Capterra gleaned insights from 1,000 small-business leaders about their software purchase decisions. Finding the right fit requires research, trials.

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Finding the right tech you need for your small business is only becoming more complicated as more and more options become available, and a new study has found that more than 70% of business leaders surveyed are willing to compromise significantly or purchase software that may not meet their needs. Capterra, a Gartner company, surveyed 1,000 small business owners, 59% of whom said productivity improvements were the top factor driving all of their technology purchases. 

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In a blog post, Capterra’s Brian Westfall explained that few if any small businesses purchase software that leads to what he called a “Great Match,” meaning software that “meets or exceeds expectations without compromises.”

The company’s “Top Technology Trends Survey 2020” showed that just 27% of small businesses report finding their “Great Match” when searching for software. 

“The rest either compromise on their original vision, or purchase software that fails to meet expectations—leading to further problems, additional software purchases, or, in the worst cases, purchase regret that forces small businesses to start over,” Westfall said. 

The top factors small business leaders cited as the reasons behind the technology purchases include the need for productivity improvements, pressure from competitors, and a need for technology that could handle the company’s growth.

Other reasons ranged from technology that was now “obsolete,” and customer or employee demands for changes. 

“We found that when businesses focus on an internal motivation with their software purchase, such as increasing productivity or efficiency, their chances of getting a Great Match are above average. On the other hand, when they focus on an external motivation such as competitive pressures, Great Match likelihood takes a nosedive,” Westfall wrote. 

Buyers seeking to increase productivity and efficiency or comply with changing industry standards had the greatest likelihood of finding software that was its “Great Match.” But even these objectives still led to more than 60% of buyers not finding the perfect fit for their technology needs. 

The survey found that of all objectives, keeping up with competitive pressures often led to the least great matches.  

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“Without a metric such as productivity or efficiency to accurately gauge success, and without considering if a certain software investment makes sense for your unique business situation, the likelihood of purchase regret is high,” he wrote, adding that the people involved in the decision had to be fully dedicated to finding the right tools, and independent information had to be leveraged fully. 

“Both Great Match and non-Great Match buyers in our survey relied on vendor-provided information during their research. This information is important and, frankly, unavoidable. What separates Great Match buyers, though, is that they take the additional step to validate what they learn through independent sources.”

Westfall also urged small business leaders to take full advantage of free trial periods, noting that the best way to know if a software is right for you was by testing it out yourself. 

In the survey, those who took full advantage of free trial periods the most had a better chance of finding software or vendors who met their needs. Buyers who rank free trial periods as the most important source of information to deeply assess software vendors are most likely to secure a Great Match.

The likelihood of a Great Match was 42% for small business leaders who used free trials as their main source of information, followed by vendor credentials, general information, and outside experts. 

The survey also showed that those who went back to add more vendors to their shortlist faced smaller odds of finding their Great Match. Those who never added any vendors to their shortlist after it was finalized were 61% more likely to find their Great Match. 

“Not only does constantly adding options to your shortlist delay the entire process and give your team more vendors to evaluate, it also casts doubt on your initial shortlist in the first place. If you’re so tempted to add those other vendors, did you ever really arrive at your best options?” Westfall asked. 

“Those that rarely or never revisit their shortlist can do so because they’ve been thorough in their research, and have built enough confidence and consensus in their shortlist that they aren’t tempted to change it. That’s your goal.”

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