As we put an old year behind us and start fresh with a new one, I want to talk about an issue that touches on the very core of local business' ability to successfully employ digital marketing technology, or, for that matter, any software.
In 2015, I believe we will see Software with Service take hold over the traditional Software as a Service (SaaS) technology model. This new model - aimed at time-starved local businesses - acknowledges that the do-it-yourself approach to integrating technology into local business is failing far too many organizations. It recognizes that local businesses really need both state-of-the-art technology and expert service.
There is ample evidence to show that despite being surrounded by technology at home and work, local business owners and employees still find it challenging to install and implement much of the software and hardware needed to help run their organizations. In fact, a recent study found that 64 percent of small business owners feel "overwhelmed" when it comes to technology and nearly 60 percent said there are "insufficient resources" available to help them.
There are many very valid reasons that a SaaS model isn't the best fit for most local business owners. Local business owners and employees wear multiple hats - and it's not likely any of those hats say CIO or IT on them. Implementing new technology, working out the kinks, and troubleshooting problems when they arise is very time-consuming and often frustrating. If an organization simply doesn't have the cycles to work through those details and nuances, the software meant to help their business suddenly becomes an impediment. And if the installation and troubleshooting "support" offered with the software is a link, chat room or online FAQ, business owners can become stymied and discouraged.
Software WITH service doesn't just overcome these challenges - it never creates them to begin with. Through partnership, proactive and regular communications, and anticipatory support, Software with Service creates a foundation for ongoing success. It calls for service providers to support business owners throughout software set-up, installation and troubleshooting. It helps guarantee that software is being employed to its fullest potential by having these providers work hand-in-hand with businesses to define goals and objectives and implement software to achieve those goals.
Rather than waiting for a problem to occur, service providers that offer Software with Service use their product and industry sector knowledge to anticipate issues and help local businesses avoid them. They provide tips and advice to help businesses implement tools properly from the start and check in regularly to ensure things are running smoothly.
Software with Service is also built on the premise that service providers have an obligation to work with customers even at the pre-sale stages to ensure they are laying the groundwork for a positive experience. Far too often, local businesses are sold products that aren't appropriate for their needs or that won't help them achieve their goals. Software with Service providers explain how their product will support the businesses' needs - without all the technical jargon - what problems it solves and how it differs from competitive offerings. This knowledge benefits local businesses and service providers by ensuring that the product is a fit for the business and will help it achieve success. A happy customer is a source of continued business and referrals.
SaaS certainly has its place - and will continue to help a large swath of the business market - but for a host of reasons it's just not the right approach for most local businesses. While there will always be a subset of small businesses that are very tech savvy, the fact remains that even if they have the knowledge, the vast majority of local business owners simply don't have the time to implement their own software. That's why I think 2015 will be the year that Software with Service becomes a preferred model for local businesses.