As a small business, you and your employees most likely wear multiple hats. Focusing your attention from one thing to another and always running a little short on time. To get some of your day back, and to get everyone focused on the tasks that create value for your customers, you need to consider the automating of certain systems. With advanced tools today, automation is less costly and rapidly deployable. Here are 7 areas you should strongly consider automating today.
Sales & Marketing
Revenue is the fuel that allows for business growth. The more effective the marketing program, the more leads in the funnel. The stronger the sales program, the higher the percentage of closes and new sales. Deploying tools like ActiveCampaign or InfusionSoft can help accelerate your marketing efforts with automated emails and lead nurturing programs.
Examples of things to automate:
- Use Autoresponders to acknowledge incoming information requests.
- Use automated emails to initiate sales and marketing lead qualification
- Automatically follow up with dead leads to breathe new life into them.
If sales is the fuel of the business, then accounting is definitely the oil that keeps the machine running. It is also an area that is incredibly time consuming. Creating and sending invoices, tracking payments, managing A/R, suspending accounts, reactivating accounts, etc. With this much heavy lifting it’s common for small businesses to have one or more full time employees managing the workload. Moving forward you should strongly consider tools to help you automate and simplify.
Examples of things to automate:
- The creation of reoccurring invoices
- Collection of payments
- Account past due notifications
- Account suspensions and notifications
- Account re-activations and notifications
- Payment receipts and confirmations
Appointment setting automation is not necessarily new, but the tools are getting much more advanced. Take X.ai for example. The service adds artificial intelligence to the entire schedule coordination process. Just CC their services and ask for a little help scheduling your meeting. Their automated assistant Amy will do the rest. Currently the service is in beta, but it’s still very cool.
Social Media Updates
Let’s face it, Social media updates are a bit of a pain. But they don’t have to be. A good way to keep current information on your social channels is to automate the posting of things you are already doing. Apps like Zapier can connect to your WordPress blog, or PR tool to re-purpose the information into your social feeds. Additionally, services like Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to queue up a large volumes of posts to trickle to your feed on a schedule.
Types of content to automatically post:
- Blog posts
- Company announcements
- Press releases
- Company photos
- Client testimonials
- Industry news
- Services announcements
Customer nurturing is an extremely important part of the customer journey. Unfortunately, it can also be hard to keep up with and manage. Using automated campaigns to keep your customers engaged throughout the relationship can be very powerful. Remember, perception is reality, and it is up to you to influence that perception through your communications. If you are not saying anything at all, your customers may think you do not care about them, or potentially worse, that your products and services are falling behind and becoming outdated.
Automated nurturing initiatives could include:
- Birthday emails
- Contract renewal notifications
- Customer appreciation messages
- Anniversary emails
- Personalized content, like service bulletins
- Product and service updates
- Customer check-ins
HR – management
Hiring people is a challenge at any company. But for small businesses it can sometimes seem almost impossible to keep up with recruitment. If you do multiple rounds of interviewing this can be even more exasperating. Use automation tools like RecruiterBox to help manage candidates, interviewing, background checking and more. You can also combine multiple tools like Google Forms and Zapier to further automate your processes.
An example of an automated HR process could look like this:
- Create Google Form for online assessment of candidates
- Upon completion send rejection emails to the ones that fail the assessment
- Send emails to request resumes from the ones that pass the assessment
- Forward resumes to RecruiterBox to track applicants and manage the recruitment process
- Send automated emails to candidates that do not make it through the steps of the recruitment process
- Send passing candidate information to HR once they are ready to hire
Customer Experience (CX)
When most people think of customer experience, then tend to think of customer service. And usually not for the best reasons. Horror stories of automation gone wrong, and robotic phone operators plague our thoughts. Real customer experience automation is much more delicate that this. It consists of messaging aimed at influencing the customers view of your business over time. Although support efforts are a part of this, customer experience reaches into every component of your business. From how your website interacts with visitors, to how you deliver your products. Use automation tools to help determine how your customers view your business (like Delighted), and ones that help you to influence their view over time (like InfusionSoft or Contactually).
Hopefully these categories get you started. There are thousands of different ways each business can use automation to help create scalability, increase efficiencies, and enhance customer experiences. The trick is to jump in and try some. Your solution will evolve over time, and so will your understanding of what is possible, and what works for your business.