Some startups such as Casper, Harry’s and Hims have or are spending money on advertising like established holding companies such as Unilever, P&G, Nestle do. They plow a massive percent of operating expenses into marketing and sell equity to do so.

But for most other consumer startups, it’s become somewhat of a competition to brag about how little they spend on marketing. These companies chalk their growth up to word-of-mouth alone, dare they spend a dollar on a Facebook ad, but how they define “marketing” should evolve because marketing itself is taking on many new forms.

The official definition of marketing is “the action or business of promoting and selling products.” This is a very broad definition, but when it comes to reporting their main marketing costs, most companies only factor in their direct marketing spend—the dollars they spend on digital and physical marketing such as Facebook, Google, TV, billboards and direct mail. The number they report might not even include the headcount it takes to support these operations.

This leaves out major expenditures such as customer service, retail, press, content creation and and influencer management, among others, that are critical in driving the word-of-mouth growth that many brands aspire to.

For example, the companies that claim low marketing expenses often have very large customer service departments, which act like a sales force. When customers have positive experiences before or after a purchase, they are likely to tell their friends, thus marketing the company on its behalf. If the customer service reps were not there to make the interaction positive, the shopper would have nothing to talk about—the same goes for retail sales associates, community managers, content creators, and a range of other jobs that aim to further the brand’s reach.

Many companies are spending boatloads of money on these line items, even if they don’t count them as a marketing expense. Interestingly, all of these people-based marketing activities scale in a linear fashion; there is only a certain number of customer service requests that any one person can handle, and after they hit capacity, the brand needs to keep hiring.

While these methods are much less scalable than buying digital ads, which can be turned up and down with a click, they are definitely more impactful and long-lasting. Good customer experience and interactions resonate much more for marketing and growth than spending that money on an ad, which inevitably views the customer as a pair of eyeballs rather than a human being. Not as a human being with a growing conscience and money to spend.

This broader definition of marketing does not render the term meaningless. Rather, it should help brands achieve a more accurate understanding of what it actually costs to grow their business. Marketing costs are everywhere, and if a brand says they are spending nothing on it, they are incorrectly accounting for their expenditures. Otherwise, they’re in a position where their business might flounder if they ever turned the digital marketing off.