Choosing the right online tools for your business can be confusing. There are so many different tools out there, how do you know which one is the right one for you?
The purpose of this article is to give you a guide to easily choose the right tools for your business.
What do you need from the tool?
Before you even start researching the right online tools for your business you need to set the parameters for your search by asking yourself what you need from the tool.
Be as specific as you can as it will make your search easier and help you avoid shiny objects.
One of the first tools that I wanted was a calendar scheduling tool so that clients could easily book in sessions for me. These were my criteria:
- Easy to use for my clients and for me
- Gives my clients the ability to show my availability in their time zone
- Syncs with my Google Calendar and automatically adds appointments in
- Free plan
- The ability to upgrade to get more functionality in the future.
I reviewed five tools (I don’t recommend you do this many! See below for why not). Although Acuity had been recommended to me by other business owners I could see right away that it didn’t meet my second criteria as you needed to be on their paid plan to get that functionality.
The only tool that met all of my criteria was Calendly. I’m still with them years later having upgraded to the next level of the plan.
By having clear criteria before you even start your research will make your decision making so much easier.
Compare apples with apples
Make sure you’re comparing apples with apples when you’re looking at the right online tools for your business. Comparing tools solely on price isn’t the best option on not all tools are created equal.
I use Aweber as my email provider and wanted to compare it to other providers to see if there was a more affordable option.
The monthly price for Aweber is $US19. The price for the same number of subscribers at Mailchimp was $0 and Active Campaign was $US15.
Based on price it looked like I was switching away from Aweber as the other two providers were more affordable. Not so fast…
I asked both Mailchimp and Active Campaign a standard set of questions (based on my research criteria) to make sure they had the same functions as Aweber. Their answers highlighted two things.
- Neither of those providers had the built in functionally to have a new client automatically added to a list once that client had paid via Paypal. I would need to use Zapier to have Paypal and the email provider talking to each other. Because Paypal is a “premium” integration I’d need to pay $20 a month on top of the monthly fee to the email provider.
So Mailchimp plus Zapier was $20 per month and Active Campaign plus Zapier was $35 per month which means that Aweber is now the most affordable option.
- Mailchimp’s support was appalling (essays received from two different support staff that contradicted each other). In contrast Active Campaign’s support was brilliant; short answers that directly answered my questions.
If I’d signed up to either Mailchimp or Active Campaign without asking those questions I would’ve wasted a lot of time setting up a new provider that didn’t save me any money.
How many tools should I review?
When you choose a new tool, or want to upgrade your current tool, you may be tempted to review all of the available options. Unless you have a LOT of spare time I wouldn’t recommend doing this. Instead I would choose two to three tools to review.
Wanting to review all of the tools out there can be FOMO at work. You feel that you need to look at every single tool or you won’t find the perfect tool for you. We all need to grow our confidence in our decision making and be comfortable if a tool meets our research criteria then we don’t need to look any further.
How do you choose which tools to review?
The best way to ask other business owners BUT be specific in what you’re looking for otherwise you’ll get a lot of fans of a tool telling you that it’s great yet not telling you why they think that.
I suggest sharing your search criteria and asking if anyone uses a tool that meets those criteria. You’ll then get much more useful feedback to base your decision on.
When should I review my tools?
As our businesses grow we might find that we outgrow the tools we have, or the version of the tool that we have.
With some of our tools we might simply have reached a certain point that will trigger a review e.g. you’ve reached the top of the subscriber limit with your email provider and are about to be bumped to the next price level.
A continuing frustration with the level of functionality that a tool has may be a trigger for a review as you’re having to spend time creating work arounds.
For every other tool I’d recommend reviewing them once a year to see that they still meet your needs. This might be a quick “Yes they do” or a recognition that the frustration you’ve been feeling with a particular tool needs to be addressed.
It’s tempting to put off reviewing a tool because it might mean that you’re going to need to switch to a new tool, and that will take up time that you don’t feel that you have. That’s when you know it’s time to step up as the manager of your business and take control of the situation. The alternative is to continue with a frustrating tool and THAT is no fun at all.
If the thought of deciding which tools and systems to have in your business is causing your eyes to water then book in for a Systems Strategy Session with me. We’ll do an in depth review of the system you have in place and the improvements you’d like. I’ll then suggest the tools that will work with you and streamline your business. You’ll end that call knowing which systems and tools are your priorities.