Tuesday, September 04, 2012

If You Ain't Got No Axe, You Cain't Cut No Wood. Marketing Secret 28/101

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." Maslow

My dad, who really could do anything, had a saying that "having the right tools meant the job was half completed."  I'm not sure if anyone else said this or if he warped the saying about "having a plan means the job is half done" into his world of engineering.  But in my search to figure that out, I came across these corollaries.  John Eaton said "If you ain't got no axe, you cain't cut no wood," and Abraham Maslow offered that "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."

In creating a new company, new product, or planning the marketing effort for a long standing product or company, having the right tools is truly having the job half done.  Yes, we can also agree that having the plan is also being half done, you could say that those two together provide at least 75% of the job.  We spent the first 20 fundamentals talking about planning.  To a certain degree all of the items in 21-30 that I have called logistics could also be called tools.  In this case, I want to zero in on a more constricted definition of tools. 

I am currently writing this section of the book on a 3 year-old MacBook.  But unlike most 3 year-old MacBooks, it has about 15,000 hours already logged, and it is using 95% of available storage.  It is slow, cantankerous, and aggravating.  It isn't the right tool.  A new MacBook Pro is in my near term future. (update-I now have that fantastic product) The wrong tool is hurting my earning power.

The wrong tool or the absence of a tool can reduce your competitive position, meaning you either have to price your product or service higher, work on less margins, or not take that kind of work. 

Businesses can also spend too many resources on tools that don't produce results they need or expected.  If I stay with the computer example, we might spend tens of thousands of dollars on computer equipment, software, and consultation that fails to get the job done any better than the last one.  Did we buy that new phone system or app because we were mesmerized by the bells and whistles, or because we carefully considered the cost/benefit relationship?

Every tool decision should start like the material that has preceded this chapter.  How does the purchase fit within our goals, strategies and tactics?  What is the cost, and how much benefit will it provide?  Are there other tools that could produce a better result for less investment?  Is this tool too sophisticated for my staff?  Can I buy it used or rebuilt and save limited resources for other tools or needs. 

26 years ago, I bought several blow molding machines for the purpose of making bicycle style water bottles. Those machines were already about 25 years old when I bought them. We took extremely good care of that equipment, and used them until I sold the business. The new owners thought they were old and outdated, so bought replacements. Some of my old employees bought the now 50 year-old equipment and started their own business. Today, eight years later, they are making great bottles on that equipment.

In the case of my computer, I know that I can buy at restored MacBook Pro for under $1000 that will fit my needs.  The new one has that retina display, more flash drive, and some other cool things.  But it will cost at least $2400. 

My sense is that most marketers, buyers, and owners use some of the above thinking to determine their decisions on tools, but that almost all skip over the ones that don't suit their predisposition.  And only the most successful make these decisions in a hard headed way.

Action steps for day 28:
  • Take a hard headed look at your tools. List them. Rate them.
  • What tools should be replaced or upgraded?
  • Do you have a rigorous maintenance plan in place?
  • Are there tools that you need which would pay for themselves within 1 year?
  • Are you tool poor? In other words, do you spend too much on tools and repair of tools?
Final note.  Tools matter a lot.  Don't scrimp on having the tools you need, maintained and ready for action.

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