How to stop the endless marketing tool chase

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In any given meeting, evaluation, or time period, one of the first questions you will encounter as a digital marketer is, what tools should we be using? Very often, this is the wrong question to ask. It’s not a question of the tools that you are using, but how you’re using them.


In the martial arts, there are a finite number of realistic ways you can use your hands and feet and body in a confrontation. You simply can’t grow another hand or sneak in an extra leg somewhere. You have to do the best with what you have, and ultimately transcend the mental limitations you have, be they informational, motivational, or insight.

How will you get better as a marketer? It’s not a question of what tools you’re using for the most part. The question really is, what skill level do you have with the tools that you already own, and what things don’t you know? More often than not, it’s a matter of techniques and recipes.

For example, in the kitchen, a knife is usually regarded as something you just cut with. When you take a look at how professional chef use knives, they do all sorts of crazy things. They can slice, dice, cut on a bias, chiffonade, julienne… They have a pool that they can use a variety of diverse ways.

More important, when they learn a new cutting technique with the tools they already own, their versatility and variety increases exponentially. A chef that did not know how to chiffonade suddenly has myriad new options for creating dishes and including ingredients cut by that method.

The way you learn how to use a new technique in marketing is the same as the martial arts or cooking. Once you learn of a new technique, you test it out in as many environments and recipes as possible to see if there’s a fit. Learned how to chiffonade basil? Try it on chicken. Chiffonade cilantro? Try it in salsa. Chiffonade vanilla? Try it on ice cream. Likewise, if you learn how to see a head and shoulders pattern in your web analytics (and what it means), look for it in your Twitter stats. Look for it in your Facebook insights. Look for it in your PPC ad performance.

The next time you run into a roadblock with your marketing, with your tools, with your data, ask whether the problem is the tool or the number of ways you know how to use the tool. If it’s the latter, then start looking in other fields and areas of strength that you have for ideas and things you can try out.

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