I gave a talk the other day, and at the end a woman sheepishly asked, "when you talk about an asset, what do you mean?"
It's a fair question.
For a marketer, an asset is a tool or a platform, something you can use over and over without using it up. In fact, it's something that gets better the more you invest.
Running an ad is an expense. Building a brand people trust is an asset.
Buying a trade show booth is an expense. Having a permission marketing list of people who want to get anticipated, personal and relevant emails from you is an asset.
What are Amazon's assets? Well, they have a few warehouses and some fancy software, but they primarily have two: a brand that people trust, and a one-click shopping relationship with 50 million people. On top of that, they have an archive of information about those people, what they like and what they don't, that makes it hard for someone to switch to another store easily. All those assets together comprise most of what Amazon has built over the last decade or two.
If you're an unknown freelancer, you don't have much in the way of marketing assets. If you're Harley Davidson, you've got plenty.
The challenge in growing a business is in building assets daily, and doing it for less money than those assets end up being worth. Your expenses should generate assets.