Your Foolproof Guide to Buying Software

By: on March 31, 2017

Vendor websites can be full of big promises and marketing jargon, which can make your hunt for software even more confusing. If you’re confused or misled, you could end up overspending on a big brand or buying a whole suite when you only need one or two features.

To help, we created this guide. It will teach you how to spot potential marketing fluff and which critical questions to ask software vendors.

First, we’ll lay out specific promises you might see on a vendor website. Then, we’ll tell you how to cut through the marketing jargon and learn what to ask upfront to avoid getting fooled.

The core questions you should ask cover:

Service and Support
Features Offered


Marketing fluff: “We guarantee 100 percent uptime!”

Reality: This is a claim that many cloud-based solutions make. It’s fluff because every vendor has to do scheduled maintenance at some point.

To give you some perspective, 100 percent uptime translates to 525,600 minutes a year. For comparison, 99.9 percent uptime is 525,074 mins (or roughly eight hours of downtime per year).

Questions to ask:


Marketing fluff: “You’re protected by our 30-day, no-questions-asked refund guarantee!”

Reality: Refunds are never as easy as they’re made out to be. Some vendors only offer the refund option if you purchase the software on an annual contract rather than a monthly subscription model. In addition, there can be fees for services such as installation and training that are not refundable.

Questions to ask:

  • Do you offer a demo or trial version? Is there a free or freemium version?
    • Does the 30-day refund guarantee apply to both monthly and annual pricing models?
      • Is there an installation fee? If yes, will that be refunded?
        • Can I cancel the subscription at any time during the first month and still get a full refund?
          • Will all my data be returned or erased if I cancel my subscription? Can the data be exported to another product?

          Service and Support

          Marketing fluff: “We offer 24/7 support through email, phone and chat.”

          Reality: Many vendors do not clearly mention whether the support they offer is free or not, or they bury this information in the fine print. Buyers often miss it and assume there is no extra charge.

          Questions to ask:

          • Is 24/7 support included in the subscription cost or paid separately?
            • What is your primary customer support model: phone, ticket-only, email or chat?
              • Do I have to pay a premium for phone support?
                • What is the response time for email?
                  • Will I have a dedicated account manager or support engineer?

                  Features Offered

                  Marketing fluff: “Our solution is highly scalable. It’s designed to grow with your business.”

                  Reality: Many software vendors make the claim that their software will scale to match the needs of a customer’s growing business. In reality, some vendors may not have the number of servers nor the infrastructure needed to truly support these claims.

                  Questions to ask:

                  • How can I measure your solution’s scalability, and what metrics do you offer to support your claims?
                    • What is your integration strategy for the next five years to support your scalability plans?
                      • How many of my existing software tools do you integrate with?

                      Next Steps

                      Now that you’re prepared to separate marketing speak from reality, here are some next steps you can take as you shop for the best software solution:

                      • Check out our home page. You can browse and sort the options by market, price, business size and much more. Find out which software vendors offer free versions and read reviews from real users.
                      • Talk to one of our software advisors. If you’d rather talk to a real person who can help you sort through the many options and features, give us a call for a free, FastStart Consultation at (855) 998-8505.

                      You may also like:

                      How to Make Small Business Scheduling Easier, Faster and More Accurate

                      SMB Accounting Trends Buyer Report – 2016

                      Using Google Analytics for Marketing: Where Does It Fall Short?

                      Learn what’s trending among CRM software buyers