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The other day I was surprised to spot a company I didn’t recognise debiting  money from my PayPal account.

It was only for about £20 but I prefer not to hand out cash unless I know what it’s for. I expect you’re the same.

So I took a closer look and realised that the money was for a subscription to Babbel, the online language learning software.

I took out a subscription over a year ago but moved on as my French improved.

But because the subscription was a quarterly one, I kept on forgetting to cancel it.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been caught out in this way. Over the years I’ve subscribed to software ranging from Adobe Photoshop to the creative writing platform Scrivener.

Almost every time, I’ve forgotten to cancel until I’ve noticed money being debited from my account.

It got me thinking about the various different organisations I’ve worked for and how many of them paid out for very expensive software – everything from customer relationship management (CRM) platforms like Salesforce and Infusionsoft to inbound sales and marketing software like Hubspot.

Many pricey online platforms get customers hooked in with a free trial, after which you pay a substantial monthly or quarterly subscription.

That’s fine if you have a centralised policy for buying software. If all subscriptions are under the control of a named person or team – and no software can be bought without their approval – then it’s easier to track what subscriptions are being used and which need cancelling.

Where the problems stack up is when staff are free to try out software but you have no central record of what subscriptions they’ve taken out.

When that happens, you can easily end up paying multiple subscriptions for tools your business doesn’t use. Sometimes you can even end up paying for the same online tools twice over.

As a first step to combatting, it’s a good idea to ask all staff which subscriptions they have taken out and whether they actually use the software they are paying for. Cancel anything that is redundant.

As a second step, check to make sure there’s no overlap. Is one team using a different CRM to another? If so, why are you paying for two similar tools? Can you make economies by switching everyone over to just one?

Thirdly – and it pays to be tough in this respect – institute a company policy that no software is to be bought unless there is high-level agreement that it will meet your business goals. The way to stop subscriptions proliferating is to reduce the number that you sign up for.

Last of all, it’s often worth asking whether the best solution to your needs is to outsource a task to a third-party using their own software or subscriptions.

That way you benefit from their expertise and knowledge and you can concentrate on monitoring their results rather than worrying about whether you’re getting value for money from a software subscription.

As for me, I’m £20 lighter than I should be.

But on the upside I’ve decided to get some value for my subscription – only yesterday I was on Babbel brushing up some of my French tenses!

Avatar for Ben Locker
About Ben Locker

Ben Locker is a copywriter who specialises in business-to-business marketing, writing about everything from software and accountancy to construction and power tools. He co-founded the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the UK’s association for commercial writers, and is named in Direct Marketing Association research as ‘one of the copywriters who copywriters rate’.

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