Earlier this month we discussed the very common marketing mistake of focusing on the tools first. In fact, it is the most common marketing mishap we see here at Marketing Outpost: picking a business tool without identifying the goal that the tool is supposed to help you achieve.
Sometimes tools are so tempting, with all of their promise, offering perfectly packaged solutions that seem to be tailor made for your business. And let’s face it, the marketing teams behind these business tools have done a fine job of convincing you to sign up for the latest wonder solution that will poise you for success. Many of these tools are great, others may make your head spin. Our job is not to offer opinions or reviews, our job is to help you choose the right tool - which doesn’t start with a tool at all, it starts with a goal.
DON’T ask yourself:
‘What tools are out there that I should have for my business?’
DO ask yourself:
‘Why do I want or need this tool for my business?’ Otherwise known as:
⇛ Setting a Business Goal ⇚
It’s that cart before the horse thing we touched on earlier this month. But there is another variable to consider: the horse itself. Identifying the goal doesn’t mean you’ve done your due diligence: you still need to make sure your horse and cart are a good match.
The 3 most common errors business owners make when choosing new tools & how to avoid them
Mistake #1. Choosing the wrong tools for the size or goals of the project.
Don't purchase a riding lawn mower when a push mower is all you need. Or vice versa.
That riding lawn mower sure looks pretty, and it will impress your friends. But it’s much more than you need for the job at hand especially when your lawn is only 100 square feet. In other cases, you may think you're saving money and end up buying a push mower when you actually do need a riding lawn mower for that 3 acres of land.
Let’s say your goal is to post more consistently on social media. So you sign up for a social media scheduling service. There is a free version, but that only allows you to post to 3 different channels, for a limited number of times a month. Your decision making rationale may look like this:
You only have 2 social channels now, but you should have more, shouldn’t you?
Once you have that tool, you’ll surely be posting a lot more than the free version allows (and now you’ve veered off goal topic entirely, replacing the initial goal with a bigger one before you’ve achieved the first)
This is the #1 tool many brands you admire claim to love. You want to be successful like that brand. SOLD!
So you spring for the bigger subscription package that allows for limitless posts, more social channels, and a new snazzy interface to connect your content. 5 months later you still only have 2 active social channels, but you are posting more consistently now that you have that scheduler, however you are not exactly an influencer.
So, why are you paying for all of those other features?
Your desire to get the top tier package was aspirational, compared to the realities and needs of your goal.
And a misguided aspiration at that. You really don’t need more than FB and IG streams you already have, your customers are not on twitter or looking for you on Linkedin anyway, and that streamlined content interface tool actually confuses you.
You invested in the wrong tool for your goal - now you’ve spent money you can’t get back - and you resent the tool.
This goes both ways. Maybe you got the budget deal, and it didn’t make a dent in achieving your goal.
You’re left disillusioned - what a lot of hype for something that doesn’t get results - and you resent the tool.
In this scenario, businesses underestimate the financial investment they need to commit to a tool. We see this a lot with digital ads, for instance. Google will be happy to take $100 a month for a Google ads campaign. Except no business is going to get significant results with such a small buy in. That’s all you can afford? Find a different tool, or temper your goal.
THE TAKEAWAY: Be realistic about the needs of your goal
Don’t end up with a riding mower that is a nuisance to store and needs servicing all of the time, when a push mower could have done the job for far less aggravation and cost.
Don’t save money by buying the push mower, expecting to divert money saved into another tool. You’ll end up with 2 tools that do not serve you, and a whole lot of wasted time because your tool is inefficient.
Mistake #2. Thinking your audience will respond to what that tool purports to offer (AKA not actually knowing your audience, a fairly widespread phenomenon)
Your audience loves anything equestrian, but to be trendy and current you offer them a unicorn.
Business tools and solutions follow trends just like anything else. You heard that a business down the block started doing IG Reels, and sales are booming for the product they have featured in their videos. It’s the latest way to reach customers, and you want to keep up.
So you start making the videos - which it turns out take a good deal of time to create. You buy better lighting, learn to edit. Will the time you’ve invested be worth it? Well it has to, you reason, so many businesses are gaining followers and expanding their market awareness by creating clever videos. After several weeks you check the metrics and you are not seeing a lot of engagement. You’re proud of the content you created - what’s up?
What’s up is that your audience doesn’t really hang out on IG. Maybe they check in on it from time to time, but they don’t really stay on the app all that long, accessing new content. They are Facebook fans tried and true, and the demographics support this.
Whoops. But FB and IG are so intertwined now, you thought. Well - yes, but most folks have a strong preference for one over the other, and that divide continues to grow.
That fancy new lighting can still find purpose, though. Perhaps plan a series of FB live events instead.
THE TAKEAWAY: Don’t jump on a tool trend without considering the habits of your audience
Meet your audience where they are comfortable. It doesn’t mean you can’t up your game a bit - like incorporating video - just adapt it to where your people are, OR - where the people you want to get are. If they like trends and unicorns, then try the latest content channel. However if they lived through the 1980’s - the last great unicorn epoch - they may not be impressed by the latest fad redux, and prefer the stability of a Shetland Pony.
Mistake #3: Buying a tool you don’t know how to use properly, and will have no time - or actual inclination - to thoroughly learn in order to maximize the promised features to yield measurable results.
You’ve mismanaged your pasture.
In some cases, this last one could potentially seriously harm your business or brand. We call it 'putting the ad before the content'. Let’s say you decide to set up a Facebook shop, and then do not regularly update or refresh its content; not only does it become dead weight to your product or brand, your business loses credibility, and the trust a consumer may have wanted to have in your service or product is now dashed. Even in the best case scenario: perhaps you're not tending to it because your brick and mortar sales are strong and steady, and now that virtual shop you set up during early COVID lockdown is no longer a priority. But if it’s still out there, and now looking neglected, that is a reflection of you and your brand.
Having outdated and vague content is far worse than having none at all. The public moves on, and they move on quickly, unlikely to give you a second chance to win their favor. It may seem unduly judgmental - you’re a busy business owner, doing your best - but it is the reality of the all-systems-go consumer marketplace we live in.
THE TAKEAWAY: Consider the learning curve and time investment needed to maximize and maintain the benefits of any new tool.
If you decide to invest the time on that new thing, just know that it will cost you time someplace else. Make sure you can allocate that time to maximize your investment.
Simple Steps to Help you Choose the Right Tool
Tip 1: Don’t do everything at once
Well this is nothing new, but somehow we need to be constantly reminded. Remember that old adage “You only have one chance to make a first impression”? Still true, always will be. What has changed are the number of opportunities you now have to make that first impression. Today there are multiple channels to show the people who you are, what you do, and how you do it; multiple channels and places for people to discover you, form an opinion, and make a yay or nay decision. Don’t be so eager to jump into all of them at once, just because they are there. Remember: you can always add on or upgrade later.
Tip #2: Have a plan. It doesn’t have to be a complicated plan.
Identify your goal first! Don’t buy the tools before you have the blueprints. Invest in the plans first, establish the goal. Then find the best tool to help you achieve it, if it exists.
Tip #3: Give your goal the time it deserves
Be patient with yourself and your goal, and create a framework to check your progress. Identifying the goal is the first step. The second is to have smaller micro goals along the way that support the efficacy of your tool. Establish a realistic, research based timeline to monitor growth, and adjust accordingly.
So, ready for your homework assignment? Hopefully it is a lot less daunting.
Choosing the right tool becomes a lot easier once you’ve clearly defined your goal, set your parameters and established a timeline. Good luck!
Extra Credit: Re-acquaint yourself with the best (free) tool you already have:
The way you treat your customers and the experience they have with you.
Get back to giving perks and personal acknowledgements to the people who have stuck with you. We all scaled back during COVID, it’s time to pamper your audience and remind them why you are their best choice.
In our digital world, word of mouth matters more than ever.
Don’t forget how powerful it is!