This post was written by my friend and automation expert, Jesse Parker. I asked Jesse to write about this topic after seeing them post a short form version of it on one of their social accounts. I thought, “This is tech knowledge my audience needs to have!” They kindly agreed to write this for you. I hope it helps! — Jennie
Picking the “Right” Apps for Your Business
I consider myself to be an app connoisseur. During my time at Zapier, I’ve had the unique experience of supporting a customer base using over 5,000 apps. I have seen them all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I have watched new apps come into the market and take off, and I have seen others flop and close down. And a few gems have earned their place as permanent members of my tech stack.
But before we dive in, let’s talk about what an app is. In the context of this article, “App” is short for “web application”.
A web application is simply a piece of software that operates on the internet and can be accessed using your web browser, as opposed to something you would download and install locally on your computer.
They are designed to be interacted with and often help people perform tasks. For life coaches, web applications are valuable tools for running an online business.
For example, you will likely use multiple applications for things like managing client information, scheduling appointments, tracking progress, and offering online resources and support.
High-quality apps will help you scale.
Web applications play a major role in your ability to be effective, especially when scaling and growing your business sustainably and efficiently and automating critical processes.
Apps are containers of information and interactions that make up the backbone of your business. The better their capability, the easier it becomes to make revenue-generating decisions for your business.
As your business evolves, it’s normal to swap in/out new applications to support your business model and stage of growth.
However, setting up the right combination of applications (also known as your “tech stack”) from the beginning minimizes the time and money you’ll spend troubleshooting, learning the product, migrating data, and performing manual admin tasks.
With thousands of apps at our fingertips, how do we choose?
I have used, tested, researched, and evaluated thousands of apps.
And throughout my experience, I’ve picked up on a handful of characteristics that signal how an app will affect my business operations in terms of both risk and enablement. I’ve turned these criteria into a method called “S.A.F.E.R.”
Here’s how the S.A.F.E.R. Method works.
Does the app enable you to problem-solve?
AKA, does the app have a help center/knowledge base, community, and/or learning center so you can self-serve if you get stuck? Or do they force you to contact support every time?
The more of these avenues available, the better, so long as these spaces are well-maintained and relevant. Otherwise, most of your time will be spent scratching your head trying to figure out how to configure something within the app and/or staying stuck until their support team finally replies to your frustrated email.
You will save yourself an immense amount of time choosing an app that invests in self-serve support.
ClickUp is an excellent example of a company that invests heavily in educational resources for its customer base.
Will using this app reduce your time and effort? AKA, is there a Zapier integration available to help integrate your app with other apps in your tech stack?
If not, then know you are agreeing to permanently spend more of your time on manual work or spend more of your money paying someone else to take on manual work. You end up limiting your own ability to scale.
The more your apps are able to talk to one another, the smoother your operations and the faster your ability to deliver value to clients.
More apps integrate with Zapier than any other automation platform that exists. Not only can you check to see if your app is supported, but I utilize Zapier’s app directory to inform future app decisions as well.
How well can you customize the features and functionality?
Do they flex with how you work, or do they force you into a way of working that might not be supportive at different points of your journey?
Flexible apps like Airtable and Jotform allow you to view and configure your forms and databases in a myriad of different ways. True flexibility is achieved when your apps feel like an avenue for creative expression rather than a bandaid for working around limitations.
Does the app offer features that help extend it to all areas of your life and workflow?
Ex. If you use a task manager, do you have to open it each time you want to add something, or can you create a task directly from Gmail?
The best apps take the least effort to use.
They should be accessible on multiple platforms and allow you to plug and play functionality specific to your needs.
Key indicators for extendability are Chrome extensions and app marketplaces that offer native integrations. For example, the email marketing tool ActiveCampaign has a library of native app integrations.
Is the app well-known and vetted/upvoted by people who know software best (ie. Does it have at least over 100 votes and/or many 5-star reviews on Product Hunt)?
If many people are talking about an app and providing positive reviews, this signals to me that it does what it promises and that most people are happy with their experience of using it.
If few people are discussing an app on a site dedicated to discussing great software, I consider that to be an immediate red flag.
Ensuring Your Success
In an increasingly app-centric world, discerning between apps that will enable your growth vs. those that may limit your ability to scale can be daunting.
This is where the S.A.F.E.R. method comes into play, serving as a guide for choosing software applications that meet your needs and enrich your workflow.
Whether it’s the availability of self-serve resources, the potential for automation and customization, the capability to extend functionality across platforms, or a solid reputation, keeping these criteria in mind ensures your apps always support and empower your business.
Jesse Parker is a certified LCS life coach and former Zapier employee (9.5 years), who has spent the last decade at the forefront of workflow automation industry. Through their time at Zapier and founding a tech consulting business, they’ve helped countless business owners, from solopreneurs to 7/8-figure CEOs, to Fortune 500 companies, locate inefficiencies and build new processes to maximize their results. Now, they’re helping life coaches leverage automation and AI to streamline business operations, maximize their time and energy, and unlock limitless scaling ability. Connect with Jesse at lifecoachoperations.com