Picking good software for your business
I’ve purchased software like Elizabeth Taylor had husbands – I’ve dated, then married, then divorced (and even in one case re-married). Or maybe like King Solomon had wives – he had 300 wives and 600 concubines near the end of his life.
Below are notes and questions to help you pick the right software for now and for the future.
The Software isn’t the thing.
Firstly, the most marvellous software in the world might….
- Take thousands of hours to setup and likely will
- Only highlight the gaps in your existing processes and teams
- Still allow customers to find something wrong with your business
Your TEAM (aka The PEOPLE) are the ones typically providing the valuable service
(or at least creating the valuable goods or services that are sold).
Software is great to help reduce the time of you, your team and your customers and stakeholders.
BUT a great software to sell an illegal, inferior or bad product used by a team who doesn’t care – still ends up being a nightmare.
Is your business at the stage to need it?
While the answer is usually yes that software from the start makes sense – if you only have 4 customers – maybe just doing things manually for now is better.
Is the software larger than your business will be in 2 years?
I’ve purchased premium software to look good and save time transitioning from old software – but in hindsight – it may not have been worth it.
Is it worth paying more to not change again?
Yes. For a small business (and much more for a medium business) – it is way more painful to change software than you think. Even if your team are all really positive about the new system/change – training staff on any new system takes up more time than you’d expect and there is a chance for error.
Is the software doing what your business WANTS to do rather than what you are already doing?
I have purchased software based on where I wanted to take the business – and really haven’t used it enough.
Lifetime or Monthly
Lifetime – Appsumo
AppSumo is like an Initial Public Offering for Software Companies.
They get to offer their product to thousands for a discounted amount.
Very commonly the software is for a Lifetime.
While it seems silly to sell for $69 USD once what you could sell for $30 USD per month – for the software company that has their systems in place – it means you get a whole bunch of customers at the one time who can tell you the errors help you grow.
I.e. a one off $200,000 from the lifetime subscriptions could help the Software business fund get one step closer to being the next big thing.
I’ve purchased a lot of Lifetime software I’ve purchased over the years. But to be honest, a lot I use for “on the side” things rather than core business. E.g. I have a great Link Shortener I purchased for a Lifetime price – but I didn’t REALLY need it.
I could have just set up a spreadsheet or email templates with the link, or changed the link title if I didn’t want to just post the URL (and does the customer really even notice or care anyway?).
Checking that your planned software integrates with your country’s version of software in the way that you want it to is key.
I’ve had more than one client purchase a software because it integrated with Xero, but it integrated with the UK version of Xero, not the Australian version of Xero.
Multiple Software or One To Rule Them All
Smaller businesses typically might have a number of different software performing different functions, which may or may not talk to each other.
You can Use Zapier (or IFTTT – short for If This, then That) or similar – so if you Add A Customer Record in Software A then it will Send you a Notification in Software B or Add a Row in Google Sheets, etc.
While you can get a lot more technical – i.e. have it only provide the last name, or wait time before doing the action, etc. – I’ve found that sometimes this automation is BAD.
Because then you end up with double ups, or the client incorrectly types their mobile number and it is wrong on 4 different systems.
General or Industry Specific?
While technically an Industry Specific software will feel your pain and be solving the issues that you want it to solve – there are also fantastic generic products out there.
US / Australian or Something else?
Most software has an USD option for Global.
I must admit that if they don’t – and they are only UK pounds or Euros, etc. – I am a bit concerned that they would be able to help me in Australia.
Hidden Costs of Foreign Transactions
You don’t need software made in your country – but it does help reduce overall costs.
US dollars often end up more expensive than you’d think when they are converted to Australian dollars.
PayPal and Banks (and most foreign institutions) make a lot of money in foreign transfer fees and also provide terrible exchange rates – so they can say “we don’t have fees”, but you have to pay a lot more in Australian dollars than you should.
I use Airwallex for purchasing in Foreign Currency. Airwallex is brilliant – a lot cheaper than most other sources (I haven’t tested but they even had a graphic that they are cheaper than specialist foreign exchange providers like OFX).
Real life example:
I’m learning piano and my teacher is often texting me “do you mind moving your lesson tomorrow ½ hour earlier/4 hours later?”
I Googled: “booking software free music teacher australia”
I’ve used Calendly for years and it is fantastic for what it does.
It is free for one appointment type. Most people after a while go to the $8 or $12 USD per month versions.
Why I didn’t immediately recommend this to my teacher is that it is great for single meetings booked by the customer, but from my memory it is not designed for the teacher to setup weekly (or fortnightly or monthly) lessons at a certain time then change them and give a link for the customer to change them.
- So it works a bit better for businesses where the customers see the practitioner less often and the customer can put in when they are available.
But the reminders and automations and workflows – and the ability for both the business and the customer to reschedule according to rules set in calendly – there are a stack of great options in Calendly.
So if you wanted only 4 appointments on Mondays with a buffer of 15 minutes between them but this other appointment type you could have as many appointments as you want, etc. etc. – then calendly works to set up all the rules.
And a music teacher with one lesson time could even potentially use the Free plan (free plan allows unlimited bookings with one appointment which has existed for many years).
BUT… While it is an improvement – maybe you could pay an extra $20 USD or AUD a month and get something that does a lot more and better sets ongoing recurring meetings in bulk – around school terms and summer holidays, etc. etc.
This was one of the first non-ad results in Google.
This is a music industry specific product – from the name.
Of course a Music Studio may have different requirements from a Music single Teacher (i.e. the studio may have rooms and resources to keep track of), but this seems a good start.
Blog Article written by someone not selling stuff. Yay!
They recommend My Music Staff.
At first this looked like a Music School Appointment Booking Software – but this is just the customer “page” for those type of customers that they are seeking – they also have a similar page for Auto Detailers.
Doesn’t mean that you don’t choose this product (They are doing Clever marketing – they probably are clever!), but it can look a bit deceptive.
If you look at the bottom of these types of websites – they will usually have a list of the types of Customers that use their software – so you could click and view those.
Bookafy is exactly the same format as BookedIn – a software that has been made for a number of industries – but lists out the specific industries as separate pages.