Why you should get into automation in your business

Even if you’re self-employed you should be looking to introduce automation in your business.

Every business has common tasks that are repeated day in and day out.

And these are the things that you should consider using automation tools for.

You could automate an email sequence to engage potential customers.

You could use software to remind clients to pay invoices. You can automate booking processes to populate your accounting software, a booking system social media and many more.

This video shares a few real-life examples of automations in small businesses that will give you some ideas on what you can do.

TRANSCRIPT

Automation in your business sounds like something only a big business can do. Sounds like stuff they do in factories etc.

Yes, there is some of that stuff, but I promise you that automation can work for almost any business of any size, even if it is genuinely just you working from the dining room table.

You see, for most of my adult life, I’ve been involved in some kind of business and self employment. And one of the difficulties you have when it’s just you or when you run a small business is that you will have processes which you go through day in, day out for every single customer.

And it’s a great idea to think about those processes because in almost all businesses, there will be ways you can automate or streamline some of the processes through technology to make your life as the business owner easier. And whether you like it or not, if you’re self employed you are a business owner.

There are many ways you can make your life easier with just a bit of process analysis and then some automation in your business. And I’m going to cover a couple of quick examples to hopefully get your creative juices flowing that will enable you to begin to think about how you can do this.

Now, one of the simplest forms is if you write content on your website through the form of a blog. There are apps you can plug into most websites, particularly if you’ve got WordPress that will automatically share those blog posts out on social media.

Now, you may not necessarily think about it in these terms, but that is an automation. In other words, as soon as you click publish it, shares that stuff out onto social media. It’s automating the process of you sharing your content.

If you just get good at automating little things, the savings can be huge over time.

So when I publish a blog post, it’s automatically shared out on social media. And then that way, I don’t have to do it. So it saves me the five minutes every time I write a blog post on having to share it out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Now you might think that five minutes is not a massive saving. But imagine if you did 15 of these on a weekly basis, that starts to really add up.

Now, something else that I use is a tool called Buffer. I use it to schedule my social media scheduling for the week then the software just bungs it out.

Now that may not necessarily be considered automation. But what it means is that I only have to go in to do all of this stuff once a week. It’s an automation because I don’t have to try to figure out what I’m doing, figure out what I’m sharing and when. I get it all done in one fell swoop in one place every week.

I recently had a chat with the guy who runs an accountancy business and he’s automated reminders for invoices that get sent out.

So after seven days, his system sends out an automatic email reminder that if you haven’t already paid the invoice, it’s now due gets another one and it sends out a copy of the invoice. You’ll get another one a week later and he makes sure it says ‘automated message’ so customers clients know that it’s automated.

It sends out another one, same thing invoice and reminder that it needs paying. And then after a month it sends him an email to say, if this hasn’t been paid, follow up again. It’s an automation, which is just prodding the customer to pay their bills, which is what we all want, but also then prodding him after a month to have a look to make sure that this invoice has been paid.

If it’s been paid, he can just ignore it. If it hasn’t, he can then get on to his client and discuss it.

Sounds fairly simple, and it is really simple. But it can be incredibly powerful, especially in that when you send invoices to people they often don’t pay simply because they forget about it. It’s very common in the small business community.

How about a sales automation in your business?

Another thing you could is sales automation. When I ran the website design business we automated sales follow-up.

Here’s how it works:

If you’ve pitched for some work and you don’t get anywhere, you can literally put them into an automation, which literally turns out a message. The subject of which is “are you still looking for help with X?” Where X is what you pitched to them. In our case, it was a website.

And then the email reads us something along the lines of

“Hi, Steve,

“We’ve not heard from you in a little while. Hope everything is okay.

I’m sure you remember that we discussed building a website for you, and I just need to know if you’re still looking to have the work done.

“If you are that’s great. Can we carry on the conversation?

“If you’re not, please just let me know, then we can adjust your status on our database.

“Looking forward to hearing from you,

Karl”

And that’s pretty much how I wrote my “are you still looking for help with emails?”.

Now you can set this if you don’t hear from somebody as an automation. So if you try following up on a sales pitch and you’re not getting anywhere, just plug it into that automation in a month’s time.

It will send that an email out.

Now, one thing I found is that the response rate was really high, so it just meant that I wasn’t really having to try and chase them. The software would do that little bit. And if they came back great if they didn’t, you know what? It’s quite likely I wasn’t going to win the work anyway, but it’s just that little chip.

Just add their name to the automation and something like MailChimp. I use a software called ActiveCampaign, which is very good for this stuff and it just gets that little bit. You don’t have to remember the last time you tried following up. If you don’t hear from them, just add them to that in a little while. It sends them an email and hopefully it can bring some work back into you.

Event booking automation

And finally, I used to run trade shows and I managed to with the aid of a developer, get an online booking system for our trade show for exhibitors.

Now I bought this particular trade show from someone who had a completely manual system. So if somebody expressed interest in booking and stand at the trade show, she emailed them a booking form which they had to fill in and email back. Then she would email them an invoice.

Now to me, that was just ludicrous because of the data entry and the processing that has to go into that.

So I developed an online booking system for exhibitors. The whole booking process was done through the website.

when you get into automation in your business you can make real savings - Auckland Business Builders
When you get into automation in your business you can make real savings

What was cool about it is the software then automatically sent them an invoice they paid for it through the website using their credit or debit card details.

Then I set up an automation to populate a project management spreadsheet in Google documents, so that was automatic. So I got a grid as to who’s exhibited what date they exhibited what they wanted, what their stand number was, whether they wanted any extra bits as well, which was brilliant.

I then used an automation to have a series of emails sent out to them if they were an exhibitor, encouraging them to get into the exhibitor resources page of the website so they could help them to do better as an exhibitor, make more out of it.

I also used it to hook up to my accounting system Xero to create an invoice, so the accounting side of things was already taken care of.

So I didn’t have to do any kind of data entry from that point of view. If I hadn’t sold the business, the next step would have been to then hook them up onto social media, thanking them for booking into the Expo.

The great thing is, these tools are out there already. There’s a wonderful software called Zapier.com which enables softwares to talk to one another. You can do some amazing things with that.

I use ActiveCampaign for automated email marketing. You can use it for SMS marketing as well.

I’m a big fan of automation and hopefully by now you’ve seen the benefits of automation in your business.

Another thing you could do is with an ecommerce website to make sure that people who buy from you are automatically added to the email marketing list and a welcome email is sent to them.

As a result, depending on your country and depending on whether you’ve got data protection like GDPR in the UK.

There is absolutely loads you can do and I recommend that you investigate this simply because it can save you absolutely hours. And to be honest, if you can do a handful of little things this stuff really adds up to massive massive time savings.

Automation is the way forward, even if you’re just running a small business. So hopefully by now you’re convinced go out and look for ways to automate.

If you’ve got any questions, please just ask in the comments below.

Want more on making your business easier to manage? Check out:

3 simple ideas to help you and your business flow (article and podcast)

Why looking after spending is good for your business (YouTube video)

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