Angie Barnett

As small business owners, we’re always in search of new technologies that cut costs and save time.

With social media management systems, we can schedule weeks of digital content in advance, while HR tools allow us to house timesheets, benefit information and important forms all in one place. In fact, there are so many digital services available that it can be hard to find the right one for your business.

Just like any other vendor, the quality of their products and services will vary, and some might even have hidden clauses entitling them to your content. Protect customer information and streamline your business with these tips for choosing a digital vendor.

Determine what your business really needs. Most digital tools on the market will have more capabilities than you’ll actually use.

Break down exactly what your business needs and will actively use versus what you may like to have but don’t necessarily need. Compare your list of needs, wants and don’t needs to the services you’re interested in.

Take advantage of that free trial offer. These days, most subscription services offer a trial period to test out the service. It may just be one free week, but it still allows you the opportunity to truly see the service in action.

By testing it out, you’ll see if it’s user-friendly and truly houses all the tools you need. Plus, you’ll get to see if it actually makes things easier or if its learning curve is too steep a hill to climb.

But don’t forget to cancel your free trial if you choose not to continue, otherwise your subscription could be automatically renewed.

Understand the terms and conditions of your contract. Even if you plan to stick with a service, you should prepare for the day that you cancel. Ensure you know how to cancel your subscription and what happens when you do.

It’s not uncommon for terms and conditions to include clauses stating that the service provider owns anything you create using their tools and many digital platforms will lay claim to any data you provide like your mailing list.

Wading through the fine print of your contract will be a cumbersome process, but it could save you from extra stress later.

Ensure you know how to measure your progress. Whatever service you choose, you won’t know whether it’s actually improving your strategy unless you know how to find that information.

For instance, if you’re investing in an email marketing service, you can track your progress based on key metrics like open rates and clicks. By tracking your progress, you’ll be able to determine what methods work and what you should do differently.

Check with BBB. You can always find trustworthy businesses at, and that goes for business owners and consumers alike. Check the BBB directory to find a business you can trust, or search for a business you’re already interested in.

Plus, you can read customer reviews and check to see if a business has a history of complaints before you commit.

Shop around before you make a commitment to a digital vendor. Whether you’re looking for a tool to help you streamline your social media marketing efforts or you’re ready to invest in an HR management system, be sure you know exactly what you need, how your options measure up and how you can track your progress.

By Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland.