Trying to find the right combination of software tools necessary to run your business the way you want to is no easy task.

If you’re just starting out, you may be feeling overwhelmed by all the different options available. When you search online for small business software tools, there are hundreds of pages of results — and you have no idea how to compare them all. There are also dozens of different categories of software types, such as CRM, marketing automation, landing page builders, website management, ecommerce, payment processing, and much more. You don’t know which providers will suit your needs much less which combination of tools will suit your business’s unique use case. The last thing you want to do is waste money on the wrong tools. When your business is just getting started, every penny counts.

Maybe you’ve been in business long enough that you have already accumulated a jumble of software tools to run your marketing, sales and operations. Although you’ve worked hard to find the best niche tool for each part of your business, you may have started to run into challenges created by incompatible technology or unreliable integrations. You might also be starting to rack up a higher and higher monthly bill for that unwieldy collection of business tools. What started out as an inexpensive way to cover your bases with a collection of free or cheap tools has turned into an expensive, unmanageable hodgepodge of systems that don’t play nicely together.

Even if you have managed to find a combination of tools that works, you might still be missing the complete view of your business that you need to get better results and grow faster. With multiple tools and systems running each aspect of your marketing, sales and operations separately, you can’t get data about how leads and customers are interacting with each step of your marketing campaigns — and you can’t see how each piece contributes to the results of the whole. Whether you know it yet or not, it’s time to switch to an all-in-one platform so you can stop missing out on valuable performance data. The only challenge? Knowing which platform to pick.

Selecting the Right Software is a Big Challenge for Small Businesses

It’s no wonder that selecting the right software is challenging for entrepreneurs. There’s an overwhelming number of possibilities out there. lists 443 systems in the CRM category, 111 systems in the Marketing Software category, and 249 systems in the Sales Force Automation category — and because some platforms show up in multiple categories, the task of sifting through these options to compare, contrast and identify tools that will fit your business is even more difficult.

In fact, 63% of small business owners frequently feel overwhelmed by the number of technologies available for running their businesses. Although most entrepreneurs know intuitively that they need to invest time and effort into adopting new technologies into their business, according to the the 2016 State of Small Business Report, there are many challenges that get in the way. 51% of small business owners say the time required to implement new tools is their biggest challenge, while 41% say they don’t have enough budget, 20% say they can’t keep up with the latest trends, and 18% lack the understanding necessary. Clearly, the small business technology landscape is a complex and ever-changing scene, and small business owners need more information and support to approach it confidently.

Without the Right Foundation, Your Business Can’t Grow.

Instead of sifting through hundreds of tools to try and find what you need to efficiently run and grow your business, you need to focus your research more narrowly. There’s not much point evaluating software tools that are designed for much larger businesses or that don’t provide the critical features you need to attract new leads and grow them into loyal customers, which is the most important growth function that marketing software for small businesses needs to focus on.

By just focusing your search on the tried-and-true software providers that offer a long-term solution with all the tools you will need as your business grows in one comprehensive platform, you can save time and frustration on your software search and gain confidence that you are selecting the right tool for your needs.

The Experts Agree: When Shopping for Software, Focus on the Long-Term

Experts agree that keeping the focus on the long-term is the best possible way to select a software solution that is the right fit. Finding a platform that is scalable and will continue to serve your business’s needs even as you grow exponentially is the only way to avoid the issues caused by running your business on an inadequate platform.

According to IT expert Andres Richter, “Without looking at long-term needs, the business could soon outgrow the software solution … To avoid this eventuality, it’s of paramount importance to take into account both long and short-term considerations.” Instead of building your business with multiple, inexpensive tools that cannot scale as your business grows, it’s important to get started with a scalable, comprehensive platform as early as possible.

Dan Miller, General Manager at NetSuite, also gives this advice to young companies: “Think ahead, closely analyze future growth scenarios and make smart investments in core software systems that will scale with the company’s growth.” Instead of investing time and money into a collection of niche solutions that won’t support your business as it grows, keep the focus on finding a platform that can be the “core” of your business over time.

The Benefits of Choosing a Platform That Can Grow With Your Business

By doing the research to find a core platform that will grow with your business from the beginning, your business will benefit in the following ways:

  • You’ll be able to invest time and money into a software platform with confidence, knowing that you’ll earn that money back many times over as your business grows quickly upon a solid foundation.
  • You’ll save time searching for the right combination of niche tools so you can spend more time and resources growing your business.
  • You’ll be free from the obstacles blocking your business’s growth when you don’t have the right tools to support your expansion, meaning that you can grow your business faster.
  • You’ll avoid the frustration that results when you implement the wrong software tool in your business so you can spend time advancing your strategy rather than dealing with tech nightmares.
  • With a platform that includes all the tools your business will need at later stages of growth, you won’t have to search for new software again when it’s time to expand so you’ll never miss out on an opportunity to grow quickly.
  • By selecting a solid platform that integrates with a huge collection of extra add-ons, you’ll be able to customize your tactics as you grow without having to compromise by moving all your data into another platform

So, how should you go about choosing a tool that will unlock all this potential in your business? Don’t go into it blind — get tips for identifying your needs, researching options and assessing the real costs and benefits of the industry’s leading tools for small businesses in our comprehensive guide The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Small Business Software.

About Megan Monroe

Associate Editor Megan Monroe is a graduate of Santa Barbara’s Westmont College where she studied Philosophy and Communications. After working for several local small businesses (where she gained firsthand experience with the frustration of manual segmentation and follow-up), Megan joined the ONTRAPORT Growth Team. When she isn’t writing marketing copy, social media posts or educational guides for entrepreneurs, she enjoys taking advantage of the Central Coast's amazing wineries and cooking without following a recipe.