The amount of sales and marketing software out there is mind boggling. From email marketing services to marketing automation systems, CRMs and specialist systems built for your industry, it’s very hard to get your head around what they can do for your business.
In many ways this is a good thing. I started out working for a software company in 1997 and back then software often didn’t do all of what you wanted it to do. There were usually just a couple of different brands to choose from at most and neither tended to be very ‘customisable’. If the software out there didn’t do what you wanted, you had to hire a programmer to write code for you. In fact, you’d probably need someone with systems analysis skills to scope out what you needed, too. All that was time-consuming and expensive.
Today there’s a huge range of software out there and it’s highly customisable. If it doesn’t do what you want you can often hook it up with software that does, using Zapier or a similar tool. So now we have the opposite problem – there’s too much choice! It also means there are many software companies fighting for attention (I don’t blame them, they are businesses after all). And a key selling point is that their system has more features than their competitors’ systems. This leads to a constant race to add more and more features over time, which is great in some ways and seriously confusing in others.
This means that small businesses sometimes follow this path:
- They have a problem they believe can be solved by software, e.g. they need to improve their digital marketing or they aren’t staying in touch with their customers effectively
- They look around for tools to help them
- They are bamboozled by what the tools can do for them, and start to think they need features they’d never even considered before
- They feel completely overwhelmed and risk a) not making a decision at all and struggling on with what they already have or b) buy software that’s far more powerful than they need.
Buying software that’s far more powerful than you need it to be
It’s like buying a washing machine. You use only two of the thirty cycles on your washing machine, but it’s old and breaks down so you shop for a new one. Technology has moved on so you buy a new washing machine with fifty cycles…then use just the two you used before!
Except it’s far more of a problem with software because you have to integrate it into your current processes and ways of working, learn how to use it, possibly teach others to use it, make sure it’s used consistently over a period of years and maybe pay a hefty monthly subscription, too. If the software is a bad fit it’s very hard work and sometimes businesses revert back to the system they used before.
What’s the solution?
Don’t start by looking around at what the software can do. Because the chances are it can do far more than you need. Start by deciding what you need the software to do for you. Then pick software to fit that need.
It’s tempting to use software to fix a problem it can’t possibly fix. If you have a problem with your sales and marketing strategy or processes then throwing new software into the mix won’t fix it, it’ll just give you more work to do. If the customer data in the system you already have is patchy or out of date then a new system won’t fix this – you need to tidy up the data you already have and train your team (if you have one) to enter the data consistently in future. If your social media posts have little engagement and therefore no reach, then automating your posting with fancy new software – by itself – is not going to change that.
Once you are clear on what you need and you’ve ironed out any process, strategy or training problems, you’ll have a good foundation to go shopping for software.
In my Free Business Toolkit I have much more advice – plus tools and tutorials – on streamlining your sales and marketing using tech Click here to sign up.