Comparing platforms can be confusing and exhausting.
In this article, you will learn clear, easy steps to compare platforms and solve your business problem.
You’ll know for sure what you need, without overflowing your mind with information.
The reason comparing is difficult, is that companies use different wording to explain their services. Also, they offer different core services and different extras or secondary offerings.
Your goal is to compare apples to apples: solve your main problem and your small problems around it.
Their goal to set themselves apart (“we’re an orange, we’re not just an apple!”). In a way, they are right. Services don’t always compare, which makes things confusing.
However, in this article, you’ll be able to figure that out, and get the right information to find the right solution for the business problem you are trying to solve.
1. Make a List of Your Wants/Needs.
First, make a rough list (as in not perfect, not final) of what you need or want this service to do for you.
You might not know exactly. That’s okay. Write what you can. This is just a rough draft.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- what problem do you need to solve?
- what perks you want around that solution?
- what do you think the solution could be?
- what are some other ways to name/label that solution?
Write down whatever comes to your mind. Use bullets.
Paper scraps are great for this. It lowers the mental jump to getting started. A clean sheet of notebook paper also works.
This exercise in itself can bring clarity to your head, bring hazy areas to light, and put into words the questions you have.
Write down questions or fuzzy areas, too. That way, you won’t forget what you didn’t understand.
Remember, this list is a rough draft to help you identify what you’re after. This list will help you build the real one later.
2. Find platforms to compare.
If you’re not sure where to find solutions, try the following:
- search online, using words and phrases from your list.
- ask competitors what they use, or see if you can find out from their websites.
- ask leaders in your industry or those familiar with your industry what they have used or recommended
- ask a platform itself what companies offer similar services (I know, you’re asking who is their competition. Well, you do want to make sure you’re getting the best in class before signing on! And by best in class, that would mean the best solution for your particular needs! 🙂 )
3. Make a Comparison Spreadsheet.
Once you have a list of options, compare each platform to your rough list of needs.
It might be helpful to make a spreadsheet.
- Across the top is your needs/wants (benefits/features).
- Down the side are your platforms.
- In the middle are yes/no or notes about how each platform refers to that need/want/benefit/feature.
- Also, include a price column.
This is where things can get tricky. As you compare options, different companies want to showcase different offerings, and use different wording, so the verbiage doesn’t line up.
This is where you need to spend some time understanding what the companies mean by what they say, and how that compares to your rough list.
Several ways to do that are to
- revise your list to reflect your new-found knowledge, and
- call up each company and ask them questions that make sense to you, rather than you having to make sense of their brochure or website offering page.
We’ll delve into both of these next.
4. Revise your List of Wants/Needs.
After you see how each platform explains their solution, you can now revise your rough list, to include things you didn’t know before.
- notes about the solutions you didn’t know before
- aspects of the problem you didn’t see before
- word choice used by different companies
- pricing differences (monthly/yearly/per transaction/per whatever, fees, breakpoints)
- in a separate column, convert pricing to the same schedule (probably yearly) to compare correctly.
You may have to adjust your spreadsheet too. Duplicate your spreadsheet if you want to go back and compare the first data.
5. Call or live chat with each platform.
Each platform should have a phone number or a live chat support team to answer pre-sales questions.
If they don’t, drop ’em! If you can’t get a hold of a human for pre-sales questions, what will happen when you have post-sales issues? And you will need after-purchase support! Think setup issues, payment clarifications, login problems, integrating with your systems software, etc.
Use the data you’ve gathered so far, and ask the support person:
- to explain how they solve your most important needs you listed on that List of Needs/Wants. Ask it in your own words, and compare their answers to their words on their brochure/website.
- to verify the yearly cost (or whatever you converted their pricing to in the spreadsheet)
- to explain how they solve a problem mentioned by a competitor platform. Then you’ll hopefully start seeing how things really compare.
- to explain how their solution works in a real-life situation (i.e. your real-life problem)
When they start using technical jargon, say,
“Look, I don’t understand what you mean by [jargon term]. What I need is [solution from list of wants]. Can you tell me how you provide that?”
“Just a minute. I’m confused by [jargon term]. What I need is help with [a problem on the spreadsheet]. Can you tell me how you fix that?”
Don’t be afraid to interrupt them, especially when your head is starting to spin.
Do be polite, though. These are real people, and you want them to want to work with you.
When things start getting confusing, take a breath and think, Okay, what did I even want in the first place? Look at your List of Needs/Wants and Spreadsheet Comparison to remember what you are aiming for (that’s why phone calls or online chats are so helpful!)
Rate the support you get from each platform, and add that to your spreadsheet of comparison. Poor chat/phone support is seriously a deal-breaker!
6. Circle the offerings that are most important.
Every platform has their flagship product. Find out what each platform seems to highlight, and which offerings seem to be secondary.
On the spreadsheet, circle the offerings that you were most interested in according to your List of Wants/Needs.
Are you still interested in those? Use a different color to circle your new choices based on all the info you have gathered so far.
- Which platform seems to include your most important needs?
- Do any platforms include all your most important needs?
- Which platforms offer good, next-important wants?
- Convert prices to the same timeframe, to truly compare.
7. Call or live chat with each platform again.
You may feel like a bother. But, I guarantee you, when you are finished interviewing each platform, that’s the time you really know what you should have been asking.
Look, support people are there to help you. Support you. They want your business. So they should be willing to help you through the process of understanding what you need, what they offer, and what solution is best.
I’ve done this myself. It really works.
Call each platform again, and say,
“Hey, this is Sarah again. I was thinking through what we discussed about your service, and I just wanted to reach out again to make sure I understand how you could help me.”
The key is to ask every platform the exact same questions, so that you can compare answers. Make a new spreadsheet.
Since you already talked to each one once before, you have a better idea what those questions should be.
If you’re nervous about ending the conversation, simply say,
I really appreciate your time and effort answering my questions. I feel like I understand everything better. I need some time to think over it, and look at what you explained to me today.” [pause for a response] “Thanks again for your time. Have a wonderful day.
If you’re not sure what to put on your list of needs and wants, call different platforms early on. Then take a few days to process it. Live your life in a normal schedule and work load for a bit. Sometimes it’s during your daily routine at work that you discover, what they told you isn’t what you want, or that an extra service they mentioned is more important to you than you realized.
Don’t be afraid to make several spreadsheet versions as you become more familiar with the offerings that are out there. Sometimes you’ll need to go back and use the original terminology you started with. Other times, you need to start over because what you thought you wanted and what platforms are actually offering are nowhere near each other.
To save time and money, contact me for a free strategy call to make sure you find the right solution for your business problem.