Assess Your Tech Stack for Greater Efficiency
How to Assess Your Tech Tools for Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness
It’s the beginning of the year, and depending on your clients’ needs, a business may slow down a bit during or after the holiday season. That’s nothing to worry about—Q1 is here and things will pick up before you know it! In addition to taking some well-deserved time off, this is the time when most business owners reflect on what has worked well, what can be improved and what goals they want to work on over the year. Personally, I’ve been focusing on freeing up my time and resources to stay within my role as a “problem solver,” and I’ll be aligning my plans for this year with that role in mind.
Speaking of problems, one of the issues my clients often run into in the process of growing an online business is the tedious, time-consuming work created when their tech stack isn’t optimized for their business activities and processes. It’s incredibly frustrating when these tools that are supposed to make our lives easier seem to take up more of our time rather than saving it. As your resident problem solver, I’d like to take you through my process for assessing and optimizing the software that makes up your online business. We’ll begin by mapping out the tools you’re using right now (you can use a pen and paper or your favorite process mapping software—it’s up to you!) Then you can think through all of the questions below or prioritize the top criteria that are most important to you.
Map Your Processes
If this seems like an overwhelming first step, think about it in terms of your customer journey: when a potential client first “meets” you online or in person, where are they discovering you and how do you bring them into your online space? How do you manage that audience, onboard new clients, deliver your services and wrap things up when your job is done? You may also look at these processes as separate departments, such as sales, marketing, services and delivery, operations, HR, product development, finances, accounting and management.
Most online businesses include these basic components:
- Email provider such as Google workspace
- Website: your address online
- Bulk email provider such as MailChimp
- Bookkeeping and accounting software like QuickBooks
- Payment processor like PayPal or Stripe
Don’t forget your time management and project management tools!
- Do you print and organize emails in a binder?
- Google Drive, Keep and Calendar
- Task management apps like Trello or Asana
- CRM to track and automate parts of your sales process
Assess Each Component
Consider the following questions for each tool on your list. If you notice that some of your software is not being used to its fullest capacity, misaligned with your other processes or causing too much frustration, it might be time to look at other alternatives. I’ve provided some suggestions based on what has worked best for my clients.
- What problem will this tool help me solve?
- How well does it integrate with my existing systems?
- MailChimp integrates well with WordPress (the platform we use to build websites at Light Vision Group) along with Google Analytics and Google Search, which help you track data across platforms.
- If you use lead magnets, both MailChimp and WordPress can deliver these. We use Elementor for custom WordPress designs.
- Does this program make sense for the size of the business/number of people & roles on your team?
- Airtable and SmartSheets may work well for task management if you own a mid-size business with 10 or more employees.
- Trello and Google Sheets are useful for even the smallest businesses.
A lot of software options out there are not one-size-fits-all! If the offer sounds too good to be true, talk with other business owners with comparable services and find out what they use. Your time is valuable, so don’t spend too much of it researching and testing new software when you could be creating content for your business.
- Are you frustrated or spending a lot of time on repetitive simple actions?
- Are there similar platforms that might eliminate those problems?
- Is this a task you can outsource to another person?
- Are you utilizing free tools (like Google products and Evernote)? If you’re considering a new tool, what does it do that adds value or justifies the cost?
- Google Analytics and Search Console are free.
- Canva is a great design tool with a free option, but some of their premium features may be worth the investment if you do your own graphic design work.
- We pay for a SEMRush subscription to help with keyword research because SEO is an important part of our marketing services.
- For more advanced visual reporting, Microsoft Business Intelligence is worth a look. We are testing this out to possibly use with some of our clients.
As you start to eliminate software that isn’t measuring up to your expectations, you can use these same questions to evaluate new options.
There’s one more important reminder I share when having these discussions with my clients: your team is just as critical as your technology. No matter what tools you decide on, it’s impossible to do everything alone, even if you consider yourself a “solopreneur.” I’ve realized that everything seems to work better when you have the right team in place, and you’ll often get better clients as a result!
Finally, don’t forget that I’m here to answer your tech and software questions too! I work with these kinds of tools every day, and I’m happy to be a resource for members of my community like you. If you go through this exercise and find yourself stuck on a question or two, I hope you’ll reach out and ask for help!