When you own a business there never seems to be a shortage of things to spend money on. Even if you have a fairly streamlined home-based travel agency you still have expenses. You need internet service, a phone, a computer, and so much more. There never seems to be a lack of things to spend money on.But everything you spend money on isn’t an expense. You need to know the difference between spending money and investing in your business. My definition is this:Spending money is getting a necessity that you must have for your business.Investing is money put toward something that can bring a return greater than the amount invested.If your internet bill is $100 per month, you aren’t ever going to get more from that $100 expense.If you take $100 and invest it in the right marketing tools, can you get back more than $100? Absolutely! It isn’t linear – so every $100 you invest doesn’t return $110 or $150 or $400, but if you invest wisely you do get back more than you invested.For a travel agent, investing in marketing to build your client list is a critical activity. So is investing in marketing to those clients to increase the likelihood they will book again – and even book more. That marketing can take many forms depending on your target demographic.Knowing who your ideal clients are is the critical first step in this process. If you don’t know that, figure it out before spending money on marketing. You might even want to invest money in getting clear on this. That could take the form of hiring a coach to help you identify your ideal market and create a plan to reach them. That isn’t an expense, but an investment in your business.Once you know who your clients are and how to get in front of them, now is the time to invest in an awareness campaign. Don’t expect to do one or two “things” and have the bookings roll in. It doesn’t matter if you invest in an event or an ad campaign, you need to show up consistently to get results. Running a few ads in any publication isn’t going to bring you long-term success. That’s why you need to look at marketing as an investment that pays off over time.Because the return on marketing isn’t always quick, a lot of people won’t do it. They hope for word-of-mouth and referrals to get them through. That does work for many travel agents, but not everyone. For most travel agents it contributes to your success, but you cannot rely on it completely.Refusing to spend any money on advertising is what my grandmother called “penny wise and pound foolish”. Sure, you save your money today, but in the long run, you will be less successful because your ideal client doesn’t know you exist!Deciding what marketing to invest in is as much art as science. If you focus on your ideal client and how to demonstrate your value to them you will have the greatest likelihood of success. Everything you try isn’t going to work. That is OK! Learn from it and try something else. Just don’t stop investing in marketing. When you do that your business will stagnate. It is a living thing that needs constant care and feeding – which comes in the form of marketing.