The Right Tool For The Right Job

I could hear the banging the minute I stepped into the house. I took off my coat, hung it on the back of a kitchen chair, and followed the noise up the stairs, eventually arriving at my son Evan’s room.

All alone and in his closet, Evan was banging nails into the back wall with the handle of a screwdriver.

As an experienced parent (10+ consecutive years on the job, thank you very much), I knew that I had several possible conversation starters at my disposal. “Why are you banging things into the wall?” “Where did you get the nails?” “Why are you using a screwdriver?” “Where’s Mommy?”

I chose the screwdriver opening, and after explaining that he needed more “hooks” in his closet, Evan told me that he was using a screwdriver because, “it’s working.” As proof of this assertion, he showed me the 5 nails that he had already banged into the wall.

I was reminded of this incident again yesterday, after getting a phone call from a client. She was calling to tell me about the success her company was having in selling products through its newsletter, and (like Evan) she backed up the validity of her approach by telling me how much stuff she had already sold. Despite our plans to use the E-Newsletter primarily as a tool for building long term relationships between her company and its clients (with the direct selling of product as a minor add on), her “proven” success in using the E-Newsletter as a direct response tool had caused her to consider shifting its focus.

As with Evan’s screwdriver approach, I did my best to convince her that although there was some evidence of success, in the long run this was still a bad idea. Two reasons:

1. She Was Using The Wrong Tool For The Job. The back of a screwdriver can indeed be used to bang nails, but you don’t need to be Bob Vila to know that they make other tools that are safer, faster and more effective for this purpose. Likewise, although you can generate some short term sales with your newsletter, it’s just not that well suited for the task. Other tools — direct mail; telemarketing; promotional emails to people who have agreed to receive promotional emails from you; even cold calls — are all going to give you better immediate sales results than trying to use what is fundamentally a “farming” tool, for the purpose of “hunting.”

2. She Was Putting The Tool Itself At Risk. By the time I arrived, Evan’s screwdriver was already starting to chip, and I doubt he was more than a couple of closet walls away from breaking the handle entirely. In the case of your newsletter, you want to keep in mind as well that the more you promote yourself and your services — at the expense of providing useful, interesting information to your readers — the more you chip away at the asset (i.e. the relationship) you’ve created. As they say on the Ponderosa, you can’t milk and eat the same cow for very long.

Bottom Line: Your newsletter is amazingly versatile for its ability to build relationships; position you as a thought leader; keep you top of mind with prospects; fine tune your point of view; and support your business in at least a dozen other ways we’ve talked about in the past. But even our beloved E-Newsletter is not right for every situation. If you need or want immediate sales, pull a different tool out of the drawer, and let this one continue to do what it does best.

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