The rise of digital marketing has increased businesses’ ability to act in-house instead of relying on outside help. Of course, tools and software solutions are available that make these tasks accessible, even for technology-wary people. If your job is to choose these digital tools for your organization, here’s my tried and true method.
The first step is documenting everything you need the software to do. Create your list of features in the first column of a spreadsheet. That’s right, we’re taking this search to the next level.
A lot of things are obvious – like if you’re choosing social media publishing software, you need it to connect to your chosen platforms.
Make sure you take into account any current data you have available. For example, mobile vs. desktop user rates would help you choose website chat software.
Get together with any other departments that will be involved with the software. It’s possible that your website team wants you to implement specialized URLs or human resources needs daily access.
Other features are more in-depth, and without using the software first, you may not even know you want the capability. My suggestion is to pick out two or three of the most popular solutions and look at their list of features.
You may think, “Oh yeah, having a place to store hashtags for easy retrieval would save me a lot of time.” Then, you guessed it, add it to your column.
Another consideration is the number of people who need access and what kind of access they need. Does the general manager need to approve every social media post that you schedule? Do you have a team of writers who all need the ability to create new posts?
You’ll also want to think about the difficulty of the software. Of course, an easier learning curve usually comes with less features, so that’s a trade-off you’ll have to contend with.
Does the software regularly have updates? With platforms changing all the time, your software should too.
If you want to get really type-A, you can now add a second column to your spreadsheet. Use it to jot down how many hours of work per month that feature will save you. By adding up the minutes in the column, you can compare apples to apples on price vs. features.
Now, your criteria has been created. Go past the initial two or three solutions you researched in the beginning and go for maybe 10 options. Search software listing sites, search engines or forums for other software solutions to add as column headers in your list. Go to their feature or pricing page and start checking off features in your spreadsheet. You may have to dig deep by calling a sales rep or looking within their documentation to find out about certain features.
It seems like a lot of work, but choosing the right software in the first place saves so much time, money and the emotional energy of your team.
Once you’re done with your spreadsheet, you probably have a good idea about your top three choices. Go ahead and try them out.
Most software has a free trial period for just this reason. Get in there and do all the tasks that you’d be doing on a daily basis. Make sure the software connects properly to all your needed integrations. Check to make sure there’s no small bug or missing feature that will make your work life a nightmare.
Once you give up on one solution, document all the things that went wrong. You never know when your research will come in handy later. I’ve picked out the perfect system, only to have it lose a feature, and then I’m looking for alternatives. Having my experience documented lets me skip the research again and choose the next best option.
Ready to choose one? Great. Make the commitment, and get your staff trained. The good news is that your integrations are already in place. If you’re struggling to justify the expense to higher-ups, you can try to negotiate your rate or extend your trial. Some solutions have a little wiggle room in the beginning so you can create a few reports and show the value it brings your organization.
Happy software hunting.
Jahana Uchtman is the founder of Springfield-based Your Digital Marketing Assistant where she helps small businesses connect with customers online. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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