You probably would have to look very far to find a business person who doesn’t think that strategy is vital. It’s so vital that it’s the first thing people do when they’re planning virtually anything – revenue growth, product development, marketing, sales…

So why do so many marketers (and the vendors who sell to them) act as if there’s a tool, some software, or a magical method that will guarantee qualified leads, conversions to sales, and revenue in excess of their wildest expectations? Here’s the reason. Marketing’s hard.

The number of combinations, permutations, outside forces, internal resources, changing roles among sellers and buyers, and media choices make shortcuts extremely alluring. Don’t be allured. The reason can be found in a do-it-yourself job at home.

Consider: you won’t buy lumber, nails, stain, and varnish to build a deck if you don’t know how big it will be. You won’t buy a hammer, a hand saw, a level, and clamps before you figure out whether you need them… or require something more powerful like a nail gun, circular saw, surveyors level, and hydraulic lifts.

Once you’ve designed the deck, determined the materials required, and calculated the time required for the work, then you can decide on appropriate tools. And that’s how you should approach your marketing efforts: strategy first, tools last.

Think you should get a new email platform (or provider) or switch to a cloud-based CRM system or go full-tilt for marketing automation? Think about what you need to accomplish first, why that’s the right approach, and what the goals are and how to reach them. At that point, you’re ready to choose… tactics – not the tools to implement those tactics. Then, once the tactics are decided upon, it’s time to pick tools; not just to handle execution but to control costs and provide the best ROI.

We’ve helped countless companies select the best tools for their needs. Yet we always made sure that the strategies and tactics were clear and specific before we began, often helping formulate or fine tune those plans. What we finally recommended wasn’t always the cheapest option, but the results in terms of qualified, sales-ready leads and total revenue made the cost insignificant.

So get all your proverbial ducks in a row before deciding what tools to use to capture them – as dinner (a one-time sale), pets (to guarantee satisfaction), trophies ( to attract others), or breeding pairs (for future purchases).

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