As a small business owner today, you know that investing in technology isn’t just necessary, it’s essential to making or breaking your business. It’s even more important that you invest in the right technology. You probably know that automating certain aspects of your business will not only save time and money but also help you stay competitive.
However, with all the different options, how do you know what technology is going to be right for your business?
The bulk of the businesses that we talk to are a little apprehensive about purchasing new software or working with new consultants. Before taking the leap, it’s important to have a goal and a broad plan for achieving it.
Let’s face it, we’ve all prematurely purchased software because we had a lot of good intentions to use it but hadn’t yet created a plan – and the software collected dust while you paid a monthly subscription. Instead of wasting time and money, wee want you to be fully informed before making any decisions. So with that said, let’s dive in.
Humans are not great at everything.
People are REALLY good at a lot of things – critical thinking, empathy, connecting with each other. But for the most part, we are really bad at a lot of the core things that it takes to run a successful business – speedy follow-ups, data entry, creating structure, focusing on the right things, and multitasking.
We spend too much time working in our business and not on our business.
Bottom line: business automation takes things off of your plate that zap your energy and growth potential and allow you to focus on building a successful business.
To put that in another way… we want the machines to focus on what they’re good at so that you can focus on what you’re good at.
Not only does this help you operate more profitably and efficiently, but it also helps prevent burnout on your team and improves morale. An employee who loves sales and was hired in a sales role in your company doesn’t want to spend 20%-25% of their time doing data entry, but that’s exactly what the average business expects of their salespeople. Think how much happier that salesperson could be if they could get that time back, and how much more profitable the business would be if the salesperson could spend more time selling. It’s a win-win!
Tasks you should be automating
The first thing that most people tend to be really bad at is following up with their contacts. Why? It’s not because they are unaware, it’s because they’re too busy with menial tasks like data entry. Whether that’s a new prospect submitting a form on your website or a current customer reaching out to support, the average business lets way too much time go by before responding to the customer. This is a huge problem, too – your chances of talking to the new prospect go down every minute that passes before you reach out to them, while a huge reason for customer churn is a perceived lack of speedy customer support.
Instead of a willy-nilly follow-up process, think through the types of requests that people reach out to you about. What questions do new prospects have, and what are they trying to do? If they are considering doing business with you and need to schedule an appointment, then skip all the emails back and forth trying to find a good time and instead send them an automated email with a booking link so they can schedule time on your calendar at a time that’s convenient to them. If you want to reach out to them before the call, by all means, do so, but don’t let scheduling the call become a bottleneck.
If it’s a customer with a support request, think through the top support questions that you usually receive. Compile these Q&As into blog posts or knowledge base articles and send an automated email with a link to your frequently asked questions. If you want to go one step further and use AI chat to answer their questions based on your knowledge base articles, that can be a great experience too. Remaining focused on answering their question as quickly as possible through self-serve means making sure that the majority of your customers get their questions answered faster, and it frees up your and your staff’s time to work on the trickier requests.
Broadly speaking, most people are also quite bad at data entry. Humans are prone to error, even when we do the same thing over and over, and data entry is generally seen as a less fulfilling job duty. At the same time, most businesses have their information spread out over multiple systems or software, so you have to have a layer of data entry in order to make sure that all your stuff can work properly.
Rather than having an administrator do data entry between this software and that one, use automation to automatically move data around. Zapier is a huge company that’s sole purpose is to exactly that, and we also have a software solution that can get multiple systems talking to each other. This takes a fair bit of planning and technical know-how, but it can save your team hours and hours per day, allowing them to focus on more fulfilling, more profitable tasks.
Creating structure is a by-product of automating your businesses. In order to be able to automate a task, you must be able to do that task 8, 10, or 12 times in a row without a lot of change. Of course, you can always create more complex automations, but the goal here is to really keep things simple. Many times, in working with clients, we discover multiple areas where there is not a documented process and we get to work creating one. This is useful for a number of reasons:
- You can’t improve what you haven’t documented.
- You’re able to onboard new team members quicker when you have a process
- By pulling information out of your and your staff’s brains and putting it down on paper, your business actually becomes more valuable. If you ever want to sell your business, you’ll need to have those processes in place – so may as well start now!
Of course, there are a million other ways that automation can help your business be more efficient and profitable, but those are the 3 that we like to set up early and tend to have an immediate impact on your business.
Selecting the right software for automating tasks
This is a pretty broad topic and it’s darn near impossible to make a recommendation without having a conversation with you about your specific goals and needs. However, we have a few broad recommendations that we want to give.
- Try to use as few systems as possible. Even if you end up paying more for one system, there’s a huge benefit to having all your stuff in one place. Fewer things break that way.
- Pick software that plays nicely with others. At a bare minimum, all your software should have an integration with Zapier that allows you to get information in and out of the system.
- Don’t break the bank. This is about achieving the best ROI possible – if you save yourself $1k/month in time, but are paying out $800/month in software, is it really worth it?
- Make sure that you find a good consultant or agency who has deep experience with the software that you’re choosing. You don’t want to recreate the wheel, and a good consultant will be able to listen to what you’re saying and create a gameplan to get you there.
Of course, I would be a bad business owner if I didn’t mention the fact that we also own a software company that provides all of this at a price point that most business owners find very affordable. You can check out Leadli here – pricing starts at just $99/month.
Reaping the Return – how small businesses like yours are growing faster with automation
For small businesses, growth can often be a process that takes time and requires significant effort. However, with the help of automation, many small businesses like yours are reaping the benefits of faster growth. Automating repetitive tasks such as follow-ups, data entry, marketing communications, invoicing, reviews, and much more can free up valuable time for you to focus on growing. They can also help improve accuracy and effiency as a business, and can help make sure that your staff is spending more time on high-value work. The return on investment with automation can be significant and lead to sustained growth for years to come. If you’re interested in learning more, we are eager to speak with you. Please schedule some time with us today.