Building a Broader Tool Box

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Abraham Maslow

When something works, we tend to try it again. That’s practical. Logical. And generally successful. 

But it sometimes works against us, too. Where’s the incentive to try something new? To take a different approach?

At one of the earlier agencies I worked with, the creative director loved to do print ads. Short, attention-getting headlines. High impact visuals. Brief, brand-building copy. The stuff of



Guess what solution was most often recommended to our clients?

I joined another agency shortly after its wildly successful experiment using a coded survey in a b-t-b lead generation package. Suddenly that same technique became the recommended solution for a far broader range of needs.

Sense a pattern? So, how do we expand our range? 

Technology changes some tools. We’ve grown from laser-addressed envelopes to personalized postcards to purls. We use digital cameras and offer streaming video for high speed downloads. 

Production advances – and offshore alliances –  bring down package costs. Suddenly high impact premiums and other such clutter-busters seem slightly more affordable.

And we learn to test our own assumptions.

Solution providers have a natural bias toward (aka vested interest in) the advantages of the approach with which they’re most familiar. What they know works. (And I’ll admit that the writer’s preference for targeted messaging is no exception.) Such advice should be weighed accordingly. 

The test of a craftsman is not the number of tools at his disposal, but his ability to select the one that’s most well-suited for the task at hand. Perhaps the ability to see the potential a new tool offers. Or the possibilities of applying an existing tool in new ways. Maybe even a willingness to consider capabilities beyond his own. 

I think that's also the best way to build a broader and better tool box.