Are you on the hunt for some software that will help you run your business more smoothly? Whether you’re needing something to help with payroll, project management or HR, we’re living in a time where specialty trade software is growing faster than Jack’s beanstalk.
Finding a great third party tool for you business can indeed be a huge blessing. The amount of busy work or stress that can be offloaded can be substantial, allowing you to let certain things hum along while you tackle bigger problems.
But how do you find a great SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions – sometimes with even free basic accounts? Here are a few tips as you’re looking around:
Tip #1: Visit Review Sites for an Overview
My goal here frankly isn’t for you to read enough to make a selection. In my experience, review sites that cover the kind of tools we’re after don’t generally give a good enough sense about a thing to be conclusive.
What you’re wanting to do here is to generate a list a recurring tools. Many times tools will overlap lists. Sometimes, depending on when a list was generated, you may find completely unique tools though so keep your own running list. A few review sites to consider are SourceForge, G2 Crowd and Capterra.
Look for basic queues when you’re scanning over these reviews:
- Are certain tools seeming to get the most praise from multiple websites?
- Do any of the tools seem to be incompatible from the simple summaries that you’re reading?
- Which tools seem older and perhaps more lethargic?
- Which tools appear to be more cutting edge and nimble?
Try and locate some user reviews while you go, but make sure the reviews seem authentic. Companies trying to cut corners can try to game the system by generating fake reviews. Also keep an eye on which SaaS products offer basic accounts for free.
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Tip #2: Try out Many Tools
My second tip is to try as many tools as you can that seem to fit the minimum requirement of your need. At the end of the day, positive reviews and screenshots of software are still pretty limiting. You want to get in the driver’s seat, familiarize yourself with the controls, adjust your seat, and put the vehicle in gear.
When you get access to a free basic account, it’ll give you more understanding around features that are important but missing, and additional features that you hadn’t really thought about. You may even find that a particular tool could change the way you do certain things. Maybe you do things a bit peculiarly and a different paradigm could be beneficial. Keep your commitment to a specific tool open as you try and discover which solution is a home run for your organization.
But what if there’s no free basic account? First I would email the company and see if they’ll give you a free basic account as many SaaS companies are reshaping their offerings in order to offer basic features without any cost. This allows them to cater to low budget businesses or to attract new users to signup and move towards advanced features that may have associated costs. Most companies who actually want to sell you something will figure out how to do this. If not, I’d consider the monthly cost and minimum commitment with a prospect option you would like to try. If you can try something out for a month or two for a reasonable price, seriously consider it. Afterall, what’s a couple hundred bucks when it comes to finding the best solution for your company.
If you can’t get a free trial, or you can’t afford to risk money on a “test” account. A third option would be to do a live demo with a customer representative. This is much better than screenshots or videos, but it still has its limitations. Make sure the representative doesn’t rush the demo and don’t be shy with hard-hitting questions.
Tip #3: Factor in Support
I recently purchased a riding lawn mower for a new house my family bought. I looked at various options and seemed to discover the best value with a particular brand that I found on the Lowes website. For the weeks leading up to delivery, I found myself pleased that my shopping around and research was a job well done. That is until a new friend asked me a good question… “I’ve never heard of that brand. Just make sure there’s a place around here that will service it”.
Totally didn’t think of that. And we live in a fairly small town where it’s hard to find service people.
In that moment, I realized that I had broken one of the principles that I share with clients and other business owners. Whenever you’re considering investing in a product or service, make sure that it’s powered by a company who can provide solid support.
Fortunately, my riding lawn mower hasn’t had any issues yet, but that could be a headache down the road.
When it comes to choosing a SaaS product, try to get a sense of how good the support may be with the following:
- Reviews – do any of the reviews you can find on the web talk about product support or customer service?
- Quality of the Company Website – does the company’s public facing website look nice and modern? How about the actually application? Be careful about committing to a system that looks dated. If they’re not continually investing in their product, it may be a hassle long term. Or even worse, they may be on their way out.
- Initial Contact – try communicating to the prospective SaaS company and see 1) how quickly they respond and 2) how helpful their response is. These can be indicators of what it’ll be like in the future when you need support.
Tip #4: Be Careful to Not Get Hung Up on Price
Be careful when evaluating solutions and removing options because of price. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you’re reviewing two solutions and the free one seems good for what you need, go with it or if needed you can even pay for it. But make sure you’re not having the wrong mentality when it comes to price.
A good Software as a Service product can have a huge impact on your business. Perhaps it’s workflow software specific to your industry or invoicing software that can take away major headaches for you. One helpful question to ask is “if I was paying someone to do this manually, what would it cost?” Another good question could be “how much of my personal time could I be losing by getting frazzled about price on this?”.
Advanced Tip: See if the Tool Has an API
Lastly, I have an advanced tip. As you’re looking at SaaS products, one thing that more tech-savvy reviewers should consider is where the software has an Application Programming Interface (API). This is essentially allows a way for you to pay a developer to enhance the functionality later on if it would benefit you.
At my web design agency, we’ve use APIs a ton. From pulling data from our financial and time tracking software to streamline task creation in our project management application. When you can access the data in your software, the possibilities can be endless. You can even have to apps work together to make certain processes just hum along.
Did you find this post helpful? I’ve been involved with tech related companies for over 15 years and I owe some of our biggest successes to many of the tools we’ve selected. Take your time, choose wisely and even after you’ve made your decision, keep an open mind about another product down the road that could work even better.
Do you have any other tips for selecting great SaaS products? I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section.
Author Info: Joe Ardeeser is the owner and operator at Jordan Crown web design – a design agency in the Seattle area that focuses on Professional Web Design Services and Custom WordPress Development. Joe founded his company 10 years ago and they provide premium marketing websites to medium to large-sized businesses. As a seasoned professional in the creative industry, Joe comes with over 15 years of hard-earned experience. His greatest enjoyment comes from business building and business development- whether that’s improving the company’s sales process or figuring out how to bring on the highest