Software Advice is a trusted resource for software buyers. The company’s website, www.softwareadvice.com, provides detailed reviews, comparisons and research to help organizations choose the right software. Meanwhile, the company’s team of software analysts provide free telephone consultations to help each software buyer identify systems that best fit their needs. In the process, Software Advice connects software buyers and sellers, generating high-quality opportunities for software vendors.
Since its founding in 2005, the company has assisted more than 115,000 software buyers. Software Advice is headquartered in Austin, Texas where it employs a team of 60 (and growing). It has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States by Inc. Magazine.
MO: What inspired to you launch Software Advice?
Don: Software Advice got started the way a lot of companies are started — by finding a need or gap in the market and filling it. When it comes to generating business ideas, there’s an element of “you’ve gotta be in it to win it.” You don’t just sit down with a legal pad and brainstorm ideas. Rather, in my case, I worked hard in the industry and the opportunity presented itself. In 2004 and 2005, I was researching a number of software markets, looking for software companies to acquire and realized I’d done almost all of this research on my own. There was no place on the web that intelligently consolidated research on software in niche vertical markets — so I set out to fill that gap.
MO: What are some tips when it comes to finding the right software for an organization?
Don: The biggest overarching tip I can give to companies is stressing the need to start with the business problem and not the technology. Don’t jump at technology because it’s new and shiny, rather identify the biggest business challenges and inefficiencies in your processes first. Then look for ways to improve those processes, that then automate and optimize those processes with technology.
MO: What are some of the most common issues that you see your customers facing and how can they be avoided?
Don: The major pain point of the software buyers we speak with is having data in multiple systems. Whether using software, paper documents, spreadsheets, emails — what they’re typically trying to achieve with our service is getting a formal and efficient system in place that their employees can use to be more effective. The biggest mistake software buyers make is undervaluing technology — both in terms of what they should be willing to spend and an understanding of how difficult and resource intensive it is for software vendors to develop and maintain technology.
MO: What’s one marketing strategy that’s worked really well for you?
Don: The marketing strategy that has worked for us is expanding the scope of the conversation with our audience beyond the applications of technology to also include the business processes that the technology improves. So instead of specifically talking about how technology works, we’ve broaden our set of topics to discuss business challenges and how and why certain technologies can help.
MO: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?
Don: One of my entrepreneurial philosophies is that you have to “Burn The Ships.” Back in 2004, I could no longer motivate myself to work for other people on a mission that wasn’t mine. I found myself being a ‘B player’ instead of the ‘A player’ I once was. I realized my best path was to fire myself and burn all the ships in order to start the clock ticking and cash burning, because I knew that would motivate me. I quit my job without a solid business plan, without funding and without a business partner, so that I had to figure things out on my own. Don’t try this at home.
MO: Can you elaborate on how you’re recognizing and implementing innovations in content and design?
Don: When it comes to content, we’re carefully walking the line of giving users what they want, while monetizing our website. On the internet, users want everything for free and in-full yet someone has to pay for all of this great content and technology. So we’re constantly testing how much we can give users before it starts impacting our ability to be in business.
As far as design is concerned, we’re currently working on responsive design, which is a new front-end coding technique where you build a web page that responds to any screen size the user has, whether that’s a large desktop or a small phone screen. There are some great frameworks, such as Foundation, that give you a good jump start but it’s a very labor intensive design and development process. We want to make sure that regardless of what screen our customers are using, that they’re getting the optimal user experience.
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