How much do marketing tools matter? I’m asked this question in one form or another nearly every week, by coworkers, clients, friends, and colleagues. The question is often coached in terms of specific products. Is Marketo better than Pardot? Is Hubspot better than Infusionsoft? Is Buffer better than Hootsuite? Is Sysomos better than Meltwater?

The answer to the question is relatively straightforward. Marketing tools are like spatulas.


Have you ever tried to cook a dish like steak or pancakes without a spatula? It’s awful. You either end up improvising with an assortment of tools that were not meant to do the job, or you ruin the food. Try flipping a pancake with chopsticks if you don’t know what I mean. You can do it, but your rate of success is significantly lower without a spatula.

Any spatula, even a mediocre one, is better than no spatula. When someone asks about marketing automation, the answer is that any marketing automation system is better than none at all.

The spatula analogy extends further. Amazon lists 8,127 spatulas for sale, from the Global GS-25 spatula for $70 to the Rite Lite Menorah Shaped Hanukkah Latke Spatula for $1.35. Is the GS-25 51x better a spatula than the Rite-Lite? Can you cook 51x more food or make food that tastes 51x better with it? Probably not. The difference between the two is largely aesthetic. They fulfill the same function.

Once you have a spatula of any functional use, what matters more is the skill with which you use it. If your pancake batter recipe is made of solely flour and water (yuck), then no spatula is going to make those pancakes taste better. You have to fix the recipe first.

Likewise, the gap, the difference between a Marketo and a Pardot or a Buffer and a Hootsuite is significantly smaller than the difference between a Marketo and nothing, or a Buffer and nothing. Once you have a marketing tool, your ability to be productive, profitable, or powerful with it is far more dependent on your skills and ingredients than the tool.

Buy the spatula, to be sure. But don’t get so caught up in spatula upgrades that you fail to actually cook something good.

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