Last year, I made a huge mistake. I purchased a marketing automation platform (I won’t name names, but it rhymes with harpstring) for our company and wasted a lot of time, money, and effort in implementing something that, ultimately, failed. I know I’m not the first person who’s ever made a bad software decision, but I hope that anyone who reads this blog post can learn from my mistake.
Made just for you.
My first mistake was not assessing the market that the product was built for. In this case, the software was designed for a completely different set of users, but I was enticed by the cool feature set. Without getting into further detail about why this product was a bad fit for ServiceTrade, I learned that you MUST consider the following when buying business software with large feature sets:
Is this software developed for a market or industry that is specific enough to support my company, but broad enough to support innovation and growth?
For example, there are quite a few field service management applications out there, but some of them, like ServiceTrade, are built specifically for service contractors as opposed to internal field service divisions of large companies like Comcast. Furthermore, some are built for commercial contractors, (again) like ServiceTrade, while others are built for residential contractors, like ServiceTitan or Jobber. Because these platforms are designed for targeted markets, new feature development will benefit their customers that fit their market definition. These target markets are also large enough to support ongoing innovation and growth.
On the other hand, there are software companies that target markets that are too niche. For example, we’ve seen broad business applications that attempt to target smaller industries like fire protection or kitchen exhaust cleaning companies. Yes, some of the features they offer are very unique and fitting for the industries they serve, but these platforms will not innovate as much as a competitors targeting a larger market. These applications also represent a risk because there is a chance that they will not make it in such a small niche.
All in one? The all will be small.
We’ve preached this point over and over again, yet I still got caught by this trap. The product I purchased offered CRM functionality in addition to the marketing automation I was looking for. As it always does, the all in one was too good to be true. Because the feature set was so broad, none of the features performed at the levels of competitive products.
The idea behind an all-in-one software is interesting, but the features always fall short in practice. Take a look at your smartphone. How many apps do you have? Just one? Of course not. Why would you expect the same from your business applications?
We speak with commercial service contractors on a daily basis that are searching for the mythical unicorn that is the perfect all in one. It doesn’t exist. Any product that claims to be one will disappoint you. This includes bolt-on modules to your accounting system.
Modern applications are designed to coexist in an integrated ecosystem that allows them to communicate the necessary information with each other while excelling at their core competencies. In other words, best-in-breed applications that can integrate will outperform all-in-one software.
What’s the big idea?
When considering a software application that my company would be using for years to come, I failed to consider the long-term vision of the product. As it turns out, the vision for the product was completely misaligned with my expectations which led to disappointment when I realized new features didn’t benefit me.
Service contractors often reach out to us after having had a similar experience. They purchased an application because of the features it had and didn’t consider how the product may change, if at all, to help them tackle evolving challenges. Here are a few red flags to look out for:
- Software products that are at the end of their development life. These products receive little to no ongoing R&D and the owners are simply trying to sell as much as they can before the market catches on. Even though these products may have many of the features you are looking for, they will fall short of the competition quickly. Server-based software ALWAYS falls into this category.
- Customer service software that doesn’t actually improve your customer’s experience. If a company tells you that their grand vision for their customer service platform is only to help you operate more efficiently, you need to reconsider. Efficiency is important, but software that fails to meet the evolving expectations of your customers will leave you at a competitive disadvantage.
What happens WHEN it breaks?
Ultimately, the straw that broke the camel’s back with the marketing automation software I purchased was the complete lack of support I received for some technical issues I encountered. For weeks, I was stuck without a system because they refused to answer my calls and emails. During the sales process, I had no reason to think that the support was going to be so bad, but then again, I never asked.
Like many business software buyers, I assumed that I wouldn’t need support. I figured that good software doesn’t need support, right? I’ve never called Uber or Google for help, why should this be any different? I was wrong.
Good business software will have lots of features that require in-depth understanding to fully utilize. You and your team shouldn’t expect to know every little detail. Support through online documentation, courses, and training are important, but responsive phone support is a must. Case in point, ServiceTrade. Despite being ranked as one of the most user-friendly field service management applications on Capterra and having an average “Ease of Use” rating of 4.5 stars across 136 reviews (as of the time of writing) on Capterra, our customers that receive training and take advantage of support far outperform those that don’t.
Expect good support. You’ll need it. If you’re considering a product, give the support line a call before you buy to see how responsive and helpful the support team is. If it’s not available, or you have any concerns about the quality, buyer beware!
Yes, a reference please?
Before I purchased this infamous marketing automation platform, I was smart enough to ask for references. However, I should have put my guard up when, after nagging them, it took several weeks for them to provide me with a couple contacts. After all that time, the references I spoke with weren’t able to answer some of my most important questions. I should have dug deeper and requested more references.
Learn from my experience. Good references and reviews are important. We love providing prospects with reference customers because we work hard to
- ensure that customers will be a good fit for ServiceTrade before they ever buy and
- make sure all of our customers are happy, as is reflected in our numerous positive reviews.
If you happen to make a bad software purchase, don’t become a victim of the sunk cost fallacy like me. Instead of realizing that I made a bad decision, I dug my heels in deeper and wasted months of time trying to make it work. Eventually, I “saw the light,” but after wasting more time than I’d like to admit.
Learn from my mistake! Buy great software.