Marketing tools. We love them. They’re cool. And there are lots of them. They help you get sh*t done, and that buys you time. And that’s our favourite thing to buy: time.
But the other side of the coin is that there are so many types of marketing tools that finding the right damn tool for the job can steal all the time you will eventually (hopefully) buy back.
It’s a catch 22.
If you’re in a rush you can skip down to the bottom of this article and grab the tools, but if you have time, I’ll reveal my tried and tested approach to finding and choosing marketing tools, and it will serve you well going forward.
OK, if you’re still up here, I was saying that often times, you have a decent tool that does the job but something disruptive happens. The tool provider ceases to support the tool or gets bought out, or the pricing model changes and squeezes you out, or a new alternative tool pops up promising to do everything the original tool does and better.
Whatever the disruption, we end up on a quest to make the tool work for us. And that takes a time commitment. Generally the bigger or more complex the tool, the bigger the learning curve. And of course, the risk is that the tool may not actually do or work as well as promised, or you may hit some incompatibilities along the way.
And then, there is the added danger of hopping on a merry-go-round of never-ending tool-finding-and-trying, until you realise that you’re haemorrhaging time. I’ve been on a few of those, I can tell you…
Running a digital agency means I need to have the right types of marketing tools I can afford to stay on top of my game. It also means I need to have the right tools for the client’s pricing points (those who can’t afford the best tools still need servicing…) and that all means I need to have a bag full of tools, ready to deploy.
Things get messy when web standards change and a tool you’re using on a dozen websites stops working, or a vendor goes bust or something else happens. And things get really messy when those things happen all at once.
Short of funding your own software company and building your own tools, which can get expensive, the best we can do is keep on going along this trail of fishing around for tools, trying them and choosing the right of best ones and then hoping that the shelf life of the tool buys you enough time.
My Approach to Choosing All Types of Marketing Tools These Days…
I really am done with squandering time, although I realise the impossibility of that statement. Still, when it comes to software tools, these days I sit down and I do a few searches and I gather half a dozen tools, sign up for them all there and then and try them, one by one. I’m looking for a combination of intuitiveness and elegance in the interface that can help me shortcut the learning curve.
Moreover, if the interface is ugly, I ditch it immediately. I’m looking for long-term relationships with my software tools. I don’t want to invest my time in one only to change it again 3 months later, so I want to work with a beautiful interface that I enjoy, not something crap that brings me no joy to stare at.If you're going to be working with a software tool daily or often, at least make sure it's nice to look at and use.Click To Tweet
These days, I also pay more for beautiful tools, even when there are free alternatives and especially when the free alternatives looks shit. These are my tools, the tools I work with every day. I want to enjoy my work, and part of making that possible is working with software tools with sexy interfaces. Fool he or she that grinds away with free tools that look and feel crap, expect of course when that is a necessity, in which case one must grind with whatever one can find.
So my approach is: find the tool fast and don’t suffer over the many tools that you’ll undoubtedly miss when you spend a limited amount of time in the search stage. Find fast, try fast. If I have to open 1 or 2 support tickets about the tool itself not working during the trial, I ditch the tool (unless the issues are integration issues that involve my own setup).
I now use this approach with all types of marketing tools, as those usually require the biggest commitment (it’s not good to start a marketing campaign with a set of tools and then deciding you need to switch).
Something else I also like to do before committing is to ‘try’ the support. When I find a tool or tools that I think I can work with, I open up a support ticket about something or other – I try to come up with a good question, so as not to waste anybody’s time. I’m looking for the speed at which support responds and also how cordial they are.
I use various web hosts in my business and a few years ago I was hosting my best websites with a fantastic host who I then ditched (after 2 years) because their support agents were shit-heads.
Seriously. Whenever I asked a question or had an issue that I needed help with, I would get an arsehole at the other end lecturing me or giving deliberately complicated solutions but not offering advice or help. This was a host for which I was paying premium prices…
There’s a lesson in there for all of us of course:No matter how good your offer is, if you treat your customers like shit, they will leave.Click To Tweet
So I did.
And so, as I was saying, I ‘test’ the support of any new tool I try. Most times, I get a great interaction, cordial, helpful and genuinely human, and that makes all the difference. You want to know that, when you commit to a software tool, the vendor has your back when or if the shit hits the fan.
So, find a few tools fast, sign up fast, spend a bit of time in the interface – if it’s crap, move on. Try the ones you like, look for the most functional but also intuitive if possible, and then open up a support ticket and see what happens.
Running a digital agency and having customers means I need fast support in order not to let my clients down, but being a blogger or an entrepreneur shouldn’t’ mean that your support speed needs are any less important. We live in a fast world and we – as well as vendors – need to keep up with the pace or lose out to the competition. It’s that simple (and brutal).
That said, do not allow entitlement to colour your attitude. If the tool you’re using is free, then don’t expect fast support. Instead, be grateful that you get support at all and don’t be an arse about it. But you should still expect cordial support and a decent experience because at the end of the day you didn’t force the vendor to offer a free tool and you’re always a potential paying customer as long as they do a good job of servicing you.
And finally, when I have my tool of choice, I stick to it, knowing that new offerings and alternatives are about to pop up in the near future. Weigh up the cost of your time versus sticking to a good tool for as long as you can, providing the tool is performing well.The key is to make decisions fast. Search fast, try fast and decide fast. Don't dither. It's too expensive to do that.Click To Tweet
I should mention that there are always cases where things can still go wrong, or where a new tool appears and is significantly better than the one you’re using – so much so in fact that it makes no sense to stick with the current one. I’m not averse to switching – in fact, I like change. What I don’t like however is the loss of time involved. That’s the main reason I look for a long commitment. Time. It’s always about time.
I’m currently switching from one of my main management tools to a different (better) one. Back when I researched these tools, I rounded up the best 2. Let’s call them A and B. I thought B was superior but the pricing point excluded me. So I went for A.
Tool B recently adopted a freemium model. This works for me in this particular instance: the features in the premium version do what I need and I intend to upgrade down the line because having started using it this week, I’m super impressed with the tool. And so, I’m switching fully. I’ve scheduled a block of time to sit down and switch. It will take me about a day. But hey.
To wrap this up, let me mention that one area where I have lost a tremendous amount of time is social media – in particular, looking for the right tools. Part of the reason is that there are so many vendors releasing social tools so often that I got caught up trying anything and everything.
In the end, I decided that this was one area where I needed to invest and ‘get my own tool’ before I lost my mind. And so I did. My tool is a social media scheduler that looks and feels nice and intuitive, tracks results (yay!) and includes cordial support. And the best part for you and my customers is that I adopted a freemium model. This means you get to sign up and try it for free, and if you like it you can continue using the free version (which has some limits of course) or you can always upgrade for a few dollars a month to get the full functionality.
Software to Market Your Website
Here are some tried and tested (by me) marketing tools you can start using right away:
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