Claire Alexander, Group Vice President, Brand Portfolio & Marketing at Capterra.
The good news: Today’s small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are making bold investments in technology to drive productivity, boost revenue and navigate the modern world. The bad news? Our 2023 SMB Tech Trends Survey found 61% of SMBs in the U.S. have buyer’s remorse over a technology purchase they made in the past 12-18 months. This is confirmed by Gartner’s 2022 study, which found 73% of respondents expressed regret over their purchase of technology that had not yet been implemented.
Tech investments that fail to deliver can be catastrophic, so here are my five tips for ensuring that you make smart buying decisions in the year ahead.
1. Don’t leave it all up to IT.
According to our survey, 52% of U.S. SMBs surveyed rely on internal IT teams to evaluate, select, and purchase software. Why might that lead to buyer’s remorse? Anecdotally we’ve heard it’s because IT’s guidance can overlook the experience of day-to-day users—experience that ensures products will be adopted as intended.
Our research shows that the ideal software evaluation team is diverse, including tech experts, business leaders and hands-on end users. For example, if your business is considering a CRM tool, end-user sales and marketing employees need to participate in the process. (Note: This is a great stretch assignment for high-potential talent!)
2. Consider the total cost of ownership (not just the subscription price).
Software providers are eager to highlight their subscription costs, but that’s not the final price most buyers will pay. Beyond the initial license fee, implementation services, customizations, training, maintenance and other common add-ons can quickly inflate the total cost.
In fact, Capterra’s research revealed more than a third (34%) of regretful software buyers blame their disappointment on higher-than-expected total investments.
It’s important to confirm your list of must-haves for the software first, then compare software providers that can deliver on those needs. Once you have your shortlist, use a side-by-side comparison to break down the true total cost of each option.
3. Establish a clear use case.
SMBs are increasingly interested in leveraging emerging tech that hasn’t yet proven it can deliver what it promises, which can be a risky endeavor.
To avoid shiny object syndrome, make sure you can articulate a clear hypothesis about why a new piece of technology will improve your operations so you don’t spend time chasing functionality that won’t pay off.
As you develop your software shortlist, look for the vendors who actively help you define and track success milestones within their system. This not only ensures you’ll be able to track ROI, but it also gives you a sense of what it would be like to work with that vendor after the sale.
4. Get answers to specific, pointed questions during software demos.
Product demos are an important part of the buying process, but don’t let a software vendor’s demo script stop you from getting the answers you need.
Instead, come to your demo with a perspective about how end-users and department leaders would want to use the product, and then have the vendor walk you through those tasks. This means you’ll need to come to that conversation with a clear understanding of current workflows and a list of specific questions about how this potential software purchase might address known friction points or enable new workflows.
You should also take advantage of your demo time to ask tough questions—compatibility or security concerns, for example, are important to get on the table early in the process.
A trustworthy vendor representative will be happy to share details or materials that add context to the final decision.
5. Seek out reviews from other growing businesses.
Typically, a vendor will ask their happiest customers to serve as references. Smart buyers, however, can get a more clear-eyed perspective about many of the points above by exploring reviews. It’s important to make sure reviews are provided by verified users, and you’ll get the most value from looking at the comments and ratings from organizations in the same industry or with the same challenges and goals.
Tech buyer’s remorse doesn’t need to be a part of your experience in bringing new tools and advantages. To mitigate the risk of remorse, take time to create a diverse team to evaluate options, look at the total cost, determine your clear use case, find answers to your questions and learn from others’ reviews. Your next solution is waiting for you.