Once you’ve made the decision to invest in studio management software, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the dizzying array of options available. Don’t be afraid to invest some time in the selection process. After all, you’re already wasting lots of time on functions that you’ll outsource to your studio management software. So give yourself the gift of the perfect studio partner by digging in, doing your research, and contemplating what you really need. Here’s how to make the right choice for your needs.

Know Why You’re Investing in Studio Management Software

Marketing is a funny thing. It can convince you you need things you don’t, while encouraging you to neglect your most significant needs. So before you begin the search for studio management software, consider why you’re making the investment in the first place. What is it that you need? Put those needs in writing. They should guide your search.

Don’t Change Your Needs Based on the Software

The list of your needs serves an important function: it ensures that the software serves your needs, not that your needs get shaped to the demands of the software. Too often, studio owners get swept up in a shiny new program that offers many features -- none of which they’ll actually use. No matter how nice the salesperson is, no matter how trendy the program is, and no matter how convinced you’ve become that you can alter the way you do things, invest only in software that meets your needs.

A program that requires you to change the way you do business or alter the way you manage records is a recipe for stress and wasted time. Resist the temptation to tailor your needs to the offerings of a studio management program.

Ask Lots of Questions

Manufacturers of the best studio management programs are proud of their work, and eager to share it with prospective customers. This means you should be suspicious of anyone who doesn’t want to answer your questions. Don’t shy away from asking everything you want to know. Some good starting points for discussion include:

  • What sort of tech support do you offer?
  • Can I customize the program? How?
  • What is the layout like? Can I change it?
  • Does the program integrate with other programs I use, or is there an app I can access?
  • How is billing managed? Do I need to sign a contract? Is there an auto-pay option?
  • What is the average wait time for customer service?
  • Do customer service agents speak English well? Is there a chat-based support option?
  • Can I lock in my rate? Will pricing change over time?
  • Is your program compatible with my operating system?
  • How does your program protect my information, and the information of my customers?

Take Advantage of Demos and Free Trials

The best programs know that if you try them, you’ll be hooked on the value and time savings. They’re eager to offer you a sneak peak that reels you into their product. The more insight they offer you before purchasing, the better, since this will allow you to see how the product addresses a range of issues, and whether it integrates well into your studio life.

Know the Importance of the Cloud

It’s the nightmare scenario: you’re up late working on billing or student progress reports and the power goes out. Or worse, your computer crashes, never again to turn back on. What now?

If your studio management software is cloud-based, you have nothing to worry about. Everything is stored in the cloud, and a new computer, a computer failure, or an electrical storm won’t mean you lose your data. This is the only way to go, so ask about storage and backup options. Also ask whether there’s a limit to the amount of data you can store in the cloud.

Still not convinced? There’s another benefit to cloud storage: without it, you’re a slave to your computer and your desk. You have to anticipate the information you need and print it out in advance of meetings. With cloud storage, you can access your information anywhere and everywhere. Busy studio owners don’t have time to double-check data or show up with the wrong information.

Consider Customer Experience

What makes your studio unique? Every studio offers customers something special. The right studio management program enhances that experience, rather than diminishing it. If you’re known for hilarious report cards and a friendly receptionist, doing away with these traditions can lose you business. List the things that students like best, then go with a program that allows you to preserve these money makers while still saving time. If students love your detailed feedback, studio management software can help you continue offering it, but at a lower cost.

Look at Value, Not Price

In a world where we’ll happily shell out $5 a day, every day, for a cup of coffee, most of us become penny pinchers when we have to pay even a small sum for something to support smooth business operations. Suddenly, studio managers who never give a thought to buying food for the entire studio find themselves concerned about spending an extra $20.

Savvy business owners watch the bottom line. It’s a good thing to worry about price, since $5 here and $5 there quickly adds up to real money. That doesn’t mean you should make your decision based purely on price. Instead, you need to look at value. How much does the software cost, and how much will it save you? Look both at raw cost savings and at factors like the time you’ll gain and the stress you’ll no longer have to manage.

When studio management software costs you less than you’d have to pay someone to do the same task, when it saves you more hours than you need to work to cover the cost, or when it brings in new customers, it’s a good value. Shift your focus to value, and embrace the mentality of studio directors with a growth mindset. Price tells you nothing without a context of value.

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