57 Channels and nothing on: Why I hate buying software

Too much choice and too little useful content

In 1992, when Bruce Springsteen released the song 57 Channels and Nothing On, life was much simpler” Three networks ruled the airwaves. There was no HBO or Showtime or ESPN. Heck, there was no Internet, and therefore no Netflix, Youtube, or Google.
In 1992, fifty-seven channels was a lot.
Fast forward to 2016, and there are now 500 million channels thanks to the internet.
And often there is still nothing on.

It’s the same with software

So what’s a business owner to do when shopping for a technology solution?
There is way too much choice and not enough time for the average entrepreneur to find the best solution for their business.
In the spirit of helping you wade through the literally thousands of software options available today, I offer a cautionary tale.

The summer of CRM

At Marketing CoPilot we just spent the summer implementing a new CRM and marketing automation tool for our business.
We were generating a lot of leads from our website, but they were not being analyzed or followed up on correctly.
So we started looking for a cost-effective tool that would help close the loop on lead generation and lead nurturing.

What we did right

  1. We looked at the tools we were already using.
  2. We categorized every tool the team used by purpose, cost, frequency of use, and output to get a cost-benefit ratio for each one.
  3. We looked at software company websites to self-educate before asking for a demo or pricing.
  4. We talked to other businesses and asked what they were doing with CRM (we started with businesses our size and then talked to businesses that looked like what we wanted to become.)
  5. Finally, we drafted a list of requirements to vet our options.

What we did wrong

Before I tell you the outcome of our journey to find a marketing automation tool, I want to share a mistake we made in reviewing software products.
Big Mistake Number 1 was that we had not yet hired a sales professional, and yet here we were making CRM decisions without the input of the person who would be using the software day in and day out.

  • Big Lesson Number 1: Get your uses involved early in the process. They will see things that you won’t as the business owner.

Big Mistake Number 2 was that we wanted to implement software that we could also recommend to our clients. But what we needed as a business was not necessarily what might make sense for someone else’s business.

  • Big Lesson Number 2: Each business is unique and so should the software and marketing automation tools that need to be implemented.

What software companies did wrong

We spent a lot of time and effort on this buying exercise. Here are some of the opportunities for improvement I would like to see addressed as a customer:

  • Make sure that when your ideal customer hits your website, they can identify with your company and product. In a sea of choice, being clear and specific about who best fits your software is paramount. You can’t be all things to all people — there is too much choice and too little time for the buyer to have to figure out if you are the right fit. They’ll move on the next company that communicates better.
  • Business process and analysis for any piece of software is a core part of the buyer journey. Tackle this content on your website quickly because this is what is going to get shared when decisions are being made. Do you have an implementation project plan available for download on your site? Even if it’s high-level steps and scope about the level of effort, you need this content available when buyers are developing a short list.
  • Do not hide your pricing page. Pricing is a key question in the buyer journey: Can I afford this solution? This is likely the third most important page on your site. Don’t just list cost and features — use this page to sell value.

The final outcome

We ended up choosing a solution that integrated into our email system and that looked and felt like tools we were already using. What the exercise demonstrated to us is that list cleansing and list management is a core part of our business and requires time and attention. If you want to be successful in sales, you need to pay attention to lead analysis on a weekly basis.
We also discovered that speed matters and not one product we reviewed talked about this on their website. Sure they talked about “cloud” and “ease of use” but they did not directly discuss how long it takes to add or update records in the system and how this will slow down a sales person if the response time is more than five seconds. Not one software company we reviewed discussed the process for running reports and the time it takes to mine data.  These are real user problems, and no one was up front about real user issues.
So to all software and technology companies out there, this is what we mean by content marketing. Real content that has an impact on the customer. Not hype or features and functions. Content that has an impact on the buyer journey.
We switched ‘round and ’round til half past dawn – 57 channels and nothing on.
Thanks Bruce – you summed up my software acquisition experience beautifully.

Marketing CoPilot