Ask any small business owner and nine times out of ten you’ll hear, ”If you want something done right, you’ll have to do it yourself.”
This is an accepted mantra among many, and at times, it’s true. When you have a lean staff and limited resources and talent, sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and put your shoulder to the grindstone.
The problem is, you can only do this for so long until burnout sets in. I’ve said it before, if your business is going to succeed and your family and personal life is going to thrive, you have to find a way to make space and decompress. Let’s be practical. It’s time you took an extra day off. Lucky for you, Labor Day is just around the corner. So it’s the perfect time to explore five ways to enjoy Labor Day while automation works for you.
But wait a minute. You can’t afford to let a customer fall through the cracks. You can’t miss an opportunity with a potential client who’s ready to buy. Even though you’re taking a day off, your business can’t. You have to nurture your sales process even during the holidays, and tending to those needs while playing Marco Polo in the pool doesn’t seem like an option.
And even if you do take that extra day, chances are you’ll be tempted to keep checking your email to ensure customers are well tended to. But that doesn’t make for a relaxing time. I’ve been there, and done that. Early on when I was just starting Infusionsoft, I had to force myself to go on that extended weekend. I confess, I wasn’t much fun to be around considering how distracted I was. Truly checking out is tough at first, but you get better with practice.
That’s why I’m a big proponent of working smarter, not harder. If you work smart, you can take those occasional extra days off.
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Benefits of Automation for Small Businesses
Automation has proven to be a game-changer for businesses of all sizes, and small business owners are among the beneficiaries of these advances. Integrating automation into various processes can revolutionize the way a small business operates, leading to improved efficiency, consistency, and scalability.
- Efficiency: Automation tools can handle repetitive tasks more rapidly than humans, which means that tasks like data entry, inventory management, and invoicing can be completed more quickly and without the need for constant human intervention. This not only saves time but also reduces the likelihood of human error, which can lead to costly mistakes.
- Consistency: Small business owners often juggle multiple roles, from marketing to finance to operations. With automation, they can ensure that specific tasks are performed consistently every time. For instance, automated email marketing campaigns can ensure that every subscriber receives the same high-quality content at the scheduled time, enhancing brand image and trustworthiness.
- Scalability: As a business grows, so does the complexity of its operations. Manual processes that worked for a company when it was just starting out might not be feasible as it expands. Automation facilitates growth by allowing businesses to handle a larger volume of tasks without a proportionate increase in manpower or resources.
- Cost Savings: Over time, automating repetitive tasks can lead to significant savings. While there might be an initial investment in setting up the automation system, the long-term savings in terms of reduced man-hours and fewer errors can quickly offset these costs.
- Enhanced Customer Experience: Automation can also enhance the customer experience. Automated customer service tools, for example, can provide instant responses to common queries, ensuring that customers feel heard and valued even outside of regular business hours.
- Flexibility: With automated systems in place, small business owners can focus on more strategic aspects of their business. They have the flexibility to divert resources to areas that need more attention, such as product development or market research.
Essentially, automation offers small business owners a pathway to harness technology for better business outcomes. As businesses continue to evolve in an increasingly digital landscape, those who embrace automation will likely find themselves better positioned to compete and thrive.
Types of Automation Tools That Small Business Owners Should Know
In today’s digital era, a myriad of automation tools are available for small businesses, each catering to specific needs and functional areas. These tools empower businesses to streamline operations, engage with customers more effectively, and maximize overall efficiency.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems: These are platforms designed to manage a company’s interactions with current and potential customers. CRM systems can automate sales processes, manage customer data, and track customer interactions, thus improving the relationship and boosting sales.
- Marketing Automation Tools: These are designed to automate repetitive marketing tasks such as sending emails, posting on social media, or managing leads. Such tools help businesses maintain a consistent online presence, engage with potential customers, and nurture leads through the sales funnel.
- Accounting and Finance Software: These tools handle financial tasks like invoicing, payroll, and expense tracking. By automating these processes, businesses can ensure accuracy and timeliness in their financial operations.
- E-commerce Platforms: For businesses that sell online, e-commerce platforms automate the entire sales process, from product listing to order processing to shipping.
- Inventory Management Systems: These are critical for businesses that deal with physical products. They help in tracking stock levels, automating reordering processes, and providing insights into inventory turnover.
- Chatbots and Customer Service Tools: These are designed to offer immediate responses to customer inquiries, either guiding them through common issues or directing them to human representatives when necessary.
- Project Management and Collaboration Tools: Such tools allow teams to coordinate tasks, manage projects, and communicate effectively, all within a centralized platform.
The range of automation tools available to small businesses is vast and varied. By selecting the right mix of tools tailored to their specific needs, small businesses can maximize productivity, reduce operational costs, and ensure a seamless experience for both their teams and their customers.
|Type of Automation Tool||Primary Function||Key Benefits|
|CRM Systems||Manage interactions with current and potential customers.||- Automate sales processes
- Manage customer data
- Track interactions
- Boost sales
|Marketing Automation Tools||Automate repetitive marketing tasks such as emails, social media posts, and lead management.||- Maintain consistent online presence
- Engage potential customers
- Nurture leads through sales funnel
|Accounting and Finance Software||Handle financial tasks including invoicing, payroll, and expense tracking.||- Ensure financial accuracy
- Streamline financial processes
- Simplify expense management
|E-commerce Platforms||Automate the entire online sales process from product listing to order processing to shipping.||- Streamlined sales operations
- Integration with payment gateways
- Easy product management and order fulfillment
|Inventory Management Systems||Track stock levels, automate reordering, and provide inventory insights.||- Avoid stock-outs or overstocking
- Gain insights into inventory turnover
- Improve supply chain efficiency
|Chatbots and Customer Service Tools||Offer immediate responses to customer inquiries and provide customer service assistance.||- 24/7 customer support
- Direct users to relevant resources or human reps
- Enhance user experience by providing timely responses
|Project Management & Collaboration||Coordinate tasks, manage projects, and enable team communication within a centralized platform.||- Enhance team collaboration
- Track project progress
- Manage tasks and deadlines efficiently
5 Ways to Enjoy Labor Day While Automation Works for Your Business
Here are five ways you can implement business automation and automate everyday tasks and personalize communication for each customer’s need so that you can have enough peace of mind to put your smartphone down and enjoy some well-deserved downtime this Labor Day.
Delegate Everyday Tasks
As your business grows, you’ll realize you can’t keep up with all the daily tasks on your plate. Now is the time to start thinking smarter about your business.
Even though I’m a software CEO, there are some things that even a powerful piece of software can’t do. That’s why we hire good people and partners, right?
The first important step to making space in your life is to delegate work to others. This can be a scary step at first, but believe me, you’ll be better off for it, and so will your staff. Not only will you make space for that decompression time, it will give your team a boost of confidence and a stronger sense of ownership of their role in the business.
But how do you decide what tasks are best to delegate? Ask yourself this simple question: what are the couple things that only I am qualified to do? Once you answer that question, the rest falls into place. The reality is that most daily tasks can be done by others so that you’re able to focus your energies on what you do best, like company strategy and planning.
The good news is that much of these daily activities can be automated through software, and the following four points are great examples of this. Think of it this way, business automation can be action item number one for those you delegate to.
Meet the Customer at the Door (Digitally, That Is)
In the digital world, the customer journey can be a bit of a mystery. In a brick and mortar store, a shop owner or manager can walk up to a customer, look them in the eye, shake their hand and ask, “How can I help you today?” At first glance, it seems as though digital e-commerce would be much more complex than that. But it doesn’t have to be.
In fact, with the right tools, you have an even better opportunity to walk with the customer through every aspect of the buying process — as long as you set up your website the right way.
Your website is your store and your homepage and landing pages are entrances — where you’ll meet your customer at the door. You want to be clear. You want to be inviting. And you want to entice them to learn more.
When a landing page is built well, you can collect customer information through opt-in forms by offering desirable content and offers. By tracking these customer opt-ins you’ll have a sense for your customer’s interests, which will inform how you personalize following up and future offers. As the customer shows interest, the goal is to meet that curiosity with helpful content and walk the customer through the buying journey. Once you’ve earned a customer, your aim is to continue wowing them by anticipating their needs.
Nurture the Sales Process
Offer free and helpful content to a potential customer. For example, if you’re in the tech sphere, this could be something like an informative white paper or a free webinar on tech trends. Your knowledge of a particular subject builds trust and confidence in the mind of your future customer. And once trust is built, they’re much more likely to become a buyer.
As the customer shows interest in products or product add-on features, you’re able to track their interest level and communicate appropriately to their needs through personalized, automated follow up. A marketing automation platform (like the one we’ve built at Infusionsoft) will allow you to create intelligent campaigns that can automatically send emails, texts, voice broadcasts, and direct mail in response to the actions of your prospects and customers.
Those new to the world of marketing automation and CRM may struggle at first with the idea of automating these processes. What once seemed like more direct communication with customers has now become triggered responses. Isn’t this cold and impersonal? Not at all. Remember, your customer found your site online so they’re not going to be turned off by an auto response — and if you do it right, they won’t even know.
Personalized, Automated Follow-up
Have you ever received really good, personalized customer care? I definitely have, and it makes all the difference. There’s nothing, for instance, like having a restaurant owner remember your name, shake your hand and make menu suggestions based on what you enjoyed last time. You can do this by personalizing your automated emails. Making it personal and meeting the customer where they’re at goes a long way and shows that you’re thinking about them, not just spamming them with schlocky sales junk mail.
This is why we built Infusionsoft. We solve this by allowing our customers to create a large email list, segment that list, and create campaigns that send out automated emails for pretty much anything. For example, if a customer fills out a form requesting information on your product and pricing, a good marketing automation platform will send a personalized response with the information your prospect is looking for — all while you’re sipping iced tea by the pool.
Score Your Leads
If you were a shop owner and a repeat customer who you knew by name kept perusing a particular isle, chances are, they are close to a purchase that you should be prepared to follow up on. The same is true of digital behavior. When you can track whether a lead is opening emails and what content they are consuming on your website, you’ll be that much more informed of their interest so you can strategize your next communication to them and maybe even close on a sale.
With the right CRM tool, you’re able to easily, efficiently and automatically score your leads based on the content and pages they view on your website. When you or your sales team log in, you can see who your hottest leads are and where you should be spending your energy. This saves you a lot of time, and when you get back in the office after your well-deserved downtime, you’ll know exactly which leads to spend your time and energy on.
Running a small business is demanding. I know because I’ve been there. Early on, I realized my family needed to get away with me for an extended weekend. But I felt like the business would fall apart if I did. It was a tough disconnect, and I was distracted while we were away. The good thing is, it pushed me to automate a whole lot of processes so I was better prepared the next time I went out of town.
You can bet that our vacation the next year was a heck of a lot better for me and my family.
Now’s the time to work smarter and harness the power of business automation. Once you invest the time to put these practical suggestions into action, the software does the work for you so you don’t have to think about it while you’re away. You deserve some time off. So do it. Take that extra day off.
It’s going to be okay, and your business will not burn to the ground while you’re gone.
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