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Making Sense of Marketing Tools

By Sander Biehn | Oct 2, 2015


“How many marketing tools are you currently using?”

This was the first question from the audience to a group of Atlanta area CMO’s sitting on stage for the panel discussion at a recent event.  I was sitting in the front row. Collectively, these CMOs controlled some large brands. It was a great question.  The answers came sheepishly and in rapid succession, “8”, “7”, “6, no 7.”  I guess they were anticipating the next question: How can any business make good use of so many tools at once?

Just last week we were deciding on the best suite of tools to use to manage a new social media campaign for a client. There are auto-posting tools like Buffer, monitoring tools like Spout, Nuvi, and Meltwater, and even social advocacy tools that come in handy in the B2B campaigns we work on like Everyone Social and Dynamic Signal.  And this doesn’t begin to explore the traditional marketing automation tools that have a social component or a plugin to a CRM.

The complexity of the landscape is staggering. While some tools have tried to deliver a complete suite of capabilities, niche players have argued a best-in-breed approach. But in the end all of these tools are subject to strategies of the marketing department or agency. And this is where I think the real disconnect is.

The point was nailed home for me when I was checking out a prospect’s current social footprint and strategy. This company had thousands of followers despite the fact that they were selling to a very niche market. Their social postings were non-stop. It seemed like anything with a hashtag relevant to their industry was being posted or retweeted.  No doubt many social tools were at work here.

But there was something missing. This was the reason we were talking with them to begin with.  It seemed the articles they curated were too broad to give prospects an idea of what they were trying to accomplish in the market. The posts lacked commentary that would give readers an inkling of how their business played in that space. Their social feeds were simply rebroadcasting the news.  When I spoke to the marketing team, they admitted that they loved the work the digital agency had done, but there was no real ROI on it. Everyone was pleased they were on social, but they were asking, “Now what? How can we actually leverage social media?”

That is one of the big problems with using tools to define a strategy. Like in your home, you can have a basement full of tools, but it doesn’t get you any closer to a remodeled kitchen or a tree house. In some ways, lots of tools has the effect of confusing what you are setting out to do.  We have all heard the old adage that if a person only has a hammer as a tool, every problem begins to look like a nail.  I don’t deny that tools can make a job easier, but too often they obfuscate the need for strategy and the investment in them is wasted in the B2B social space.

I would like to see some statistics on the average length of time a social marketing tool is used by a marketing department.  My guess is the churn rate is massive as agencies and businesses seek the latest tools to solve problems. Perhaps a step back could help with better investment and more success.  One way or another I don’t think the answer to marketing problems lies in the accumulation of tools.