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The Advantages of Premium Software

July 18, 2013
Posted by John Fager at 1:32 PM

Why should firms use premium software?

It’s no secret that premium software costs more than bargain priced solutions.  Why do companies purchase software that costs more money than other similar products?

This chart shows an example of how more expensive software can reduce the cost of a project on the whole.

Low Cost Software Premium Software
Costs-discount-software Costs-premium-software
Legend

Larger-investment-callout

NOTES:

  • Software costs on the premium software can be almost twice that of the low cost alternative
  • A larger investment in software can easily reduce total costs by 9-15%

Organizations use software because it is always cheaper to automate processes than to have them completed manually.  Software that is more expensive often does a better job than lower cost competitors. The old adage that you get what you pay for applies.  Premium software packages better support your business and allows the organization to focus on critical revenue-generating work and spend less time pushing around the parts.

Usability, Staff Time & Systemic Error

The value of any software system comes down to how easy it is to learn and then use, and whether it works in such a way that both decreases complexity and the time required to accomplish a set of tasks. A complex software process can require a dedicated, fully trained staff member to operate the system.  Those hours in training as well as the reliance on a single team member to handle the software can be a big disadvantage.  Turnover, sickness, personal time off, maternity leave and other issues can wreak havoc on processes if a software package is too complicated to use.  If others in the organization cannot readily fill in for the absent employee, it reduces the value of the system. 

A poorly programmed software system with bugs adds staff frustration to the mix, often requiring users to redo tasks, work around issues and even spend long, unproductive hours going back and forth with support.

Many usability issues only become apparent with time and use of a software system.  The experience gained both in setting up different types of campaigns and in having exposure to different systems reveals the weaknesses.  Thankfully, the majority of VDP Web® customers are familiar with competitors’ systems and began looking for alternatives out of frustration with the software, services and support.  This is a great advantage to our sales team because customers understand that the largest single cost of a cross media PURL system is actually the time investment in using the system.  Staff hours and onerous processes are a huge drain on productivity and have a massive impact on the profitability of a project.

Usability

Systems that create campaigns quickly and are easy to use reduce the amount of time required for an employee to generate content and also make the process accessible to other staff members when they need to step in.

Staff Time

The more people that can use and contribute to a given system, the faster and easier it is to deploy client campaigns.  This avoids risks with staff turnover, allowing new team members to jump into an ongoing campaign quickly.  It also helps to avoid backups when a specialized member of the team goes on vacation or is overwhelmed with too many jobs at once.

Messing Something Up

It is important to consider the cost of making a mistake that could have hard costs in rework and delays. Some mistakes, if not caught, may damage or destroy a good working relationship with your client.

Poorly designed systems often have confusing interfaces and more steps than are necessary to accomplish the task at hand.  JFM Concepts believes that a self-explanatory system that keeps things simple and efficient produces the best possible results.  A well-designed package reduces the risk of getting something wrong.

VDP Web had the benefit of being created from the needs of our in-house digital agency before it was released into a software package. The system was not just created by developers based on an abstract, untested set of requirements and layouts.  This gave VDP Web the unique advantage of removing stumbling blocks as well as unnecessary and confusing items on the page.  We created processes that add speed, simplicity and flexibility to everyday tasks.

Why do some software solutions cost less?

Lower cost solutions are less expensive for a reason.  To reduce costs, corners must be cut, service levels must be reduced and the amount of resources supporting the business cannot be robust.  There are always tradeoffs for a lower price.

We have had experience with a small handful of printers that decided to go with a lower cost provider when they began the process of adding PURLs, generic landing pages and email to their product mix.  Most of these printers have come back after their first few campaigns in total frustration.

The primary reasons for upgrading to VDP Web were:

  • The software made it very difficult to set up campaigns
  • Clients, content, logins and reporting could not be managed under a unified agency account under a single login
  • Uploading and managing the data was too complex
  • Training and understanding the system was time consuming and difficult
  • The PURLs didn’t work or track reliably with connection issues, slow load times and other problems
  • Technical support was slow, unreliable, frustrating, or all of the above
  • The creative could not be set up to work the way the client expected
  • The system could not handle large, enterprise level data sets (hundreds of thousands or millions of records in a single list)

Make sure that you consider the time and expense of managing a system that does not provide:

  • Easy setup for true agency/reseller functionality
  • A fully hosted system for content, data and reporting (software as a service)
  • Serious, fast support when needed
  • Strong, dependable agency services for design and development

Remember that Email Has Special Deliverability Concerns 

With email, the organization responsible for the send plays a special role.  Many email providers will not allow an agency immediate access to upload large lists.  Questions loom, such as, “Where did the subscribers come from?” and “Can our system handle a sudden increase in bulk sends?”  A true agency system like VDP Web is ready to absorb any volume and understands the agency model of sending out bulk email for your clients.

Custom Templates Save Time

Another huge benefit of the VDP Web software is the ability to develop customized templates that are available directly to all of your sub accounts.  This gives a high speed edge in production, development and testing time when rolling out email services to multiple customers.  This process is something that a basic email system like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp cannot provide.  The number of hours and complications that duplicated production will cause significantly increases costs and decreases profitability.

Smaller Providers Have Trouble

Both of our main competitors actually manage and send their own email.  With a smaller client base for email, they are too small for Gmail, Microsoft or Yahoo to pay any significant attention to.  Though this reduces costs, it does a big disservice to their clients. A large, enterprise level sender that handles major airlines, banks and the world’s largest healthcare companies has a professional and safe email reputation.  When their email is blocked, critical things are missing from the recipients’ inbox.  For that reason, the major providers are very careful about blocking email from big, well-established players while quick to block others.  This added level of deliverability and security is why VDP Web partners with ExactTarget to manage outbound bulk email sends.

With the huge investment in building subscribers and generating content, it just makes sense to invest a bit more in the email system to assure a successful deployment and the best deliverability possible.  The actual send costs are the smallest part in the whole pie.  It is a risky call to bet the success of the whole project to shave less than 10% of the cost off the total job.  It is also difficult to measure the amount of damage that occurs when subscribers are not properly engaged because they never received your email.

Assessing a System 

What is the best way to assess a system?  If you can, use an experienced web and email professional who is familiar with data management, content creation, testing, and response analytics.  Make sure you consider all of the hidden costs, including staff hours, rework time, support questions, training, and complexity.  By not tracking costs on the system as a whole, you will miss many opportunities to actually reduce costs and increase productivity through the use of premium software.

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