We put a significant proposal in front of a prospect that was going to build their search team. The plan incorporated us both managing their clients and training their internal team to become proficient at organic search. We provided our complete site audit, a 50+ page document that incorporated a ton of hands-on training with our analysts and reports from a combination of tools that we licensed. It was a fair quote… but then came the question:
Why don’t we just buy Screaming Frog SEO Spider for $150 and do it ourselves?
We walked away from the opportunity. Okay, maybe I ran away from the opportunity. Why? Because any manager that believes that licensing a tool could replace the years of experience we had with those tools wasn’t a battle we were ever going to win.
The analogies are plenty. My father was an accomplished carpenter who made amazing furniture (or just about anything else). His fingers were like leather gloves. Watching him work was nothing short of amazing. He would design, plot, measure, measure, measure, and cut. He’d handpick the lumber, understanding where the knots would work beautifully. He was a master craftsman. I had the opportunity to inherit all of his tools, but we gave them to some poor workers instead. I wanted my father’s tools used to their full potential – and that wasn’t with me.
At our office, we recently invested heavily in a podcast studio. The goal wasn’t to replace the amazing audio engineers that we worked with; it was simply to get the studio closer to us to make podcasting far more convenient. We still enlist the expertise of our audio engineer from Creative Zombie Studios.
Back to marketing tools.
I have yet to find a tool that’s the Holy Grail. Most analytics platforms work pretty much the same. Most email platforms work pretty much the same. Most keyword research tools work pretty much the same. Most SEO tools even work the same. Most e-commerce and content management systems work the same. There are leaders in each that stand out, of course. Regardless of the tool, though, it’s how it’s used, how the reports are interpreted, and how marketers determine how to assign limited resources to a long list of priorities where we see the advantages.
You can spend $100,000 on a Gibson Les Paul, but it’s not going to turn you into Eric Clapton. You can buy a Snap-On Tools master mechanic kit, it’s not going to win you the Indianapolis 500. You can buy a gym membership, it’s not going to win you a Miss America contest. Are you starting to get the point yet? I hope so.
For these reasons, we’re open and honest about the tools that we do use. We hope our clients will find them; heck, we’ll even teach them how to use them. We don’t play the white label game and pretend their our tools, nor do we mask the results from our clients. We don’t care when they know we’re using a $69 tool or a $6,000 tool. It’s not the tool that makes the difference; it’s how we’re able to leverage each of the tools specific to each of our client’s challenges.
I guarantee, using any tool, an inexperienced marketer will make a lot of bad assumptions and waste a lot of money and time for their company. Hire a consultant who knows what they are doing. You’re not paying for the tool; you’re paying for the decades of experience that the marketer is bringing to your brand.