Many companies I talk to are expanding beyond traditional advertising to focus more on custom marketing – improving their websites, creating a social media presence etc.

This is a great idea, if you actually do it.

But it’s not as easy or cheap as it looks to do properly.

I was talking to a company who was shifting their strategy to ‘thought leadership on LinkedIn’, which they decided to do in-house. Great idea I thought and I started following them that day to see what they were doing. A few months later, they shared a batch of 3 or 4 press releases in the one day. Six months on from that, they hadn’t done anything else.

Yes, doing your own customised content marketing, social media etc is a great idea and one that we strongly encourage, but to do it well takes a lot of hours, effort and resources. To be clear, it’s not a cheap alternative to advertising.

A customised marketing campaign needs to be planned properly with a clear goal in mind, a timeline of activity and a budget. Short bursts of activity (ie getting the work experience guy to  tweet a couple of press releases) followed by months of radio silence as your web or social media pages becomes embarrassingly out of date is not doing your brand much good. If you don’t have the resources to do it, then you should invest in someone who can or reconsider your campaign.

Mixing up your marketing strategy shouldn’t necessary mean replacing your advertising either. Advertising in the right place is actually a very cost-effective option, because you’re using a ready-made audience and communication channel. Done well, it should integrate with your broader marketing campaign.

In the end, any marketing activity you decide to undertake is aimed at increasing your sales, and there will be a cost, whether it be time or money or both.

By all means, start creating your own content and channels as well, but don’t delude yourself about how easy (or cheap) it will be.