A Tool is Only as Good as its User
Achieving a digital transformation is imperative for most businesses. Especially for those which make their bread and butter online. There’s always a need for experimenting, optimizing processes and trying out new things. But unfortunately, most people still don’t really understand this.
Not long ago, the MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting conducted a solid research, from which they learned that more than 60 percent of the questioned subjects feel that technological change is happening far too slowly at their workplace.
There are many things that prevent a company from implementing change. Most organizations have a long and proud history behind them. Long-standing organizations have established their way of operating a couple of decades ago. In their opinion, their particular way of running their business is the reason why their brand has survived so long on the market, so they feel that it’s in their best interest to stick to their guns and follow the “winning formula”.
Of course, this theory is full of enormous holes.
Evolve or Perish
Back in the 90s, Eastman Kodak was a popular camera and film company that has literally branded the phrase “Kodak moment” as the ultimate photo opportunity.
It basically meant that something was worth saving.
Kodak sold lower-priced cameras. That was the core of their business. And thanks to their creative marketing at the time, the company achieved global success. People all over the world knew about this brand.
But, even though everything was going great for Kodak at the time, the company failed to keep up with the innovations brought on by the digital age, and was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2012.
As the popularity of digital cameras grew, the demand for Kodak’s merch began to fade. Given that their main products were film and affordable cameras, it was quite challenging for the company to remain lucrative in a market where its customers were falling in love with a whole new concept.
Ironically, in the early 70s, Kodak’s research team had actually thought about developing a digital camera before everyone else, but the idea was shut down by the company’s board of directors, because they didn’t really see any potential in investing in such a product.
A similar thing happened to Blockbuster.
Just like Kodak, Blockbuster, once known as the largest video rental company, also failed to adapt to the digital age. The very moment when video streaming and video downloading became real options, and people no longer had to make an actual trip to a physical store to get their movies – their love for Blockbuster turned cold over night.
But change doesn’t only affect analog businesses. Digital companies perish as well, if they don’t keep a close eye on what’s happening around them. MySpace, once known as the biggest and most popular social network, basically disappeared the very moment Facebook entered the scene. Even though MySpace had a lot of users at the time, Facebook’s design and UI was just too much for the company.
Sometimes, Leaders Need to Follow, in Order to Survive
We live in a fast and ever-evolving world. Like it or not, we have to face facts and accept that everything is constantly changing. Now faster than ever. If a certain organization is dominating a particular market today, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to stay like that forever.
Especially if they don’t keep a close eye on what’s happening outside company walls.
The thing most people who run such long-standing businesses forget is that their company is optimized for the environment in which it currently operates. If anything in that environment changes (and we know that it certainly will) – the company will have a hard time adapting to the new world, which means that another one will take its place at the top.
Suddenly, as we have seen with the Kodak, Blockbuster and MySpace examples above – the “winning formula” will stop delivering top results, and as the new players start to enter the market and outperform yesterday’s leaders in every aspect of business – empires will start to crumble and fade into oblivion.
That’s why you always need to be ahead of the curve and prove to your users/clients/customers that you have something new to offer.
Just look at Ahrefs. Even though, in the beginning, their product was only recognized as a powerful backlink checker, the guys behind this brand did their best to demonstrate to everyone in their niche that it’s much more than that. They have managed to convince their target audience that Ahrefs is the ultimate SEO tool. Ahrefs follows trends and generates great content on their blog, which helps users understand the true power of their tools. They present themselves as innovators and people who actually teach other marketers how to achieve success via SEO. In this case, the tool is as good as the people who stand behind it are, who communicate its value.
Intercom is another crazy successful business, which understands the value of improving its service and communicating its worth through killer branded content. This company has reached a $50 million annual recurring revenue faster than other “big-name” SaaS startups, like Shopify, HubSpot, etc.
Branded content pieces are at the very core of Intercom’s marketing and customer acquisition strategy. They help them get their users on board with their new ideas. But naturally, the very reason why this business has grown so much can still be traced back to the overall quality of their product. Intercom understands their clients, all their troubles and needs, and does everything in its power to guide their success.
A Lack of Urgency is Just One of Many Scenarios
Apart from a “lack of urgency”, arrogance and scepticism, the thing that holds most companies back from achieving a digital transformation can be traced back to its employees. Getting people to try new software and actually think about improving their work is always a challenge. It doesn’t really matter if you’re offering a tool that has the most intuitive interface in the world – you will still need to do some additional convincing.
People don’t really like to leave their comfort zone and invest their time in learning how to successfully operate a new system. Even if their so-called comfort zone isn’t really all that comfortable.
Software that requires multi-day training programs and hefty user manuals is most likely to generate some genuine hate from all types of new users. Even though it guarantees improvement, it will most likely be ignored.
But, that’s not all. Apart from “wasting” their time learning how to successfully operate a new software, people also don’t really trust it. A lot of them feel that new tools won’t actually help them achieve better results.
This brings us to the main point of this article:
Paying for a Great Tool is Not Enough
The Internet is full of articles that recommend a certain tool or a group of tools to basically everyone who searches the Web for any work-related queries.
In these articles, tools are presented as the ultimate problem-solvers.
According to the vast majority of these above-mentioned posts – if you have a problem, all you really need to do is find the right tool for you, and boom – your troubles will instantly disappear!
Unfortunately, in real life – things aren’t really that simple.
These articles do nothing more than confuse people. They feed them false promises, which naturally get users enraged and distrusftull of all software solutions.
I know more than a couple of guys who have paid for a tool that didn’t deliver what was promised. When I asked how much time and effort they have actually invested in using that particular software, the answer was always the same: “A couple of times.”
This is the root of the problem.
The above-mentioned articles constantly forget to mention that tools (even great ones) are only as good as their users are.
Understanding the Problem
Tools are extremely valuable, and they certainly do help us get the job done. The proper tools have the power to significantly speed-up boring processes, increase productivity, and improve users’ overall work quality. Google Analytics can help you understand your audience and where your site visits come from, Screaming Frog can surely assist you in conducting killer site audits and analyzing web pages from an on-site perspective, SISTRIX will definitely help you locate valuable keyword opportunities from your competitors’ websites – and so on, and so on. The list is endless.
If used right, these tools can turn your business around.
But in order for them to aid us in our journey to success, we need to understand that these utilities, regardless of how good they actually are, don’t really possess magical powers.
Tools don’t really solve problems, at least not in the way most people believe they do. What tools really do is optimize processes – which is great, but not enough in most cases.
Let’s say I’m a person who has finally figured out that Google values high-quality backlinks. My business is mentioned in an article on Entrepreneur, and I instantly start seeing the benefits of that particular link. After a couple of days, I earn a mention on The Next Web and again – I notice some benefits.
Naturally, it’s now in my interest to replicate that process and create links for my site on all known domains across the Web. Link building is something that I value now, so I immediately start to read everything I can find about this practice. After going through a couple of articles, it becomes crystal clear that if I want to achieve success via link building, I need to generate loads of links from various types of publications.
A few mentions ain’t gonna cut it.
So, I start to contact all the familiar sites within my niche. But what happens when I exhaust all my options? The same as with everything else – I ask Google for help. I do a quick search for my problem and see that I need to do some serious prospecting. Prospecting for links isn’t really an easy or a fun job. It eats up all my time and makes me open a gazillion bad sites in the process of finding great ones. Again – I have a problem that requires Google’s help. I ask the engine for aid and it tells me that there’s a tool like Dibz that could help me significantly speed up my process and filter the results, so I don’t need to waste my time looking at bad sites.
However, even though this is a powerful tool that can certainly help me get what I need, the success of my link prospecting campaign is still dependent on me. If I don’t really think about what I’m doing, this tool cannot help me create quality links for my site. If I don’t really know what a quality prospect is for me, and what I need to do to turn it into actual links – Dibz can’t help me improve my rankings in Google’s search.
So, having all this in mind – we can agree that tools are only as good as their users are.
Knowledge + Software + Strategy = Success
Many people have forgotten that tools don’t drive results, knowledge and strategy do. The only problem is – it takes a lot of time and effort to acquire them.
Tools are there to supercharge your efforts. They won’t work for users who don’t really know what they’re doing, or have an interest in learning how to use the software’s full potential and all its features.
A car is just a machine for those who don’t know what to do with it. It cannot get you places on its own.
The same goes for SEO.
For example, if you’re trying to get your site featured at the top of Google’s search results for your desired keyword – you cannot just pay for a great SEO tool, kick back, and expect it to work its magic on its own. A tool can certainly help you come closer to your goal, but you’ll still need to learn how to actually do SEO. Tools are only a piece of the puzzle.
So, having written all that – before you start blaming a certain tool for your failures, be sure to think about what you’ve read in this article and analyze if you are the real source of your problems.