6 places to begin your small business software search
Here are 6 easy steps to use at the start of your research into the actual software packages. It may surprise you to learn that I do not recommend going directly to the web. We’ll do that in the second “Where to look” article.
In conversations about how to find the best small business software, I often hear comments like, “I don’t know where to start!” The place to begin is with our first steps:
- The overview of our step-by-step approach
- The second step, in which you do a quick review of the “mental environment”
- Conduct a “survey” to get a solid idea of what’s needed and not-needed in the business software you’re about to consider
But now that you’ve done those steps, where and how do you begin looking?
Unless you are very comfortable doing searches on the internet, I always suggest you hold off on the web. Start the traditional way, for a couple of reasons.
Many small business owners / managers are experts in their particular field, and knowledgeable in several related areas, but often don’t have a lot of confidence in their skills “on the ‘net.” My suggestion is to start in a way that’s comfortable, familiar, and has paid off in the past: talk with people you know.
How do you find a mechanic you trust? How do you find a pediatrician? You ask around.
Get out a pad and pencil, you’ll be taking notes!
1. Have you ever heard the name of a software product that sounded like it might be suitable? Write it down. Where did you hear about it? Call whoever it was and find out if they can tell you more.
2. Who do you know who is also in your business, or is in a closely related business? Call them. Ask if they have software they’re happy with… or software they’re NOT happy with. Write that down. If they’re enthusiastic about a particular product, ask where they got it.
3. Ask your vendors, since they’re probably around lots of people just like you.
4. Trade publications (the ones you probably don’t have time to read). Browse through them, glancing at the ads. There might be an article, too.
5. Trade shows can be a great source of information. Ususally you can get a list of the vendors, the booth number, and a map of the show floor, if not before you get there, then when you first get in the door. Take a few minutes to get organized: identify your targets, mark them on the map, then plan a route through. You may want a bag to carry all the crap things they give you.
6. Ask your technical support person. They may or may not have customers with a similar need, but they are, after all, regularly exposed to computing. One word of caution: while your technical person is an expert in some areas, they may not be an expert in the software-arena you’re researching. Think of it this way: a podiatrist is a doctor, but probably wouldn’t be good digging around in your brain.
These might seem like “no-brainer” steps, but what happens is most people are a little haphazard in their approach. This is only the beginning, but it’s a solid beginning, if you do it well. You’ll dig even deeper in the next steps, and begin to see the picture coming together.
Our next “where to look” step will dig into research on the web, to find more candidates for your business software solution.