Getting the right software for your growing business can feel overwhelming. Spreadsheets and simple documents may be fine in the beginning, but once you want to start scaling up you’re going to need more robust technology support.
“In general we typically recommend that businesses take a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach to their software investments as their business grows,” says Austin Merritt, general manager of Software Advice. “When getting started, it is very important to select software that fits your size of business. You don’t want the software to be overkill, but it needs to be able to fulfill your basic requirements.”
Here’s a quick overview of the tools that can help you the most.
Small-business owners might manage projects, track revenue, manage sales and provide customer service using their own ad hoc processes when they could automate many of those areas. “We see many small businesses spending time manually updating spreadsheets and performing cumbersome tasks on the computer,” Merritt says. “The right software can often save hours per day, which enables people to spend more time running their businesses.”
Some of the most common applications are those for email marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), applicant tracking, accounting and project management, Merritt says. “In general, if you are spending lots of time on paper or in spreadsheets then it’s probably time to automate your processes with software,” he says. Some popular programs include Constant Contact or Mailchimp for email marketing, Salesforce for CRM, QuickBooks for accounting and Basecamp or Asana for project management.
The rise of technology has made it possible for different industries and niches to take advantage of software customized for their specific needs. “The actual tools that your business needs will be dependent upon your industry, specific requirements and business size,” Merritt says. “Contractors will have very different needs from retailers, medical practices and so on.”
Retail companies may need point-of-sale software, for example, while manufacturers and delivery companies may find software that helps them manage logistics to be most important. No matter your needs, Merritt says doing your homework is vital. “The most common mistake I see is buyers not doing enough research during the selection process,” he says. “Business owners need to be prepared to roll up their sleeves and invest time in selecting the right software for their businesses. They need to follow a structured, diligent process to compare the available applications, features and costs of ownership.” Online reviews and input from peers can be helpful as well.
Failing to consider future needs is another common mistake, Merritt says. “Too many buyers select software based on the current state of their business, not the state of their business in one or two or more years,” he says. “Buyers need to make sure the software will still suit them down the road.”
Integration as you grow is also important, he says. “For example, your customer management system will likely need to integrate with your billing system. You don’t want employees spending time doing double entry between systems that can be integrated.”
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