Fill in the blank: "If I were just able to use a ______________ tool, my problems would be solved in an instant."
If you filled in your blank with something like "better knowledge," or "smarter decision-making," then let me know and I'll beam you over a shiny gold star. If you answered with anything else - maybe WordPress, Hootsuite, Buffer, or HubSpot - you might be making the classic mistake of confusing tools with solutions.
Why It's So Easy to Make This Mistake
There are a lot of reasons it's easy to become fixated on an automation or marketing tool and become convinced that it's the answer to your lead generation challenges. Perhaps you've heard about it from colleagues or app nerds; maybe you've seen one of your competitors do very well with a particular tool; or perhaps the marketing or design is just so smart that you're in love with it despite (in addition to) the features.
The companies that create apps are great at convincing us that we could have endless sales, or thousands of new contacts, if only we were using something fancier, easier, or more up to date, like their app, of course.
In some cases, those tools might actually be helpful (I personally love using Google+, HubSpot, and Harvest Apps: because they work with me). But as often as not, when reality sets in, it really comes down to...
Tools Are Just Tools
In the end, it's your knowledge, effort, and creativity that make the difference... not any particular tool. When used correctly, they make things easier, but can't solve the underlying problem for you. Consider that:
- Hootsuite might make it easier to manage your social accounts, but Hootsuite themselves will be the first to admit that the app can't build a meaningful relationship for you;
- WordPress might make it easier to post and manage articles on your blog, but it can't create compelling content for you or know what your readers want to read;
- HubSpot is wonderful for developing lead generation campaigns and monitoring your progress, but it's still up to you to offer something internet searchers and social contacts are actually interested in.
In each case, these tools can be helpful, but only if you select the right one for the job and you use it correctly. Think about it, you can't use a hammer to saw a board, no matter how hard you try. And likewise, a skilled carpenter with well used tools is always going to do a better job than a new DIY enthusiast who has gone out and bought the latest and greatest gadgets.
The Right Way to Use Automation and Discovery Tools
At Kayak, we place a very high priority on knowledge transfer, coaching, and in-depth training. We want our clients to understand what they're doing, why they are doing it, and ideally, the different ways they can figure out how to get better results with each try.
Without thought and insight, they won't know what they need to get the best results. And, by extension, they can't properly understand the capabilities and limitations of the marketing tools they use. They would simply be following steps, instead of working towards improving results.
A smart marketer with the right mindset and understanding will always be able to beat one that doesn't know as much but relies on tools to do the work. They know that rules of finding leads online don't change just because you've bought a new app or signed up for a new service.
Having the right supports can help you save time and spot opportunities that would have otherwise remained hidden, but only if you know how they work and what to do with them. The same could even be said of online marketing firms - we can only help if you have a good idea of where you're going and are willing to make the investment (of both money and time) to get there.
Don't confuse tools with solutions. Learning about search engines, social media, and lead generation could change your business outlook overnight, but buying something with the hopes of shortcutting the knowledge investment almost never will.