The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 22.29

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Cover image by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

How to choose software for your business

There’s a ton of software out there that help us in our businesses. From email marketing (which is how you’re getting this email) to automated webinars, bookkeeping, learning platforms, websites… The list goes on.

But there’s such a big choice—how do you choose the right software for your business?

Here’s the process I use.

Step 1: Write down your requirements

Create a spreadsheet and start writing your requirements in the first column. Price is always the first thing to go on my list, but you also need to write down the must-have features you’re looking for.

For example, right now I’m looking for automated webinar software. Here’s how my spreadsheet starts out:

Note that I’m not going overboard here. I write down just the most important things I can think of.

Step 2: Find candidates and refine your requirements

Now it’s time for some desk research (aka Googling). In my case, I searched for “automated webinar software”, and Google obliged with some 13 million results. I’m only interested in the first one or two pages of results.

I scan the results and click on the most promising ones. (I don’t have a preference for ads vs organic results—whatever looks promising). When I see a promising candidate, I add it to the top of the spreadsheet. Price goes in the second row.

Most importantly, I look at the features on offer. If there’s something I think I need, I add it to the requirements. After about an hour, my spreadsheet looks like this:

The biggest value of the desk research is that you will discover features you didn’t know about that you realize you must have (or would be nice to have).

Be careful of pricing
When I list pricing in my spreadsheet, I’m careful to select the plan that includes at least my must-have features. Very often there are cheaper plans on offer, but they don’t include the features I need.

Keep track of who you reviewed
It’s easy to jump into many different offerings; keep track of who you visited and why you discounted them. I do this in a separate part of my spreadsheet.

Step 3: Create a shortlist

You now have a pretty good idea of the top candidates. It’s time to whittle down the list. There’s 3 parts to this:

a) Shortlist candidates
Find the top two or three candidates on your list. Use price and your must-have criteria to do this. If there’s one clear winner, just one is fine. Otherwise aim for two or three, no more.

b) Do an in-depth review
This includes:

  • viewing any products demos
  • double-checking features
  • if applicable, who owns my data, and can I easily download it if I need to?
  • making sure that I can opt out of paid plans if/when I need to

As you do your in-depth reviews, you will find things in one candidate that you need to check in the others. Add the information to your spreadsheet.

c) Check reviews and testimonials
Finally, I check the web for reviews of the platform. But you need to be careful:

  • look at multiple sources of reviews
  • make sure the source is reputable
  • the more reviews, the better

There’s a lot of fake reviews out there, so make sure you pay attention to the source. To check my shortlist, I used Software Advice, Alternative To, Capterraand GetApp.

Step 4: Plan your trial

You should now have one or two candidates on your shortlist. There are two important reasons you need to plan how you’re going to use your trial period:

  • Your trial time is limited
  • Your time is limited and you need to use it effectively

Break your planning down into two parts:

  1. Getting ready to run the trial
  2. Making the best use of your trial period

1) Getting ready to run the trial
Make a note of anything you need to prepare before you start the trial. In most cases, the vendor should have information about what you need to get started.

For example, in my search for automated webinar software, I learnt that I need to have a least a webinar recorded (this is a big job, so I shouldn't start my trial until I have that ready).

2) Making the best use of your trial period
We’re busy. Once you sign up for the trial period, it’s going to be easy to let other priorities take you away from testing the candidates.

Best practice: block out time in your calendar to test the software.

Step 5: Sign up for the trial period and make your decision

During your trial period you will know pretty quickly whether a candidate looks promising or not. If they don’t look suitable, cross them off your list. (Make sure you cancel any automatic payments.)

If you follow the steps above, you will make much better decisions about which software to use in your business.

Want to dive deeper?

I go into more detail on this topic here. 12 minute read.

That’s all for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. If you want to see a particular topic, let me know.