Keeping up with all of the new tools promising to make our business lives better, more successful, easier, and do it all or less than the other guy’s new thing is impossible. I Googled “new tools for business” and the G-ster returned 863,000,000 entries. Now let’s say that 99% of those are not high quality offers, not from a reliable resource, or simply not a match to my needs. The remaining 1% is many thousands more than I care to read.
My search was not specific enough it’s true, just like most days in the life of an entrepreneur. Most days we don’t go looking for a new app or platform, but between emails from people I like suggesting their favorites, FB ads, and promotional emails from partners; stuff finds us, right?
You know how you go to a new store for one thing and you end up with a cart full of things you didn’t know you “needed?”
Since part of my job is to stay on top of what makes business and marketing more effective and easier, down the rabbit holes of research I go so I can recommend and be up to date on what’s worthwhile.
One of the downsides of research as you probably know is that it is a bottomless pit into which we gladly throw our time. Not only does it serve to educate and entertain us it is an important diversion from the work we don’t like to do.
I wish I were kidding and you know exactly what I mean.
Back to the subject at hand. There are times when a promo for a tool or new software wasn’t something we were actively looking for but does remind us of a problem we have that we’ve been meaning to do something about. Taking out the credit card could be warranted and a smart idea sometimes and others where you are advised to step away from the buy button.
Here are a few questions to ask before you click “buy now.”
- What problem are you looking to solve?
- Is this the right tool for the job?
- Is buying a tool the right answer or is it time to hire a human?
- What is the ROI you want from your investment?
- Is it the right expense right now?
Question 1 is the most important thing to get clear on, and the trickster of retail therapy wants you to get it wrong. Let’s say you get a promo for social media scheduling software and you think “This is it. I’m going to finally get out there and be consistent with my social marketing.” Not so fast. Platforms like Hootsuite, Social Queue, Buffer, and the rest are only as good at getting you consistent as you are with filling the pipeline. If you aren’t willing to invest an hour or two per week to load the system up, you’ll be paying for something you don’t use.
The question of the right tool can be simplified by knowing how you like to work. I need an interface that’s pleasing and easy to navigate. Drag and drop suits me fine and I need direction. (This is why I cannot for the life of me figure out Asana.) Customer service is also high on my list of requirements. Do you care if you only get email support within 48 hours, or do you at least want chat at least during business hours?
The answer to #3 might just be a person. It will probably cost you more money, but money shouldn’t be the only deciding factor when you make business decisions. Is the thing you “don’t have” the money for the thing that will allow you to get more clients or do something in half the time? Never make a decision only based on money.
#4 — Will investing in this tool pay you back so the expense is warranted? You have to think about your return on investment whether you are investing money or time in every aspect of running your business. If the software costs you $20 a month but it gets you 5 new leads or saves you 5 hours because you are automating, that’s great ROI.
And finally, is this expense — even if it’s “only” $20/month — the right one right now, or do you need to conserve cash for something down the road with a bigger impact? Resources are precious in our businesses and we can always find a way to spend them. Weigh every expense against the long-term goals you have.
There is no way to keep up with all the cool new apps, software, and platforms that promise to help us be seen. And many of them offer a free trial or don’t have yearly contracts so you can test them with little out of pocket. Before you even start trying things, get clear on the problem that needs solving. There is no use playing with social scheduling software if you have a bookkeeping problem. And, no reason to play with a tool that requires time you don’t have to get the desired result.
Do some homework around your pain points and plans for your business before setting off down that rabbit hole of research and I promise you’ll have more time for the things you love about your business — and some left over for that stuff you don’t.