It’s the nature of our industry: an abyss of technology choices staring us in the face.
As soon as you upgrade your phone, laptop or iPod, within two months there’s a new device announced which can do more, work faster and weigh less than what you’ve just splashed your cash on.
The same goes for software. We’ve all felt the pain of Patch Tuesday and it’s never too long before a relaunch of Google Chrome is required to install its latest update (represented by a number that looks more at home as an IP address).
Love it or loathe it, as marketers we can’t avoid riding the wave of new technologies. Many of us would even say that we love getting our teeth into the newest piece of tech that graces the market.
But with so much choice and such a wide range of solutions we need to use, how can we have peace of mind that we are picking the best of the vendors? More importantly, we need to justify that the vendor we choose and request budget for is the right one to bring value to the business.
Once you know the requirements your solution needs to fulfil, you then need to follow a process that you can apply to this and any future scenarios that will consistently ensure results and help you to justify the investment. Below are 5 steps we follow at Axonn Media, which I believe will help anyone going through this process to do just this:
Step 1 – Research the market and build a list of all suitable solutions
Search is your best friend here. Compile a list from the results you find and store them in a spreadsheet. Don’t forget to search using synonyms of what you need the software to do, as the more results you find at this stage, the better.
Step 2 – Compare these to your requirements and narrow the list
In your spreadsheet, label the solutions based on how well they say they can fit your requirement. Don’t worry about the cost at this stage; you just want to assess their features and decide whether they are a good, possible or unlikely match for you.
Get rid of those that are unlikely matches.
Step 3 – Look at their reviews/testimonials to narrow the list further
Customer advocacy is important in any B2B sales process, and especially so in software vendors. Any company that isn’t showing off their happy customers isn’t worth pursuing further. Pay particular attention to the reviews of customers who have similar-sounding requirements or businesses to yours.
You want to narrow your list down to between three and six providers here, depending on the nature of the solution.
Step 4 – Take the free trials – this is extremely important!
How are you ever really going to know what the software is capable of without trying it out? Vendors know how important this is for prospects and so thankfully free trials are generally always available.
Use them and abuse them! Try out as many features as possible as you never know what you’ll find that may become a major addition to your specification. If needed, request an extension to your free trial period.
Step 5 – Ask the vendors what their “roadmap” is
So, you’ve matched solutions against your requirements, they all have positive reviews, and you’ve had an opportunity to try them out.
You now need to be confident that the vendor behind your choice is going to advance as the industry most certainly will. Ask them what their roadmap for change is. You should pick a vendor that has a vision of where their company is going. If they don’t have a roadmap for change, even if they have the best solution for your needs now, how can you guarantee that they will in three months’ time?
Don’t be swayed by any bad impressions the salesperson leaves on you! Most people instinctively turn their backs on salespeople who cannot answer their questions effectively, or ones that are too pushy. We’ve all encountered them at one time or another… but why let a misinformed or overzealous salesperson stop you from choosing a product that is right for your business?
If this happens, get others from your company involved in the discussion so you have multiple opinions in the decision-making process. The other people may be able to look beyond the salesperson and offer a more objective view, for example by solely assessing the product features, and so help you to make a more rational decision.
The free trials also help with this as you are focused on the product rather than the salesperson throughout the trial.