Almost every business at one time or another will hire an outsourced software or service provider. Examples include:
- Web development
- ERP and Financial software
- Payroll and benefits provider
- Marketing firm
Many businesses are not fond of this exercise. Finding the right software or service provider at a price point your business can afford, that is reputable and has the expertise or functionality you need can become a full time job in and of itself. Once an option is selected, the project has to be managed, which requires time and resources to maximize Return on Investment (ROI).
Too often a solution is purchased or hired and you realize it wasn’t what you needed in the first place. We see this frequently. A company will come to us saying they need a social media marketing firm, but they have an outdated website and no clear customer journey. If they hire a social media marketing firm, the success will be minimal, because they are not set up to convert even if traffic is driven to their website and business.
Finding the right solutions starts with benchmarking your business
In order to understand where to start and what foundations your business may be missing, taking benchmarking surveys can be very beneficial. Though business owners are often reluctant to take these types of surveys because they require time out of an already busy work day, the exercise may have questions you never would have thought to ask yourself. They are usually up-to-date and take into consideration the changing landscape of business in general. Through several platforms including ShapeConnect, an emerging business software and services marketplace, you can begin benchmarking your business in different areas such as accounting, marketing, sales, technology, web presence and more.
After taking a benchmarking survey, ask yourself if there are any questions that you need to explore further. Are there areas of concern that were not thought of previously? This may help you to uncover foundational items that you need to address before moving forward with a vendor to outsource or automate work at your company.
It is important to have a clear solutions roadmap for your business so software and services vendors are brought in at the appropriate time and are working together towards your organizational goals.
Once you have built your road map, it is time to begin the search for the right vendor or vendors for your project(s). Most businesses start this with a Google search. They will search for something like “best web developers near me”, and then visit a multitude of websites, ratings and review sites, will read reviews if they are available and will look at companies’ social media posts. Others take the route of posting a query on social media or asking friends.
None of these activities tend to answer key questions:
- What do the services cost?
- Does the vendor understand my industry?
- Will my service be provided by interns, third parties or experts?
- Are there hidden costs?
We recommend leveraging a vendor selection platform that can assist you in diagnosing challenges and matching with the right software or services partners. This can save you considerable time researching providers because they have already been pre-vetted and are recommended based on your needs. Alternatively, local Chambers of Commerce and industry associations can often help guide you.
If you choose to try to find software and services partners on your own, here are some key things to consider.
- Are the services clearly defined?
- Does the website have case studies or a portfolio of past work?
- Does the website explain the customer journey/what to expect?
- Are there FAQs and do they provide helpful information?
- Is there an indication of the types of companies the business works with?
Rating and Review Sites
- Does the ratings and review site allow for paid listings?
- How does the company respond to negative reviews? (We all know that customers are more likely to write a review if they are unhappy and a good company will respond to criticism and try to fix any issues.)
- Does the company have hundreds or thousands of five star reviews and no negative reviews? (This could be suspect)
- Does the company post regularly? (Many very hard working small businesses do not have time to post regularly so don’t fall into the trap of thinking a business is no good because they don’t have a stellar social media presence.)
- Do the reviews on social media tend to have the same last name as the owner?
- Again, how does the business respond to comments and/or negative reviews?
Phone a Friend
- Has the referred company actually worked with the business that suggested them? (Shy away from the “friend of a friend knows a person” type of situation.)
- Is the friend/business in the same industry as you are?
- How long ago did they receive software or services from the referred company?
- Are you willing to jeopardize your relationship with the friend/business if the referred company doesn’t live up to your standards?
Yvonne Petterson is Sr. Director of Business Solutions and User Experience at ShapeConnect, a B2B matching platform that connects companies with the right business software and services to solve their challenges and drive growth.