We talk to a lot of people each day about which software is right for their business, which means we here at Software Advice understand the problems that small and midsize companies face.
Whether it’s working out how to bring your business online fast to save the family-owned dairy farm, or helping you find scheduling software to make sure your appointments are more organized, we’re here to offer advice. No matter the circumstance, we’ve likely talked to someone in a similar situation to you.
According to a survey run by Capterra, only 27% of small-business owners find software that meets or exceeds their expectations without compromise. That statistic might seem discouraging, but with proper planning and some expert advice, you can ensure you're getting the best software fit for your business.
That’s why we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions we get about software:
- “When buying software, how do you make sure you’re getting the service you need and not snake oil?”
- “What’s the impact of making the wrong software decision?”
- “Do small businesses reduce costs by adopting new software?”
We’re also going to leave you with some additional resources that can help you make the best decision possible, whether that’s understanding how software works, how it's priced, or how to negotiate the best contract.
Question #1: “When buying software, how do you make sure you’re getting the service you need and not snake oil?”
You’re making a huge purchasing decision that might be the difference between success and failure for your business. It’s stressful, so it’s important to feel confident that you’re making the right decision. There are two ways to make sure you’re getting a solution that will help scale your business, and not getting sold something that can’t deliver.
Use advanced review features to find more relevant reviews from people in your industry
Utilize reviews from your peers. Sales reps are unlikely to volunteer anything negative about their product. That’s why it’s crucial to get an opinion from real people who have used the product.
Whether it’s on Software Advice or somewhere else, you’ll want to do a few things to ensure you’re getting the most out of the reviews you’re reading:
- Filter by industry
- Filter by business size
- Read the most recent reviews first
- If available, filter for ease of use, value for money, customer support, or functionality
By filtering, you're making sure you’re seeing the opinion of people in a similar situation as you. You can find out how it worked for them and whether or not the features that matter to you are successful.
Reading the most recent reviews is also important because software gets updated regularly. A review that’s even two years old might be outdated due to advancement in features or a decline in quality.
Make vendors walk through your use case in a demo
Once you’re at the stage where you’re ready to talk to software providers about their product, it's time to set up some demonstrations. It’s important to come prepared.
By taking the time to demo the tools you’re considering, you’re ensuring your selection best suits your business. The last thing you want is to choose software, use it for a couple of months, then have to repeat the entire process over again.
This is your chance to ask specific questions regarding your business’s challenges and which software features are best suited to meet those challenges.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you during the demo process:
- Request two demos. One for your leadership team and one for your IT representative if you have one.
- Customize the demos. Provide two to three realistic use cases you want the software to accomplish, request a walkthrough from a customer’s point of view if applicable, and ask what can be customized based on your specific needs.
- Review the strengths. Ask the providers to show off their most popular features. It’s also a good idea to ask about any upcoming features they have planned.
- Ask about their most successful users: Find out what their most successful customers do to ensure they get the most out of the software. If it sounds like it requires a full-time IT team for it to work optimally, and you don’t have that, it’s good to know earlier rather than later.
Check out "How to Cut Through the Sales Pitch In Software Demos" if you want to know more about how best to navigate talking to software providers.
Question #2: “What’s the impact of making the wrong software decision?”
2020 and the first half of 2021 saw an unprecedented need for businesses to get online quickly to survive. If you’re a restaurant owner who might only have three weeks' cash on hand, you can’t afford to implement new software multiple times. Making the wrong decision might be the difference between your business staying open and thriving, or shutting down.
You’ll waste money when you choose incorrectly, but there are second-and third-order impacts to consider as well. Imagine this: You’ve bought the wrong software, and, sure, it might not have been all that expensive from a cost perspective, but you also have to consider the time you lost researching, selecting, negotiating, implementing, and training. And you’re going to have to do it all again once the contract for your failed software solution is over.
The bottom line is that the opportunity cost of being wrong is typically larger than the actual software cost.
Additionally, training and getting buy-in from your employees is one of the most often overlooked aspects of implementing new software. It doesn’t matter how well the software fits your business if your staff isn’t using it correctly or using it at all.
On the other end of the spectrum, you might have a scenario where your employees have embraced the software and are using it to its full potential, but you need to switch software for some unrelated reason. When you transition to new software, you risk reducing your employees’ confidence in your decision-making. It’s much harder to get buy-in the second, third, or fourth time you require your staff to learn new software.
Even if the software you implemented was relatively inexpensive, or even free, you’re losing time, money, and buy-in from your staff.
To get more buy-in from your staff, read "3 Ways To Collect Feedback From Employees for Software Selection."
Question #3: “Do small businesses reduce costs by adopting new software?”
Yes, but if you're only thinking about cost reduction. you're missing a lot of the benefits. Cost-reduction is a part of it, but excellent software should be a force multiplier that helps you improve and scale while also reducing cost.
It’s not magic, though. You’re not going to get new software and suddenly your costs go down. You might actually have a spike in costs in the near term because you have to pay setup fees, licensing fees, and train your staff, but you must think of long-term cost reduction.
For example, let’s say you’re a small business and have found that it’s taking you time, effort, and money to manage payroll, so you decide to get payroll software. That extra time you save with software means your payroll staff has more time to do higher-order work.
In fact, according to WorkMarket’s 2020 In(Sight) Report, 53% of employees say they can save up to two work hours a day through automation, and 78% of business leaders say that automation can free up to three work hours a day. The simple fact is that the automation offered by software enables your business to be more efficient and productive.
You started a business because you saw a need in your community. You started a business because you have a passion for something. If you’re finding that you’re spending hours a week on manual, repetitive tasks that aren’t related to your passion, you’re probably going to burn out.
With software, you’ve essentially outsourced those tasks and can focus on what you’re passionate about.
That efficiency and ability to scale goes across your business. Once you’ve freed up your staff to focus on higher-order problems, you’ll be able to do more with less. You always want to grow your business faster than your headcount has to grow, and finding the right software is a great way to do that.
For a primer on all the ways you can save money when purchasing software, check out "Save Money on Software With These Purchase Secrets."
Choosing the right software for your business doesn’t have to be difficult
Buying software can be overwhelming, and while the cost of a wrong decision can be devastating, choosing the right software can be a game-changer for your business.
Check out some additional resources on choosing software!
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.