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Don’t Buy It… Build It

Jan. 1, 2022
If your marketing projects don’t start from a strategy, you’re spending too much and the message is missing its full potential.

Are you buying your marketing correctly? Most businesses do not. They approach it as an expense, paid for project-by-project. (“We need a website.” … “We need a brochure.” … “We are going to a tradeshow.”) They buy it the wrong way because they value it the wrong way. Buying piecemeal marketing services is a very expensive mistake.

If you don’t have in-house marketing, and need marketing support, you don’t search for marketing strategy. You google “web designer” or “local ad agency”, or “freelance brochure designer” or “social media specialist”. But you are searching for the wrong thing. You are buying projects, when you should start with a strategy.

Designing a website is a common corporate marketing objective, but creating the site is less than half the battle. The message of the website, including language that resonates with your industry and images that visually depict your field of activity needs to be strategized. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may or may not be part of the web design effort, but for darn sure it should be part of your marketing strategy.

Also, websites are also not the field of dreams for businesses; you cannot build it and expect customers will come. You must have a strategy for how you will draw traffic (your audience) to the website.

Improving trade show presence is another typical marketing-for-hire project, but maybe you don’t need a new exhibit design. Perhaps, what you need is a plan for maximizing your trade show presence: a pre-show plan – including outreach to potential attendees; a show plan – including booth layout and sponsorship; and a post-show follow-up plan.

Brochures are another common assignment to marketing consultants, but again it’s the same “strategy” story: Why do you want a brochure? Who will you be addressing with the brochure? And most importantly, is a brochure really the best way to reach that audience?

Instead of a trade show brochure, do you need a better strategy for pre-show outreach and a plan for a show display? Rather than a trade show brochure, maybe what you need is a trade show strategy that aligns with an overall communication strategy. Or maybe, rather than a sales brochure what you need are additional sales-cycle educational supports – video, or a finance breakdown, or a plan for dealing with different types of stakeholders.

Again, maybe a brand brochure is not what you need at all to reach prospects; maybe a testimonial or an article would excite them to take action. These are strategy choices, not project choices.

Starting with strategy might guide you to update and even simplify the current website (and product offering), instead of building a new one. Strategy might suggest picking a different audience to target with digital ads, rather than making a brochure. Strategy might lead you to a PR campaign to raise the brand profile rather than just a fancy trade show booth.

Missing strategy makes marketing very expensive. Think of it as building a house without a blueprint. You build the bathroom and the bedroom, and then realize you have to plumb a kitchen and add a living room; also, a basement and a second story might be nice… It is a lot more challenging to build anything piecemeal than by following a plan. Marketing is no different.

I’ve mentioned “more expensive” several times – so what makes it more? It’s “more” because you may not be targeting the right audience, meaning it requires more effort and money to reach the people you need. It’s more expensive because you may be printing materials you do not need. More expensive because you may be missing sales by not doing what marketing does best – defining what problem you solve and for whom. Project marketing is actually the most expensive marketing you can do.

Also, marketing built on a project-basis typically does not generate results; it is hard to build a brand when the execution is inconsistent. If you view marketing as an expense rather than a strategic investment – that’s the first thing to change.

Marketing activities should always start with strategy. You are buying marketing wrong if you aren’t starting with strategy. Strategy guides the channels and choices. It determines which projects are critical and why. Without it, you are likely to be fruitlessly spending on projects that are random acts of marketing.

Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Manager at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit

About the Author

Alexandria Trusov | Global Marketing Director

Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Director at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit