As I write this, the NFL preseason is half-way complete. My Falcons (0-3) have shown some weaknesses, but I’m confident they will be ready before facing the Vikings on September 8! Preseason football games are a sure sign that fall is around the corner. Another reminder is that we are making plans for FABTECH. As you prepare for this event, you might well ask whether a tradeshow is a good place to shop for software, and, if so, how to do that well. I come from the perspective of CAD/CAM Nesting Software, but the principles discussed here apply to whatever software can help your business succeed.
WHY SHOP FOR SOFTWARE AT FABTECH?
Software companies put their best foot forward for tradeshows. This is a huge advantage when looking for solutions to your fabrication challenges. Use this to your advantage! Expect to be impressed! If we cannot WOW you when we are at our best, you may not love the software when you use it every day. Another reason to shop for software during a tradeshow is the ease of product comparison. Walking the show floor in Chicago, you can see your current favorite solution AND you can easily compare it to similar offerings. There is no better time for checking out how the features most important to you work in software from different companies.
HOW TO SHOP FOR SOFTWARE AT A TRADESHOW
If you will be joining us at FABTECH or EuroBLECH (or one of the many other tradeshow opportunities in the coming months), how can you leave with the answers you need? Here are a few suggestions:
First, Prepare for the Demo
I’m not too worried about the Falcons at this point. The preseason is about preparing for the real show. Similarly, companies are busy preparing for the tradeshows. We want to be ready for you when FABTECH kicks off. This is good: it shows that we are eager for your business and that you are important to us. But have you thought about your own preparation for software demos so that you do not forget to investigate an important feature? How can you prepare for the demo? The critical piece is understanding your current workflow. Remember, you are not merely searching for a great solution; you are looking for a great solution to your unique fabrication challenges. Ideally, you can draw your workflow and highlight the bottlenecks so that you can focus on a solution to your needs.
Second, Understand Your Requirements
You really will shop better if you know exactly what you need. For example, if you are searching for a nesting solution, you should be able to answer questions like these:
- What CAD formats will I need to import into our nesting software?
- How important is the Quote to Order process and workflow?
- Will we manage inventory and drops in the solution?
- What machines do I need to run with this software?
- What connection do we need between the business system and this solution?
The answers to these questions narrow your options and make your shopping valuable and efficient.
Third, Ask for a Test-Drive Demo
Most software demos involve the company representative showing you features in the software. Perfect! You can easily see what the software does. But when you have narrowed your options to the top two to four products, consider asking for your own private test drive of the software. Most companies have a basic workflow demo that lasts less than ten minutes in the hands of the representative. Ask for a chance to push the buttons while the rep watches and directs – I promise, you will learn a LOT about software usability and lovability in this demo!
Fourth, Know your Budget
I’m sometimes asked, “How much does your software cost?” This is difficult to answer because solutions are modular. While that may feel frustrating at first, it really works to your advantage, allowing each customer to buy what they really need (rather than paying for what someone else needs). My goal at the tradeshow is to help you discover the best solution for your needs and to help you determine if the return on investment makes sense for you. When the topic of money comes up, consider making your budget range part of the discussion so that you get all of the answers you need.
I hope you can spend some time preparing to make your software shopping experience enjoyable and profitable. See you at the show!
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