How Advisors Help You Set the Right Budget for Your Software Purchase

By: Collin Couey on March 19, 2023
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No matter the industry, if you are a small-business leader or you’re in charge of purchasing software for your small to midsize business (SMB), you can benefit from speaking to our advisors—especially if you are having trouble with budgeting for your purchase and need help understanding how vendors price their software options. 

Without talking to our advisors, business owners might overspend or underspend on software. It’s difficult to sift through the various pricing models and tiers that software vendors offer, and potential buyers often get led astray by jargon and confusing messaging. This often leads to buyers not spending enough to get the features they need or, on the flipside, spending too much on features they don’t need. Both of these problems cause a loss of revenue and a need to reevaluate software within a short period of time.

We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks from our advisors as well as real insights from an advisor manager, Michael Ziemba, to help make your software selection process as smooth as possible. We’ve also included insights from our Software Advice 2022 SMB Buyer Behaviors Survey* in which we surveyed small-business owners like you about their software purchasing decision-making process.

What are software advisors, and how can they help me?

Our team of advisors is based out of Austin, Texas, and has helped over 900,000 people find software. They specialize in specific industries, including construction, maintenance, retail, legal, medical, manufacturing, and much more, which means you’ll always be paired with someone who knows your market.

The process to talk to an advisor is simple. First, you fill out a form or schedule a specific time that you wish to be contacted. Once we’re in contact, you’ll tell us about your needs, and the advisor will spend a few minutes talking with you about your specific goals through software.

What we aren’t

While we’re here to help, we won’t get involved in helping you decide which of the systems is the best; we’re just here to lay out your best options so that you can make the most informed decision. 

Additionally, we don’t favor any particular system. We want you to be empowered to demo these systems to decide what’s right for your business. We do our best to give you the solutions that will best set you up for success.

Why are prices difficult to come by on vendor websites?

Vendors want to get you on the phone so they can sell you on why their system is the best fit for your business, and they understand that most businesses’ primary concern is “how much is this going to cost?” That’s why you’ll often find pricing locked behind forms that require you to provide them with your contact information. Sometimes they even require you go through an entire demo before they’ll give you pricing information.

This isn’t some nefarious strategy, but it’s often frustrating for software buyers who might be doing preliminary research, or who want to get a general idea of what a specific type of software costs. 

According to our Software Advice 2022 SMB Buyer Behaviors Survey*, a mismatch of price expectations was the top reason (at 41%) for a buyer to drop a software provider from the purchase decision.

“While we can give you a pretty good idea about what to expect to pay for a vendor's system, we don’t typically say that X vendor is X price. In the end, exact pricing can only come after a discussion with the vendor about your exact needs. However, after speaking with an advisor, you should know the market range, based on your business size and what functionality you’re looking for. By the end of our call, you should have a pretty good idea about what you should expect to spend, and where a vendor falls in the spectrum. Are they cost-effective, or more feature-rich and therefore, more expensive?”

Michael Ziemba

Other times, the advertised pricing you see on a vendor’s website might not be aligned to the price you receive. For instance, you might see a price on their site and think it’s within your budget, but by the time you set up the system, get everything you need, and handle data migration, the price is much higher than anticipated.

Our advisors can give you a more realistic idea of total costs, which includes what software setup is usually priced at.

Advisors explain how certain functionality is locked behind more expensive packages

Nearly every vendor out there is going to offer a range of prices based on functionality. For instance, a customer relationship management (CRM) software solution will often have basic, advanced, and enterprise packages based on the functionality offered. 

A basic CRM might just have contact management and some base-level customer service functionality while a more advanced CRM will have those features plus sophisticated sales force or marketing automation additions. 

Another thing to consider is that more expensive options might have other types of software built in. For instance, best-of-breed electronic health records (EHR) software will often come with integrated telehealth functionality or patient portals that smaller EHR solutions might not have. If you need all of those features, it might be worth it to spend more on the all-in-one versus buying each separately. 

Getting the most out of your budget is what we’re here to help you with, so we can break down the best solution based on what you need and your budget. We’ll go over why certain pricing packages are cheaper than others and have a discussion about what features are your must-haves or just nice-to-haves.

“A common frustration for buyers researching software is that they cannot find straightforward pricing for the software they want online. The fact is, in many instances, what you need the software to do is going to drive the actual price of the software you need.”

Advisors cut through the jargon, and set realistic expectations about your software purchase

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking at vendor websites, you’ve probably noticed that a specific feature might be called something different depending on the vendor. 

For instance, you might be looking for a CRM with customer retention features, so you go to a few vendor sites and realize that some vendors call it customer success, while others still call it customer service, while still others call it customer support. Rarely will the feature you’re looking for be explicitly called what you’re looking for, which can be frustrating and slow your search down.

Our advisors are up to date on the markets they cover, so we’ll be able to help you find exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to software functionality.

Let’s say you’re in the field service industry and need a way to track your contacts as well as keep track of your workers via GPS functionality. You might think that getting a CRM with built-in GPS features is the easiest solution, but it might actually be better to find specific GPS software that’s tailor-made for your type of business and a more general CRM that can integrate with that GPS software. 

Generally speaking, because there are so many CRM solutions available, you’ll be able to reliably find a budget-friendly solution that fits your needs that can integrate with your software versus finding one solution that might be more expensive than just buying them separately.

“Our advisors are in a unique position because we’re not selling a system. Therefore, we can tell you what the reality is when it comes to software pricing. We can let you know if the software you’re looking to buy is more expensive than what you’re budgeting for. We can help you figure out what your budget really is.”

Michael Ziemba

Another place where jargon can hinder the software search is when it comes to pricing options. As we mentioned before, vendors will often have different pricing tiers based on functionality. But they can also have different pricing options. 

Some might have expensive upfront costs that allow you to purchase the software license one time. Others might be cloud-based and offer subscriptions where you pay monthly fees. Others might change depending on the amount of users you need while others still might give you unlimited users.

Advisors narrow down software options based on budget

We’ll spend time going over your budget, and compare it to your must-have and nice-to-have features to determine if that’s a realistic amount of money to expect to spend. 

If you’re already paying for other systems that have overlap with the type of software we’re helping you search for, our advisors might be able to save you money by pointing out that overlap and providing better overall solutions. 

For instance, the software solution you’re looking to buy might have a package that includes a customer relationship management (CRM) module. If you already have a CRM, we’ll help you evaluate what the cost difference would be between dropping your current CRM in favor of the all-in-one solution or sticking with a more basic package that might integrate with your current CRM.

Consider these questions

We’ll also go over the various different set-up costs that come with software purchases because those can vary based on your needs. 

  • Do you have old data to migrate over? Are you planning on doing it yourself, or will you need to pay the software vendor to help with that? 

  • Are you going to need extensive training? 

  • Do you have special workflows or functionality you would like them to build into your version of the software?

While we encourage you to explore the full spectrum of price range, we limit it if you have a certain budget you can’t go over. We can weed out systems that are outside of your price range to show you the options that are available to you.

If you’re ready to talk, we’re always here to help

Connecting with our team of advisors, especially at the very beginning of your software search, should be a no-brainer. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of business leaders find the right match for their business, and there’s no downside.

A 15-minute chat can be the difference between spending too much on software because you don’t have a handle on the different pricing structures or jargon that vendors use to make selling their products easier.

Survey methodology

* Software Advice conducted the Software Advice 2022 SMB Buyer Behaviors Survey between September 2022 to October 2022 among 1,513 respondents from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and France and from SMBs with revenue of less than $1 Billion and two to 999 employees. Respondents were screened for their involvement in software purchasing decisions and those who were a leader or member of a group who had significant influence on a software purchase. Results of this study do not represent global findings or the market as a whole but reflect sentiment of the respondents and companies surveyed.