Product Hunt, a Reddit type voting site for new apps, dominated my work day for nearly a month. I remember spending 3 hours one afternoon, searching, installing, and configuring new content marketing apps and plugins. The next day, I continued my binge trying to put my illicit app treasure box to work. Every morning, like a junkie needing his morning kick, I raced back to Product Hunt looking for the next app to test.
My Productivity grounded to a halt.
Nothing was created.
Nothing was published.
My content marketing plan was hijacked by my content marketing tool addiction.
I thought I was alone until I attended Social Media Marketing World.
The conference was great primarily because it offers a glimpse into the mind’s of some seriously smart marketers.
But, I found that most social media pros also struggle with tool or social platform addiction. The addiction starts with the words “I’m testing [Fill in the tool or platform] just in case…”
“I’m testing Meerkat just in case it turns into something important”
“I’m testing Facebook just in case my audience of CEOs like to spend time there”
“I’m testing Pinterest just in case my executive coaching service would appeal to stay at home dads”
Whenever I heard “I’m testing” I asked “What’s the process for testing the app/platform/tool?”
I swear you could hear the person’s mental train derailing and crashing into the back of their skull. I heard many answers that could be summed up into “I’ll use them and hope for good results.”
Good luck with that.
What A True Tool Test Looks Like
With any addiction – a good 12-Step program is the best way to navigate through the madness. I suggest:
Step #1: Define the problem
What problem will that tool or platform solve? No problem? No tool needed.
One of our clients, let’s call him Frank, was receiving 5-10 inquiries a week. He tried to keep up with the leads but some always fell through the cracks. One day he learned that a forgotten lead had resulted in a 5 figure sale to a competitor. The painful lesson outlined his problem. He needed a reliable way to process email leads.
Step #2: Create a Hypothesis
After defining your problem, create a hypothesis that describes how the tool will solve the problem.
Frank believed that using multiple apps to manage his lead flow was the culprit. He often would put off processing a lead because he didn’t want to fire up his standalone CRM app. He wanted a tool that could handle his leads directly from his Gmail inbox.
Step #3: Create the Experiment
Use your hypothesis to set-up an experiment using the tool. Make the experiment as concise and specific as possible. It helps to describe the experiment in writing.
Our client selected two apps to test, Insightly and Zoho. His experiment was simple: use the tool to process each lead. He kept an open notepad handy to keep track of the time he spent using the tool with each lead. He also noted any observations.
Step #4: Schedule a Short Testing Period
Three to five business days will give you enough time to test most simple apps and tools. It’s hard to consistently record your observations and thoughts beyond a week, especially if the tool isn’t working for you.
The client decided to test each tool for 5 business days. He made sure the test was during typical weeks and weren’t interrupted by traveling our outside sales calls.
Step #5: Practice Tough Honesty
Note where the tool failed to meet your expectations. Be honest about why the tool failed. I’ve found that most apps fail because I was too lazy or distracted to add them to my workflow!
Frank quickly realized that he didn’t enjoy the process of labeling and tagging leads. These important steps were often postponed or neglected. This meant he had to catch up every other day, increasing his workload and hampering the effectiveness of the tool.
Step #6: Cull the Herd
Discontinue any tool that doesn’t measure up. Don’t make the mistake of giving it “a little more time” to work. Deadbeat tools are a distraction that steal time and money.
Frank after two weeks and a few follow-up tests settled on Insightly. The tool was easier to manage since it simplified tagging of leads. Zoho had incredible versatility but Frank just needed the app to excel at one task – processing leads.
Step #7: Remember the Goal
Your goal is to solve the problem defined in Step 1. Continue searching for a solution. One bad tool shouldn’t derail the process.
Step #8: Revisit the Root Cause
Sometimes a problem can’t be solved with technology. For example, I have a problem concentrating during the afternoon. I tried pomodoro timers, website blockers and fancy nutritional supplements. Nothing worked. It turns out that I needed to eat a better breakfast.
Step #9: Decide if the Problem is Worth Solving
By this point, you’ve solved the problem or are frustrated with your slow progress. Ask yourself if the problem is worth solving.
I love video content but it takes me 4 hours to create 15 minutes of video. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and invested hundreds of hours into shooting better video. Yes, most of the money has been spent on tools and apps. No luck. The problem was “I can’t efficiently edit video”. I finally decided I couldn’t solve the problem and outsourced the editing.
Step #10: Optimize
Many tools are built for both new users and power users. The new users stick with the basic functionality of the tool. Power users look for shortcuts that maximize effectiveness and streamlines interaction with the tool. Look for the power user features for your app.
My team uses Asana to organize projects and collaborate on short duration tasks.
Once Asana was embedded into my workflow, I spent an hour learning the short-key combinations for doing routine tasks. Using the short-keys cut out the frequent mouse-to-keyboard motions increasing my efficiency.
Step #11: Look for Opportunities to Scale
How can you get a 10x increase in usefulness from your app? This isn’t practical for many apps but with a little research you can uncover more ways to integrate the best tools into your organization’s workflow.
We use Insightly for CRM chores. We wanted a way to automate follow-up emails, alerts, and other communications based on a prospect’s status within Insightly. Some research uncovered that Zapier could trigger list subscriptions in Mailchimp, send personalized emails in Gmail, and alert team members about new prospects in Slack. Insightly + Zapier has become a Super App that manages several major processes – automatically.
Step #12: Train Your Team
Share what you’ve learned.
Demonstrate the benefits of the tool with your team and offer to help them integrate it into their workflow. Solopreneurs can share what they’ve learned on a blog, podcast or Slideshare presentation. The goal is to deepen your understanding by teaching others. Your training will uncover any gaps in your knowledge and further optimize your workflow.
Popular or Effective?
While attending Social Media Marketing World, I saw multiple people walking around with their phones up sending live-video to Twitter via Meerkat. I saw Meerkat shirts and the app was the lead topic in almost every conversation. I installed the app but waited to use it. I asked,
“What problem am I trying to solve?”
The app was deleted from my phone. A week later, the tech press reported that Twitter’s launch of Periscope, a Meerkat alternative, had pushed Meerkat off the favorite apps list. Some said that Meerkat was nearly dead. I’m glad I took a pass.
By the way, Periscope is fascinating but it doesn’t solve a problem for me but it may for my clients. We are moving ahead with testing.
How do you fight the urge to test every shiny new tool? Share your thoughts in our LinkedIn Group