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What an 80’s TV Show Can Teach You About Choosing the Right Business Apps

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One of the more profound insights to come out of popular culture in half a century took place during a scene in the 1980s TV crime drama Spenser: For Hire. (Hear me out.)

The tough and mysterious Hawk character, best friend of do-gooder private detective Spenser, is talking with a kid who asks why the ultra-cool Hawk remains friends with the dorky Spenser. Hawk responds, “Because he does what he says he’ll do.” And when the kid follows up with, “That’s it?” Hawk answers, “It makes him different than most.”

The number one reason small business professionals will remove a business app from their mobile device: It fails to perform as advertised. Not because the app is too complicated, or too resource-hungry, or too costly, or too anything — but because it doesn’t do what it said it will do.

That’s one finding from a recent SMB survey, “Survival of the Fittest App,” conducted by virtual phone service eVoice®. Some of the survey’s other findings can offer you valuable insights for choosing the right mobile apps to help power your small business.

3 ways to determine if a mobile business app is right for you

1. Start with freemium

The eVoice survey found that 39 percent of SMBs will consider paying for a business app only after they’ve tried and found value in the free version. That’s more than double the number of SMBs (about 19 percent) who say they will pay for a business app without first being able to try it risk-free.

Take an example like Box.net. This wonderful cloud storage service will give you use of their full-featured app and 10GB of storage completely free. No catches, no obligation, no time limit. Just sign up and start storing your documents, images, presentations and other files in the cloud, for free. You might never find yourself bursting at the seams of your 10GB storage allotment and need to upgrade to Box’s paid service. But if you do, it will likely be an easy decision, because you’ll have already found such value in having easy access to your files from anywhere.

2. Look at the app’s track record

More than a third (37 percent) of survey respondents say they know within a week if a business app is right for them. One question worth asking before you spend time and effort downloading and learning a new app: Has it even been around a week?

Our own eVoice virtual phone solution, for example, has offered a mobile app since 2010 — with a continual stream of upgrades and new features. But at the Apple App Store alone, according to tech site ReadWrite.com, more than 600 new apps are released every day. How can you be sure the brand-new business app you’re considering does what it promises, or that it will be around in a few months to offer upgrades and support?

If the mobile app you’re considering is new, that means it’s also unproven. So it might be smart to wait and let the early adopters give it a test drive before committing your own precious time to it.

3. Give the app only a few days to earn its keep

Let’s return to our TV metaphor. In the intriguing 2005 book Everything Bad is Good for You, author Steven Johnson argues that modern television series are infinitely faster-paced than the shows of 40 years ago. In fact, Johnson notes that viewers encounter more plot and information before the opening credits in a show like The West Wing than they did during an entire episode of the 1970s cop drama Starsky & Hutch.

You know that in today’s digital era your customers, prospects and vendors all demand responses now. Meeting those needs promptly — and never keeping your key constituents waiting — is how you’ve succeeded in business.

You should demand the same level of responsiveness and immediacy from your mobile apps. As I noted earlier, 37 percent of SMBs know within a week if an app is right for them. And one in four even say they will skip downloading an app’s update if it takes too long.

Bottom line: A mobile app should begin helping you immediately — and never waste your time. If it doesn’t measure up to these standards, it’s time to clear it away and make room for an app that earns its keep on your mobile device.

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