By Zach Binder, Sr. Director of Marketing Operations at American Addiction Centers.

Historically, what may be considered the most innovative and transformative tools created by mankind are often simple extensions of the human form. The hammer, for example, is a tool that has existed more or less unchanged from its original design, due to its simple function as an extension of your arm. Using your sight, your grip and a little muscle, it achieves the goal that your arm wants to achieve on its own, but with much greater efficiency.

It's easy to imagine a nail going into a wall, but can you imagine driving a nail into a wall with the palm of your hand?

When considering which marketing tools are right for my business, I find it extremely important to maintain the "hammer" perspective. As a marketer and operator, I have sat through an endless number of product demos, free trials and fancy pitches.

Incorporating any new tool or software into my team's marketing machinery must mean that it automates a process, task or action that I know I want done, but simply couldn't execute on my own.

Below are some examples of how various tools can serve as extensions of your keen instincts as a marketer.

Instinct No. 1: Automate Everything

When presented with the opportunity to utilize an all-inclusive tool, I rarely turn it down, especially when my budget and/or resources are limited. All-in-one online marketing platforms like GetResponse offer an array of features to automate the tasks in practically any digital marketer's wheelhouse.

Consider tools like this one as a one-stop shop for everything, from landing page development to email automation, workflow and e-commerce analytics.

Instinct No. 2: Analyze Visitor Behavior

While most digital marketers use tools like Google Analytics or heat maps to analyze behavior data and optimize user experience, they don't alleviate that desire to actually stand over someone's shoulder and observe as they visit your site.

When I first received an invite to HotJar, I knew it was a game changer: HotJar provides live video playbacks of visitor sessions on your site, including a complete trail map of mouse movement, clicks and scrolling. Landing page, device, country, and other custom attributes can filter playbacks.

Instinct No. 3: Be a Spy

If you're not curious what the competition is up to, you're either lying or just doing it wrong. Observing and learning from your competitors is not only a healthy instinct to have as a marketer, but can also reveal opportunities you may not have the time to identify on your own.

SEMRush can show you how much money your competitors spend on your keywords to help you capture a more valuable share of impressions. Tools like SerpStat will reveal the most high-performing content published by your competitors, and offer a domain comparison.

Instinct No. 4: Put All Deliverables in One Place

Don't get me wrong, I love Google Docs, but it's not very fulfilling when it comes to important components of marketing campaigns, such as content production. DivvyHQ is a platform that satisfies the common instinct to be organized: it serves as a digital warehouse for content ideation, production, task management, and delivery of any type of content, including print, web, social, or custom projects.

All items are archived and searchable within custom calendars, making for easy collaboration between departments, team members and contributors.

Using Tools for the Right Reason

Don't make the mistake of trying to fit a tool you don't need into your workflow. Instead, identify the problem you have and do your own research to find the tool that solves your problem. Never settle for tools or software that don't achieve the desired objective. That said, underutilizing a tool can be just as costly to your marketing machinery as expecting too much from one.

I often see colleagues utilizing new tools, only to see them discarded months later because he or she didn't take the time to learn how to use it properly. Similarly, I've witnessed colleagues implement new software hoping it would fix a problem that it was never designed or intended to fix.

If this sounds all too familiar to you, perhaps you should ask yourself whether you are using the hammer to fasten the nail to the wall, or the wall to the nail?

Zach Binder is the former Partner/COO at RankLab and the current Sr. Director of Marketing Operations at American Addiction Centers.

Published on: Aug 19, 2016