and swallow the fact that you may have a ‘sunk cost’. It shouldn’t be taken as a cue to panic, rather a chance to adapt and do better. Stop, step back and rethink your objectives.
  • On the other hand, if your ROI seems low, consider the reason for your marketing activity, and the expected time frame or pay back period. Sometimes people panic when they don’t get immediate results and so change their entire marketing strategy or messaging when they really should have waited it out because the realistic payback period was longer than originally thought.

The temperamental, new-born baby like nature of marketing ROI and nurturing a plant is both taxing but rewarding. Sometimes it’s going to blossom straight away, other times it might bear the seasons and grow steadily. Or it might just not grow at all (the plant, not the baby). It really is hard to tell at first, but with constant care, planning, reflection, and calculation, at least you give yourself the best shot at getting results.


Sharn Piper – CEO
M: +64 27 733 4333