Tools to avoid

Philip Morgan

Two kinds of bad.

 • • • 

I had a small woodworking project recently. Precision wasn't important (or so I thought) and I wasn't quite ready to invest in the 10-year tool for the job. I decided I wanted the cheapest possible way to handle it.

Regret. It was an offensively bad tool.

You're a self-made expert. As you're choosing tools, how do you choose?

Avoid both offensively bad and excessively powerful tools.

Avoiding offensively bad tools is pretty easy, and it's pretty obvious why you'd want to do that.

What about excessively powerful tools. What's the harm in using those?

I think it's the cognitive overhead of wrestling with those tools. Several times I've seen folks -- myself included -- get dazzled by the capabilities of an excessively powerful tool, adopt it, and then face a painful migration away from that tool later after they get frustrated with the ongoing effort of actually using the excessively powerful tool.

The migration path away from a powerful -> simple toolset is harder than the simple -> powerful migration because the more powerful tool will tempt you to try lots of shit (most of which you don't need) and you'll have to touch and simplify all of that complexity on the way out the door as you migrate away from the more powerful tool.

I'll mention a few specific tools to avoid:

Infusionsoft: both offensively bad interface and excessive power. If you need all that power, you're probably not running a solo consultancy based on real expertise.

SharpSpring: offensively bad user experience. So offensively bad that whatever potentially excessive power it offers is out of reach unless you're a dedicated masochist.

There are several categories of tools I think you should really scrutinize before adopting because their additional complexity is very questionable in the context of an expertise-driven consulting business:

Marketing automation tools: When a company promises to help you use fine-grained segmentation and personalization to help you sell more stuff, they are adapting techniques that were developed to sell products of questionable value to bored people who want to spend their way out of boredom. If your message isn't relevant and isn't generating interest in your services, then you have a problem that segmentation, personalization, and fancy marketing automation won't solve. All that said, some amount of marketing automation can be useful for selling info products or lower-profit productized services.

CRMs: Please understand; I'm not saying you don't need a CRM. You probably do! But the default way in which CRMs model the sale is possibly a bad match for you. Your sales process might be more idiosyncratic and complex than many CRMs expect. Or it might be stupidly simple, like "if a C-level person reached out to me, go straight to a sales call, if anyone else reached out to me, throw the lead away because this will never go anywhere". Keep all this in mind when choosing a CRM. The more powerful ones will offer all sorts of automation it can be painful to extricate yourself from if you choose to migrate to a simpler or more suitable tool.

The background POV at play here is this: the more bandwidth you have for cultivating valuble expertise, the better. What interferes with this is low-profit services (they pin you down with delivery) and shiny objects that don't deliver much real world value to your business.

Excessively powerful tools can be just such a shiny object.

Reminder: I'm running a workshop on point of view next month. It's online, limited to 20 people, meets weekly at 10am Mountain time March 6 - April 24, is introvert-friendly, gives you lots of support in exploring and formalizing your points of view, and costs $700. If this is of interest, you can sign up here: /pmc-csw-point-of-view