It's Not About the Tools, It's About the Strategy

959623_spanners_3Given the vast and growing number of online tools available to web workers, choosing which to use can seem overwhelming. This makes it easy to obsess more about the tools themselves rather than the strategy for using them, as if by choosing the perfect tools you can guarantee the success of your ventures. Of course, that is hardly ever the case. Even great tools, used with very little planning, will seem mediocre at best.

I often give advice to people who are interested in starting online businesses. One of my “pupils” (so to speak) is new to social media, but after the recent media Twitter craze, he decided that he was going to use it to promote his site because, “that’s where everyone is.” A couple of days later, he emailed me and said that he wasn’t satisfied with his results, so he decided to follow the advice he read on a blog and try Facebook instead. Again, after only a minimal increase in his traffic, he wrote to me asking, “Have you ever tried StumbleUpon?” My immediate reaction was, “Social media marketing: you’re doing it wrong.”

This problem of constantly flipping tools doesn’t just happen with social media. I’ve had several clients who’ve spent weeks obsessing about Movable Type vs. Blogger vs. Joomla, for example.

So what should you be doing instead of obsessing about the choice of tools?

Define your goals. Goals give you direction, and without them you have no measurement of success. Do you want a one-time spike in your pageviews, or do you want to slowly build your subscriber base? In the end, your tool of choice (and how you’d use it) would depend on the goals you want to accomplish.

As much as possible, choose quantifiable goals so it will be easy to determine whether they’ve been achieved or not.

Find your audience. Who do you want to reach or help with these tools? Where can you find them? Answering these questions in detail will prove to be more helpful than telling all your email contacts to Stumble your latest blog post.

Keep it simple.
You shouldn’t pick a tool just because it has 500 features while the others have five. Know your needs and look for a tool with features that support those needs; nothing more, nothing less.

Stay authentic. This is especially true if you plan to useĀ  social media tools for marketing. It’s not enough just to have a Twitter account. What’s more important is whether your tweets reflect a consistent, authentic message. It’s easy for people to detect “spammy” self-serving promotion; if you don’t have an authentic message your marketing will be ineffective.

Know when to stop. If it’s obvious that a particular tool or platform doesn’t work, no amount of force or prayer will make it work. When the results fall short of your defined goals, it’s time to either pick a new tool or rethink your strategy. What will you do if your tools don’t work out? Will you ditch them altogether or find another way to make them work?

If you have clients or colleagues who are experiencing “analysis paralysis” when it comes to tool selection, remind them that without a proper strategy, the tool won’t function as well as they expect. After all, what use is a good quality wrench in the hands of a poor mechanic?

How did you choose your tools when you were starting out as a web worker? Were you overwhelmed with the number of choices out there?

Image by woodsy from sxc.hu

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