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So many business tools are available these days that choosing a new platform for your business can be daunting. Some of them aren’t cheap, so what if you pick the wrong one?
It’s no wonder so many business owners are overwhelmed and resort to asking their business friends what tools they use so they can do the same. Unfortunately, everyone has their favourite and asking your peers might only result in more overwhelm.
It doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why I created a 3-part guide on how to choose the right tools for your business. In Part #1, you learned what you need to do before you even consider signing up for a new platform. In Part #2, you discovered the 5 questions to ask yourself before starting your research.
In this last instalment, I’ll share how to conduct your research so you can easily pick your next business tool without feeling overwhelmed and defaulting to using the most commonly used platforms as a result.
You’ve created your processes and got clear on what you need. Now comes the time-consuming task of finding the right application for your business. You’ll likely want to skip it. But if you’ve done the work outline in Part #1 and Part #2, this last part will be easy peasy!
Step 1 – Research what business tools are available
This may be the part you’re dreading the most. That’s why you rarely do it and only go with the platforms that your business friends recommend.
But by answering the questions in Part #2, you’ve gotten clear on what you need, which means that this part shouldn’t take too long. All you’re looking for now is a few platforms that meet all your must-haves (or at least most of them). Don’t even worry about your nice-to-haves. These will become handy later in case there’s a tie.
Where to start your search
If you’re like most solopreneurs, you may look for a new platform when you already have one that can do the job (but don’t know it). That’s how you end up with a hefty bill every month (or year) for all your platforms and an overcomplicated business. Not to mention the procrastination and the confusion this generates, as you never know which tool to use because you have so many.
So, before you open your web browser and start googling “tool for…”, review your existing tech stack. Your tech stack lists all the tools you already use in your business. Check it first to see if any of your applications can do what you need, even partially.
If none of your tools can do what you require, you’ll need to find some options. And this may be your first hurdle because you’re unsure what to google. If this is you, here’s what you can do:
- Ask your business friends what platform they use. Only ask, don’t sign up yet!
- Google “[the name of a tool you know could work] alternative” (e.g. Asana alternative). You’ll likely get lots of ads but still, go through them, as it’ll give you an idea of the available platforms.
How to conduct your search
At this stage, you’re not signing up for anything. You’re only assessing what tools are available on the market. The best way to do this is to go straight to the platform’s pricing page on their website because:
- It’ll show you ALL the features, even the ones that aren’t listed on the features page.
- You’ll also know straight away if this is within your budget or not. If it’s not, you can move on and not waste time reviewing all the features (and then have a bad case of FOMO).
- You’ll know if this can support your growth or not. If there’s only 1 plan, chances are, there are features you don’t need immediately. Are you willing to pay for them now?
Before you embark on this search, you’ll want to set a timer to ensure you don’t spend too much time in this phase and never pick a tool. If, at the end of the allotted time, you haven’t found what you’re looking for (i.e. a platform that has all your must-haves), do a quick assessment.
- Are you asking too much? I.e. Do any platforms actually offer what you’re looking for?
- Is your budget too low?
- Can you achieve some of what you need any other way with Zapier or Make, for example?
Based on your answers to these questions and what you found during your search, you may want to revisit the questions from Part #2.
Once you’ve found around 5 platforms that meet your needs, you’ll want to spend more time reviewing their features page to ensure it actually works the way you want. You may eliminate a couple of platforms through this process.
Ideally, you end this research phase with 2-3 platforms you want to take to the next level.
Curious about the tools I use in my business? Here’s the list of platforms I use every single day.
Step 2 – Test + compare the tools that meet your needs
Another mistake I see business owners make often – and I’ve been guilty of this too at times – is signing up for ALL the platforms and trying them all with only a vague idea of what they’re looking for.
As you may have experienced, this can quickly become overwhelming. You try to guess how to do something that’s simply not there and then think the platform isn’t intuitive enough.
All you succeed in doing here is test fatigue. As a result, you may opt for the platform that seems easier to use (but doesn’t necessarily meet all your needs).
This is why it’s so crucial that you do your homework first.
How to make the most of trial accounts
Once you’ve identified the platforms to test and created your accounts, note down which ones are in trial and when these trial periods end. This way, you can thoroughly test your new tool before you lose access. Plus, in case you had to enter your payment details, you’ll make sure you won’t be charged for something you don’t want to use.
Also note what your trial includes: do you have access to features you won’t have on the plan you’re looking to purchase? If that’s the case, avoid using these extra features to make a like-for-like comparison. This will also ensure you don’t get sucked into buying features you don’t need, as sometimes it can be tempting to think you need something or that you’ll need it later. If in doubt, always go back to your list from question Q3. Also, remember that if you do need that feature later, you can upgrade your plan.
As you test all these platforms, take note of your experience and how these platforms compare to your must-have features so you can easily decide later.
Finally, give yourself plenty of time to test each platform thoroughly (but also set a time limit so you don’t procrastinate). Don’t hesitate to ditch a platform within the first few minutes if it’s not what you’re looking for from a user experience or design point of view. Remember, you’ll likely use this app a lot, so it must be easy to use. It’s OK to be decisive.
Step 3 – Pick your new platform
Once you’ve tested all your platforms, you’ll probably have a clear winner. Don’t base your decision on user experience only (as tempting as it may be). Review a platform’s features against your list of must-haves.
If two platforms have the same features or you can’t settle on one application, refer to your nice-to-haves to help you decide. Which one has those extra features that would make your life easier?
Once you’ve decided on your preferred platform,
- Add it to your tech stack.
- Delete or close your accounts on all the other applications you were testing.
- Check if your new platform makes some of your existing tools obsolete. If so, plan to close them and migrate to the new one as soon as possible to avoid paying for multiple platforms and simplify your business.
Looking for the right platform to help you run your business efficiently doesn’t have to be overwhelming or time-consuming. Once you’re clear on what you need, it’s only a matter of asking your peers and searching the internet for options.
Armed with your list of must-have features, you can quickly decide which tools are best for you during your research and while testing each platform. In case of a tie, you can refer to your nice-to-haves to help you make your final decision.
This may seem quite subjective at times. That’s why I created the Tool Selector to help you keep track of all the features you’re looking for and score them. This gives you a total score for each tool so you can decide on the right platform for you. The Tool Selector is part of Your Profitable + Scalable Systems Toolkit. Get access to the toolkit here for AU$49.
Need help keeping track of all the features you need and want?
I’ve created The Tool Selector to help do just that (and a lot more!). The Tool Selector is part of Your Profitable + Scalable Systems Toolkit.