Some years ago, there was an excellent campaign for oil filters, of all things, that featured an auto mechanic warning that you could pay him now, or you could pay him later. The message was that by spending a little more now on the superior brand of oil filter, would wouldn’t have to pay for costly engine repairs down the road.
Henry Ford put it a bit differently: “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.”
Businesses and other organizations are often reluctant to invest money in things like marketing. Instead of investing in the website they really need or an ecommerce suite that will accommodate their volume of business, they try to save a dime here and a nickel there. As a copywriter, I encounter this frequently. A company that’s developing a website will look at the cost estimate for content and say, “That’s okay — we’ll have our staff write something.”
Of course, the website or other tool ultimately doesn’t provide the desired results, so the return on their investment (albeit a smaller investment) is lower. And that’s exactly what Henry Ford is referencing. If you don’t spend the money you should upfront, you’ll find that you “spend” it in a different way in the end — through the form of lower returns.