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Finding Left Handed Monkey Wrenches for Left Handed Plumbers

Co-founder of Hub Spot, Dharmesh Shah says, the internet is great at connecting makers of left-handed monkey wrenches with left-handed plumbers around the world.

But the makers of left-handed monkey wrenches must:

  1. be very clear that they make left-handed monkeys wrenches
  2. not tell everyone about their full line of wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers and saws
  3. talk directly to left-handed plumbers and not be tempted to include right-handed plumbers, general contractors, the owners of hardware stores, the local handymen across America and anyone else interested in buying any household or industrial tool.

Inbound Marketing is, like the internet itself, far more efficient. Shah’s partner, Brian Halligan uses the example of eBay. Apparently the Founder started it because he wanted to expand the number of people to trade PEZ dispensers with, after he had traded with his entire rolodex.

The internet offered free access to a lot of other people interested in his unusual hobby. Now eBay is the ultimate connector of buyer and seller in the world. Like Brian said – a very efficient system.

A more efficient marketplace truly allows for specialization amongst small business. So now the average small business does not have to be everything to everybody in order to survive. Due to the long tail effect ( see Chris Anderson’s Blog ) one could build a solid business making left-handed monkey wrenches for left-handed plumbers. And they can reach them all over the world.

In the old SPEND, HUNT and HOPE model, (spend lots of money, hunt for customers and hope they remember you when it comes time to buy) using mass media that was expensive and played to the large Company’s advantage, many small business owners believed they had to supplement their main offering with additional products and services, just to make ends meet. They had to add right handed wrenches and small saws, hammers and screwdrivers. The more products they offered, the more potential audiences they could identify to sell to so they forgot about the left-handed plumber and their left-handed wrenches.

They lost themselves – but even worse, they collapsed sales and marketing into one big mess. In this state they want (believe they need to) tell everybody about all of the things they sell. Their ads lose focus. Their promotions are at best desperate grabs at low hanging fruit and they spend a lot of money on a lot of things. In other words marketing goes down the toilet. In this world they must sell hard and often to survive.

We conduct inbound marketing campaigns and as a professional marketer I see the Internet as the savior of marketing. The Google Era will put marketing back in the corner office. I will explain.
If a small business takes their traditional marketing mentality to inbound marketing it will fail. No ifs ands or buts. The keys to inbound marketing are:

  1. be very clear about what you sell.
  2. be very clear who your ideal buyer is
  3. put out content that educates that buyer about that product

If the business also has other things for sale, they need to run separate campaigns. That’s marketing. In this model customers buy and because they are in control of the transaction, they often enjoy it. So that left-handed plumber can easily find a left-handed wrench online.


  1. Patrick Pichette
    Patrick Pichette November 11, 2010

    Great post Derek, and I agree that the long tail economy delivers variety and can provide opportunities for those selling left handed wrenches.
    However, there is no guarantee that the long tail will generate revenue. Their are millions of songs on iTunes that don’t sell.
    A million x 0 = 0.
    Heading down the long tail isn’t always the best strategy. Sometimes too much of a niche product, even with a the perfect positioning and an amazing inbound campaign, will just never reach profitability.
    Deciding to move up or down the long tail is one of the most difficult decisions for a start-up.

  2. Derek Lackey
    Derek Lackey January 10, 2011

    Well stated Patrick – and thanks for clearing that up. I am less suggesting a long-tail strategy than I am suggesting that the old adage “if you throw enough ^%#$ against the wall something might stick” be re-thought. Perhaps you just end up with a wall full of ^%#$.
    So being very clear about what you sell, who you sell it to and why the hell they should buy it from you is fundamental to any go to market strategy. In my experience most marketers do not spend enough time getting clarity around this. They opt for the option that “does not limit them”. They may be missing the whole point of advertising and marketing. As a marketer you have a fundamental choice: to breakthrough the noise and clearly state what you sell and why that specific person should buy from you – or to simply add to the noise. I fear there is too much of the latter.

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