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10 Questions to Ask Before Buying a New Software Tool

In a recent webinar, a question posed to one of our panelists was,

What questions can you ask a potential software vendor to confirm their authenticity?

This got us thinking about how complex the set of tools many nonprofits and small businesses use has become over the last few years [and decades for some]. Think about it; You have a CRM for managing your contacts, but it can’t handle anything too complex, so you also have SalesForce to ensure you’re retaining all of your relationship data. Then you have your email marketing tool, Constant Contact, because your CRM doesn’t have a built-in option for such marketing. Oh, and this year you’ve decided to begin using SMS messaging, so you add MobileCause to your lineup of tools.

All of the options listed are designed to do exactly what they promise: Help you do better marketing and contact management. But they do so in silos and can’t communicate with one another. After a few months, maybe years, of shuffling data around and some minor staff changes, someone is going to find the next great thing. It may be an all-in-one solution, or multiple tools that do what you’re already doing… but better (perhaps).

That’s when you need to take a breath and ask a few questions about any new vendor or software tool before signing an agreement:

        1. Am I adding a new tool or replacing one?
        2. Does this new tool save me time or complicate current processes?
        3. Can this new tool integrate with my core database?
        4. For transactional software (merchant tools):
              • Is there an monthly or annual cost?
              • Is the transaction fee more or less than what I pay today?
              • How long is the contract duration?
        5. Does this tool sell data to third parties?
        6. What privacy protections are in place to safeguard my data?
        7. How long is the vendor’s implementation process?
        8. On average, how long does a new user need to onboard and become proficient?
        9. What is the vendor’s client retention rate (renewals) year to year?
        10. What do the reviews say about this vendor/software?

Asking these questions can ensure you and your staff avoid being swept up in the excitement of a great sales pitch. It’s common for new tools to be added to the roster, used temporarily, and then set aside because they weren’t as good as promised, or were too complicated for staff with no extra time to learn.

One last tip, when all else fails, take to social media and ask others who use the tool you are considering to share their experiences.

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