how to choose the right tools

How to choose the right tools [PMP #228]

One of the things I get asked about the most is which tools to use and for what purpose. Whether you’re looking for a task management system, sales CRM, online scheduler or email automation tool, there are loads of products out there and a lot of them overlap in terms of functionality.

People ask me about the difference between Asana, and Monday, Pipedrive and Hubspot, Zapier and Integromat. Or they ask whether they even need a sales CRM if a tool like Monday or Asana can be customised to operate like one.

The answer isn’t always obvious but here are a few things to consider when evaluating different tools.

Don’t want to read this post? Listen to the podcast instead:

1. What at the core functions you need the tool to do?

Before you can make a decision, you need to determine what exactly you need the tool to do for you. Funnily enough, a lot of people skip this step and jump straight into a free trial only to later realise the tool isn’t fit for purpose.

  • Are you looking to manage your team's workload?
  • Are you trying to automate tasks?
  • Are you looking for a system to manage contacts, leads and clients?

Whatever the purpose, make sure you get clear what it is you need the tool to do. Maybe you need the tool to perform multiple functions. That’s fine but get clear on this from the beginning. There’s no point signing up for a tool like Asana if you’re trying to create a contact management system. It’s the wrong tool for the job.

You may even decide to sign up for a tool, knowing that it’s not the best option but it’s good enough for what you’re trying to do. For example, some people use Asana, which is a project management tool, to manage sales leads. It’s not really designed for this but you can configure it for this purpose if you want. In doing so, you may be sacrificing some additional functionality that you can get from an actual sales CRM.

This leads me to my next point…

2. Do you want an “all in one” system or are you going to build a “tech stack”?

Some people are attracted to the idea of using one tool for everything. Tools like Notion, Monday and Asana are very versatile and can be used in many different ways.

If your requirements are simple and you’re happy to sacrifice some functionality in order to work within of one tool, this could be the best option for you. In which case, you’re going to want to pick a tool that’s very customizable so you can use it in different ways.

There are some tools out there that try to do everything. Zoho for example does sales, project management and marketing. I tend to find that when a tool tries to do too much, it ends up doing a bunch of things quite averagely rather than one thing really well. It can also be hard to commit to an “all-in-one” tool like this where you're switching costs to change later are very high.

Personally, I prefer to use the right tool for the job. This is why I’ve built a “tech stack”; a collection of tools that are connected together to do different things. Here’s a video taking you behind the scenes of my system. While I could use Asana as a sales CRM, I prefer to use Pipedrive as it’s better at performing this function. And I could send email newsletters out of Pipedrive. But again, I prefer to use ConvertKit as it’s much more powerful and suited to the email automation that I want to do. Zapier is the glue that holds this system together so as deals are won in Pipedrive, tasks are created in Asana and subscriber details are updated in ConvertKit.

By building a “tech stack” you have the luxury of using the right tool for the job and you can swap out a tool if it no longer suits your process (like the time I switched from Mailchimp to ConvertKit). The downside is that you’re probably going to be paying more in total as you’re using more tools. And you need the technical ability to integrate them all together (or you can work with a company like ours to set these systems up for you).

When choosing your tools, you should consider if the tool needs to fit into your existing tech stack or whether you can use it independently or as an “all in one” system.

3. What’s your budget?

And of course, what kind of budget do you have to spend on software tools. If you’re just starting your business and want to keep costs down, maybe you need an all in one system or something like Asana or Notion which are very versatile.

I’m at the stage in my business where I don't mind spending a bit more to create a really robust and powerful system that works best for my business. Most of the tools I pay for are priced between $5/mo on the low end and up to $50/mo on the high end. I will easily justify costs like this if it’s going to help me to save time.

4. How good is the company behind the tool?

The tool itself has to be fit for purpose. But almost equally important is that it needs to be backed by a good company.

  • Does the company provide good customer support? – As good as a tool is, if you can’t get the support you need what’s the point?
  • How long has the company been operating? – Given the choice, I’d rather go with a company with a proven track record of developing good software over a startup.
  • Is the company well funded? – If you’re putting time and effort into using a tool, you want it to be around for a while.
  • Does the company develop new features on a regular basis? – You want to go with a tool where the company listens to customer feedback and develops new features on a regular basis.
  • Does the tool integrate well with other apps and services? – Especially if you’re building a “tech stack”.

Don't rush your decision. Before you put time into learning and setting up a new tool, make sure you’re choosing one that ticks these boxes. Even if your 15-day trial expires, pay for a month or two if you need to while you're still making a decision.

Having come across quite a few tools in the last few years, please let me know if you have any questions about anything discussed here.