This article was originally published on the Databox blog.
What do you look for when buying software?
It’s probably a combination of things…
After polling dozens of marketing decision-makers, we learned that there’s no single determining factor, no one reason that stands out.
When marketers shop for software, they look at a variety of determinants before activating their account to a paid plan or submitting an RFP to prospective vendors, including:
Stability & Reliability: “Will this produce consistent results?”
Number of Features: “What can this solution do, relatively?”
Customer Support: “What happens when I need help?”
User Experience: “How easy is this to learn and use?”
Customer Proof: “What are other people saying?”
Integrations: “Will this work with my existing systems?”
Referral: “Do I have a direct link to this solution?”
Price: “Is this a good value?”
Of these factors, 25% of respondents said “Customer Proof” was the most important factor, followed by “Price” at 17%, and “Integrations” at 13%. That said, you’ll notice that each factor carries its own weight:
Of course, there’s nuance to these decisions that can only be explained by the marketers themselves. So we asked them to expound on the reasons why.
Here’s what we learned.
1. Customer Proof
“90% of B2B buyers are reviewing information and reviews before making a buying decision.”
– Grad Conn, Sprinklr
Peer-to-peer review websites, like G2 Crowd, are driving millions of monthly visitors who are eager to learn from the mistakes and successes of people like themselves. Turns out, having the benefit of another buyer’s hindsight is extremely valuable, so long as it’s honest and authentic.
“Review sites are notorious for containing reviews that are ingenuine or malicious in nature,” writes Alan Santillan, a marketer at G2 Crowd. “Our company solves that problem by integrating LinkedIn into the review process so reviewers are held accountable for their feedback.”
“This is why many companies begin the software evaluation process by asking to see case studies from similar organizations,” explains Jx Tan of Momentum Digital. “Nobody wants to go to war with equipment that isn’t battle-tested.”
2. Number of Features
“Above everything else, make sure the software has the feature(s) you can’t live without.”
– Adam Fout, Blue Steel
“Think in terms of features tied to revenue,” explains Fout, Head of Content at Blue Steel. “What features does this software need to have to achieve the revenue-related goals you need to achieve?”
Fout says that if he’s buying a social media tool, he’d want it to be able to “alert him to brand mentions” over, say, “scheduling content on his behalf” because the former is more directly tied to partnerships and paid work, ROI.
Not looking for a tool with a direct link to ROI? In that case, you should still decide what you need first.
“Make a spreadsheet—sounds old school, but it works really well,” explains Dominique James of Adhere Creative. “List all the features you have in your current solution and the ones you need in a new software. Organize your list by must-haves vs. nice-to-haves.”
This will give you a point of reference moving forward.
3. Integration with Existing Tools
“Most important thing: Does it integrate with the tools we already use?”
– Gabriel Marguglio, Nextiny Marketing
If you’ve built your business on a core set of technologies, the last thing you want to do is dismantle that infrastructure. That’s why seamless integration is such a crucial factor throughout the buying process.
“I always check out whether any marketing or communication tools I need or want directly integrate with the ones I already use,” explains Marta Kaczmarek of Survicate. “Sure, some tools claim to integrate with a variety of software, but upon closer inspection, it comes out that they actually need an additional third-party tool to complete the integration.”
4. Customer Support
“Choose the software product vendor who is hungriest for YOU to win.”
– Jason Katz, Growth Marketing Advisor
“Modern vendors build maximum lock-in through closed technology and multi-year deals,” explains Katz of Growth Markteting Advisors. “They earn loyalty through open technology, integrated customer success that feels like an extension of your team, and a dynamic product roadmap that has a competitive advantage now and in the future.”
These factors coupled with a deep-rooted customer-first philosophy carries tremendous weight for buyers.
“Price isn’t a huge consideration unless it’s way out of line with the market.”
– Joe Jerome, Brand Builder Solutions
Joe makes a strong point: If you have a problem, there’s usually a fair-market price attached to solving it. And if by solving it you stand to earn a profit, getting a good price shouldn’t concern you as much as getting a fair price.
“Think about the features that are absolutely critical for your business,” explains Adam Fout. “Price (and everything else) is secondary to a piece of software that saves you time or makes you money.”
Another thing to consider–how accessible is your pricing, and perhaps more importantly, how can you lower the barrier of entry into your product?
“Whether or not the company makes its pricing public and whether or not the company allows a “try before you buy” option [is important],” said Brian Signorelli of HubSpot. “End-user reviews also extremely important. Realistically, in my opinion, there is no single factor that tips the scale one way or the other.”
6. Stability & Reliability
“It’s absolutely critical for companies to spend time forecasting their future goals before investing.”
– Faith Kubicki, IntelliChief
The “stability” and “reliability” of your software purchase is about more than its real-time performance. It’s also about the solution’s longevity. That is, it’s relevance and efficiency over time.
“Create a roadmap of everything you hope the technology will do at implementation, one year after implementation, and five years down the line,” explains Kubicki. “You need to decide how that investment will integrate with your legacy systems—and what sort of coding will be required.”
A stable, reliable software purchase will drive long-term value.
“Vendors with a good track record in term of trustworthiness are known to develop quality products.”
– Alfred Maina, Legibra
A referral is a vote of confidence from a trusted source. It’s a potent persuasion tool.
In fact, even if you’re already sold on the software, it’s smart to seek out current and past users who will share their objective perspective with you. It can only help.
“Time isn’t renewable. It’s your most important asset.”
– Jonathan Aufray,GrowthHackers.net
How software looks and feels—the UX, the ease of use—can be incredibly compelling. Because when something just clicks, when all the pieces fit flush in your mind, you work smoother, faster. You become more productive.
“When I’m evaluating two or more tools or software products,” explains Aufray, “I choose the tool that save me the most time.”
Now, does better UX always translate into higher productivity. Not necessarily, no. But it also almost never hurts it.
Are you a software buyer?
Which strategies did you use to make the right decision?
Share your advice in the comments below.