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Making the most of your trade show visit
Author: Jeremy Herring
November 1st 2013 -

This article normally appears in the October issue but the Smart Tan show is later than usual this year and therefore is actually taking place in November.

If you're looking to make a change to a new software vendor, it is important to do your homework. Compare costs, features, and benefits, understanding that it's very likely not to be an apples-to-apples comparison. The important thing to remember is that you need to feel comfortable that your business model can be adequately accommodated by whichever solution you choose.

Look at the deployment time, especially the conversion timetable and training lead time. This is the time of year when you need to be ramping up your team for the busy season so it actually may NOT be the best time to throw a brand new software learning curve into the mix. Additionally, many salon owners decide to switch software providers at the trade show so the queue to be converted can be longer than normal immediately following a trade show. It's important to consider these factors from the outset and go into the discussion understanding that you may not actually get up and running until halfway through the busy season. Alternatively, if you are not in a hurry you can pre-plan a setup and conversion to occur at the end of the season.

Look at all the costs involved, not just the sign-up cost. Up-front costs, conversion fees, and required hardware expenses quickly make a good deal turn sour. Make sure you ask lots of questions and get a full scope of what expenses are required, what is optional and what can be deferred. This is also a selling point for waiting until the end of the season, allowing you to budget for the costs that conversion will incur.

Consider the importance of ongoing support and training. If you're not already comfortable with the solution you choose then there is no cost you can put on a comprehensive training program and continued product support. If the solution you choose does not include training and support as part of the conversion package, it is highly advisable to negotiate that into the cost in order to avoid prolonged costly per-incident fees later.

Maybe you're not looking for a new solution but simply to upgrade to the latest version of your current product. This is often as involved as a conversion because of the tremendous advances every software provider has made, especially considering the monumental increase in regulation and accounting that is involved in the industry these days. There have also been considerable advancements in the technology to accommodate salon chains and franchises because of the consolidation trend that has been gaining momentum for several years. Operating a chain of salons adds a level of complexity to the software but is designed to make it easier to manage overall.

I'll let you in on a little secret: there are not that many software solutions left in the tanning industry and of the few that are left we understand that most of our gains are at the expense of our competitors and are offset by losses to our competitors. We call it ‘swapping sheep' and it's the reality in which we operate. So don't feel like you have to defend one solution over another. In the end we want you to be satisfied with the software and service you receive and not every solution suits every salon's needs.

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