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What are the best tools to improve online marketing? Here's a hint: Who cares?

Hammer image courtesy of Hammer 2 on FlickrMy all-time favorite quote is,

“When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

And, let’s face it, we all have hammers we love. We’re always impressed by the new, sexy, shiny widgets and gadgets and doo-dads our vendors dangle in front of us, like catnip to a playful kitty. I’ve even pointed out my favorites a time or two. Or three.

But, the thing is, tools don’t really matter. What matters is how you apply those tools. I’m fond of saying that there aren’t any silver bullets, but regular bullets work just fine when you aim ’em right.

Tools matter only where you can put them to work. Give me a web developer who really gets standards-based development over one with all the latest development software any day. Or show me an analyst who can infer customer intent whether looking at an advanced analytics report or scanning server logs. Think about it, when you watch experts like Avinash Kaushik, analyzing brand campaigns, note that he’s not showing how to measure effectiveness with a single tool. He’s showing you how you can do it with almost any tool out there.

As Bryan Eisenberg noted recently,

“Tools aren’t the issue anymore. You need process. And process is really what I’m going to teach people at the Peer Summit. How are you going to persuade visitors to take action?”

Put your money into your people. Hire really well. Continually question your processes. And train often.

Invest twice as much in people as you do in tools and you’re likely to see a far bigger return than on any other investment you’ll make. That’s the kind of hammer we all could use in our tool kit.

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Image credit: Hammer 2 via Flickr using Attribution 2.0 Generic.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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  1. I think one can apply the ol’ 80/20 rule here:

    20% tools / platform
    80% execution

    i would argue that the order is important. if that first 20% is someone in their garage with dreamweaver and a pot of coffee the next 80% will be severely limited…

    1. Hi Jay,
      Great to see you here and thanks for the comment. I definitely agree that the order is important and I’m not sure we disagree at all. I would say that if you match the right person (and a big enough pot of coffee), to a given set of goals then they might be able to get it all done in their garage with Dreamweaver. If the business goals are to challenge Amazon or eBay, then you’re going to a look for a more robust tool set. But, in any case, the needs drive the talent who choose the tools. Worrying about the tools first is almost always the wrong way to go.

  2. Thanks Tim. Great points. I tell my clients and attendees at my seminars and workshops: “Pick ONE tool, and get good at it for six months before you pick your second one.” Who cares which tool it is? SEO? Blogging? Twitter? Online news releases? Doesn’t matter. Pick one, use it, measure it, and get it into your routine. THEN think about tool #2 and get good at that.

    Love the “bullet” quote too. I’ll have to use that one! 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Thomas. Thanks for the comment. Do you think that tools always need to be sequential? Or are there cases where you can develop some skill with more than one at a time?

      And I’m glad you liked the bullet quote. Use it as you see fit. 🙂

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