Too often we confuse Tools with Strategies. A good Strategy delivers the right information to customers to help them make the best buying decision for them. It’s based on a tremendous amount of research and a firm understanding of the customer and how they buy what you sell. A Strategy is the answer to “How do we increase sales of our widgets?”
Note I did not say the information should be designed “so they buy your widget”. The idea being if the “right information”, that being an honest guide to the pros, cons, and options to your product or service, doesn’t lead your customers to buy from you, there may be something wrong with your product or service. This also means it will lead some people *away from you* and that’s okay too. Most of us aren’t going to be Walmart. Remember you’re looking for the smallest viable audience
. There’s another post in here somewhere.
Tools are what you use to execute the Strategy. They’re plugged in at different points to most effectively deliver the right information to achieve the desired result at that moment. A Tool is the answer to “How do we let people know we sell widgets?”
In this way marketing Tools are exactly like hammers and screwdrivers. If you need to put a nail in a piece of wood to build a bookshelf, you use a hammer. It’s a tool designed for that job. If you’re a roofer in Dallas wanting to get in front of people who are actively seeking a Dallas Roofer, Google Ads is about as good as it gets. If you’re a new dog food brand trying to gain mass exposure to dog owners, Facebook Ads are pretty unbeatable.
But there are two very important characteristics of tools: They’re only as effective as the hand using them or the job you’re using them for.
Where you hear confusion between Tools and Strategies is in statements like “oh that platform sucks” or “this type of advertising didn’t work for me.” Usually when people are saying that, they tried to use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail. Or tried using the claw end of the hammer to drive in the nail. Right tool used improperly. If someone did that and said to you “Eh I just don’t think hammers work, they’ve always been ineffective for me,” you’d think they’re an idiot. And they’re going to have a really hard time building a bookshelf now.
Google Ads are incredible, but they require your customer to know what or who they’re looking for. It’s hard to reach new people that way or generate more interest in your product if it’s not a well known solution to their problem. According to a survey done by Clutch in 2018, the number two reason people click Google Ads is brand recognition
. The point being that even a Tool widely recognized for being one of the most powerful advertising mediums to come in the last century can be ineffective without a certain level of awareness supporting it, among many circumstances.
The right approach when something doesn’t go as well as you hoped is to ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I using a Tool to do something it wasn’t designed to do?
2. Are my Tools in the hands of the right person(s)?
2. Is there something wrong with my Strategy?
There are definitely questions that come after these, but that’s a good place to start.
But all of this is pointless if you don’t understand your customer. Start there, then Strategy, then Tools.