This post contains affiliate links. If you sign up to an app using one of those links, I’ll get a small commission. I only recommend systems that I love and use in my business or with clients.
“What do you think of [insert tool name]?” or “What platforms shall I use for [insert list of tasks]”.
These are some of the questions I get asked frequently on curiosity calls. And they always make me uncomfortable because people are looking for a straight answer and, as much as you’d like to, I can’t give them one.
The thing is, there isn’t such a thing as the best platform (or all the other tool providers would be out of business!). What there is, though, is the right platform for you. That means that in order to answer these questions, I need to know more about you and your business, which is an impossible task in a curiosity call.
However, it’s not an impossible task altogether, which is why I’ve created this 3-part guide to help you select the right tools for your business.
In this first part, you’ll learn what you need to do before you sign up for your next business tools and why you shouldn’t skip this critical step.
But first, let’s start with a definition.
What are business tools?
Business tools are a piece of technology you use to do a specific task (or set of tasks) in your business.
They’re often called: software, platform, application and systems.
I tend to avoid the latter because business systems are much more than the tools you use.
Common business tools for small business owners:
- Email marketing platforms, such as MailerLite or ActiveCampaign
- Work management platforms, such as ClickUp or Asana
- Automation tools such as Make or Zapier
- Accounting software, such as Xero or Zoho Books
- Video conferencing applications, such as Zoom or Google Meet
This seems simple enough, so why is it so hard to find the right tool?
Why you struggle with choosing the right tools for your business
Deciding on the tools you need to run your business is like buying a house; it’s very personal. It depends on what YOU need and how you like to work. Unfortunately, many business owners don’t realise this and struggle with finding the right applications.
Like these solopreneurs, you may assume it’ll take a long time to research, and you’re overwhelmed by the task before you even start. This feeling of overwhelm stems from the fact that you don’t know what you’re looking for or should be looking out for. You may also be afraid of tech in general and worry you won’t understand some of the tech jargon some of these tool websites use.
As a result, you resort to asking what other business owners in your mastermind or Facebook groups use. And although there’s nothing wrong with asking someone for advice or inspiration, it becomes a problem when you sign up for a new platform without further research, and you expect it to be the answer to everything that’s not working in your business. With this approach, you may wind up using this new tool only for a few days and realise that:
- You don’t know how to use it – it’s not as straightforward or intuitive as you were told, and now you have one more thing to learn.
- You don’t know how to set it up to work for you – whatever your business friends like about this tool isn’t “out of the box”, and you have to spend time figuring out how to make it do what you need.
- It doesn’t do what you need it – it works for your fellow masterminders, but you’ve come to realise that the way you work is quite different, and this doesn’t work for you.
Consequences of choosing the wrong applications
Although this trial-and-error approach has the advantage of pinpointing what doesn’t work for you and what you’d like instead, it’s time-consuming and nerve-racking. It negatively impacts your trust in your ability to run your business as you think you’ve made one more wrong decision.
What’s more, those decisions may be costly if you opted for an expensive tool that only offers yearly plans. As a result, you may be reluctant to drop this tool even though you don’t use it. Instead of cutting your losses, you keep spending your money just in case you need it later. You picked it for a reason, after all.
This may sound far-fetched, but it’s not. I’ve met a few solopreneurs who did just that. For example, one invested in Kajabi a few years ago. They paid for a whole year, as they wanted to offer courses, and Kajabi was presented as THE platform to have. They provided one, maybe 2 courses but only had a few participants in each. Because of this and the fact they’d already invested the time and money in Kajabi, they thought they’d be better off to keep it than move to another platform. That is until we chatted, and they realised how much money they were wasting.
To avoid this costly mistake, you must first understand what you need. It may seem like something you don’t have time for right now, but it’ll save you time (and potentially money) in the long run. Not convinced? Just think about the hours you’ll be wasting using a tool you don’t like and doing things manually because your tools aren’t right for you.
What you need to do before deciding on your next business tool
Choosing your business tools is the last step in creating your business systems. First, you’ll need to get clear on how you want to organise your “data” (the information your system requires) and define your processes. I explain more about this in this article about the three elements that make up an effective business system.
This may feel superfluous when all you need is an email marketing platform. But, although all email marketing platforms will send emails to your list, how they do it differs. This is where your processes come in. If you’re clear on this first, then the right platform will feel intuitive. For example, both MailerLite and ActiveCampaign send emails to your list. However, MailerLite uses Groups while ActiveCampaign uses Lists and Tags. While this may not seem like a big deal, it’s a different way of thinking about your email subscribers.
Think about it this way: picking a tool first is like shopping for clothes without knowing your size, what looks good on you, or how you’ll use it (casual, date, work). You end up trying everything that looks remotely good. And although you may find a gem with this approach, it’s time-consuming and exhausting. If you had started with a clear goal: I want a red jumper, size M, to go to brunch with my girlfriends, that would have eliminated a lot of options from the get-go.
Need help figuring out your process?
I’ve created Your Profitable + Scalable Systems Toolkit to help do just that (and a lot more!).
Choosing a new tool for your online business isn’t as simple as some celebrity entrepreneurs would like you to think. And although it’s not hard, it requires you to do some initial work so you can decide on the right tool for you. Investing some time in this task first will pay off later.
In Part #2 of this 3-part guide, I share the 5 questions to ask yourself before you sign up for a new platform.