How Online Tools are Destroying Digital Marketing

How Online Tools are Destroying Digital Marketing

Most large companies and an increasing number of small and medium-sized businesses have a plethora of online tools at their disposal. Some of these are tools with a dedicated digital marketing function while others affect the marketer in more indirect ways. The following is a list of some of the most common types of tools used by marketers today:

  • Content Management Systems (CMS)
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Analytics Tools
  • E-commerce Management Tools
  • Social Media & Influencer Outreach Tools
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems
  • Email Service Providers, Live Chat & Messaging Tools

While some companies build or commission their own digital marketing tools to fulfil specific business needs – most do not. This is because it’s time-consuming and expensive to custom-build software. Even when the money is available the specialist skills required are often not. A further barrier to custom-built tools is that they don’t always work as planned.

To fill this gap there’s a thriving multi-billion-euro industry in online business software. Today, most of this software is delivered via the ‘software as a service’ (SAAS) model. This subscription-based model allows for great tools that are continuously being developed.

So . . . what’s the problem?

#1 – Lots of companies have more online tools than they know what to do with

There are various external and internal factors that have led to the popularity of digital tool adoption. Business-to-business sales pushes are hard – and often hard to say no to. The allure of a plug-and-play solution to all your problems can be hard to resist. Many people view digital tools as progressive and can give the illusion of departmental progress.

The digital revolution has led to a massive FOMO (fear of missing out) amongst business decision-makers. Company budgets often have more flexibility for software than they do for staff. Therefore, new tools are more likely to get approved than new digital-savvy staff.

New management often make their mark by adopting a new online tool, either one which they’re familiar with or one which has a lot of hype around it. When they leave the tool’s usage declines and before long a new tool is adopted – without getting rid of the old one.

Similarily new staff members and consultants often successfully advocate for the introduction of new online tools which they have successfully used in the past.

This mass digital tool acquisition may seem to be an issue for large corporations only, however, the opposite is often true. Many SAAS companies offer free or heavily-reduced rates to small businesses and start-ups. Others operate on a freemium basis with basic tools provided for free and more advanced tools only available on paid packages.

This all makes digital tools a very attractive option for cash-strapped small businesses who are always on the lookout for affordable ways to accelerate growth.

#2 – Many marketers are not making full use of the digital tools they have

So if lots of marketers have lots of digital tools to help them do their job then surely they are operating more efficiently? Unfortunately, this is not always that case.

Employees buy-in for new technology is frequently absent and adequate training is often not provided. This results in new digital tools not being used to their full capacity.

The fact that there are lots of different tools being used for different functions only increases staff reluctance and training challenges. This is further complicated by the regular updates and enhancements which are one of their biggest selling points.

As mass-market products, online tools can sometimes offer functionality which a business doesn’t need. A tool may also be missing a feature which a business needs.

Having said this many online tools have additional functionality which is very useful – such as a CRM with an integrated email service provider – but are not being utilised.

Many marketers also have a low awareness of, and hence don’t make use of, the many free tools available to them – such as Google’s Search Console or Twitter Analytics.

Many marketers also have a low awareness of, and hence don’t make use of, the many free tools available to them – such as Google’s Search Console or Twitter Analytics.

#3 – Too many digital tools has resulted in too much focus on tactics over strategy for some marketers

In digital marketing today it is not uncommon to have an entire conversation without once talking about the customer. This is because a small but significant minority of marketers have become enthralled by digital marketing tools and their associated buzz-words.

One of the main reasons online tools are destroying digital marketing is because they can encourage a disproportionate focus on tactics over strategy.

Suddenly we discover we can measure something we couldn’t before and so we become obsessed with improving this metric. Or we uncover a way to automate something and forget we need to monitor and manage this automation. Or we find out that a competitor is using an online tool that’s giving them an edge… It’s a race to the bottom.

Any innovation in such a system is technology-led and because we’re all using the same technology there’s no winner – certainly not the customer who is all but forgotten.

We need to stop and think ‘what’s my end goal and what am I going to do to get there?’

The SOSTAC® model below provides a good framework to stop us from getting sucked into this vortex. Within this framework deciding on a digital tool to use would only come after you figure out where you are, where you want to be and how you’ll get there.

  • Situation – where are we now?
  • Objective – where do we want to be?
  • Strategy – how do we get there?
  • Tactics – how exactly do we get there?
  • Action – what is our plan?
  • Control – did we get there?

Read more blogs about marketing strategy.


There are lots of amazing tools available today. They can help you to save time, to grow, and to engage with your audience in a way that was not previously possible. But it’s easy to get distracted and attracted by the new and shiny. Take a look at the tools you already have. Examine your business needs. Set your marketing strategy. Don’t be a tool, don’t obsess about tools – and always remember, it’s what you do with it that counts 😉

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