Automate your business and make your business more efficient and effective. This article lists 26 ways that you can automate your business using online tools. By automating your business it leaves you with more time to do the thing that made you start your business in the first place; and of course by doing that it allows your business to make more money. Don’t go jumping on everything listed in this article. Work out where your business could be automated and start from there.
Setting Up Your Business
Here are some steps you can take to ensure that when you put procedures in place to automate your business that they will be effective and beneficial to your business.
Have A Plan
Focus on your business functions. What does your business do now that could be done more efficiently?
I like to think of business like a tree – it’s one of the reasons why I called my business SproutSpire. We all start off as sprouts. What you want for your business is to have a good set of roots that can pass the test of time. Strong, deep roots in your business should include an awareness of – and even better if you have documented this – your processes and procedures. Your ways of doing things.
When you have these documented, it is a way your business can have consistency, but it is also easier for you to track and review them.
Have a look at your businesses practises and make a list of activities that you would like to improve upon. You may get more ideas as you read through this post, but try to identify at least one area where you think things could be sped up. Think about repetitive tasks that have to be performed.
Document what you do now so that you can see the amount of time and money it currently takes to do these tasks, then document to see the effort you went to (does this actually save you time or money in the long run?) so that you can see your results and know how far your business has come.
A simple way to make your business more efficient without using any extra tools is to utilise batch processing. This is when you group like activities together and do them at once. It is more efficient than doing them spread out during the day.
For instance, how often do you check and respond to your emails? A quicker and more efficient way to handle emails would be to set aside a time when you will check your emails and respond to them/action them once or twice a day. A good time may be first thing in the morning, and maybe a half hour before the end of the day.
Other processes you can Batch Process include:
- Your social media interaction
- Paying bills
- Ordering stock
Once you realise the value of batch processing, you will find more and more activities that you do during the day to batch process.
Have an Positive Mindset
One thing that I have seen holding back small businesses is the mindset that their current processes work, so why change things? This leads to inefficient ways of doing things.
Let me be blunt; if you are adverse to change, then you are holding your business back. For sure, be mindful, understand what you will be changing to, and if necessary seek help. But above all, embrace change. Don’t be afraid of change. Be open to new ways of doing things.
A healthy company is constantly trying to improve the way that they do things. By making their processes more efficient, they are often saving time, time that is spent on making more money.
You aren’t going to go out and implement all of the services that are mentioned in this post. This is why the first step is to plan, to know where the holes or the bottlenecks in your company are. So what you are about to do is mindful, and is about improving your business for the better.
Think positive, and make a change for the better.
Marketing. Getting word of your business out there. Marketing is both important and time-consuming. Combine batch processing and these tools to help you automate your online marketing campaigns.
Email marketing can be a powerful marketing tool for your business. It keeps people aware of your activities and it builds rapport. One way to automate your email marketing is to create auto responders.
Auto responders are emails that are sent out automatically in a sequence that you determine. So, for instance, after someone signs up for your email list that person then automatically receives a new email from you once a week. Someone can sign up today, and other in a month or so, but they will both receive the emails in order week after week. This way you can keep a customer engaged in your campaign for a year or more, depending on how many emails you set up!
If you use WordPress you can write all your posts for the week or month at one time, and then schedule the time that they will be published.
To schedule a post, in the publish section of where you edit your post, there is a place to change the publish time. Click on the edit button and change the date and time that you want your post to be published. It will the automatically publish at that time, even if you are no where near your computer at the time.
Remember to take a good look at the preview of your draft before you publish!
You can also schedule your social media to publish a link to your post at the same time that it publishes – you just need to connect your accounts with Jetpack, and you can activate this straight under the publish time to the right of your post.
There are many tools to help you automate your social media presence. One tool I use is Hootsuite.
With Hootsuite you can access all your social media in the one place. You can select which “streams” you view, which can even include any keywords that you would like to track. You can then schedule multiple posts on multiple platforms.
Remember to have a plan when it comes to your social media. Don’t automate everything and forget the “social” of social media.
Admin and Office
Office and Administration can really slow down a business and it can be an area that is tedious to a lot of business owners. Here are some tools to help you in this area of your business.
Notes, Bills, Everything
Do I need to say it?
Evernote is a very powerful program that I use for a lot of ways in my business. Read about some of the ways you could use Evernote for your business, including accounts, contact logs, task management and more.
If you have lots of receipts and that is causing too much data entry, consider Shoeboxed for your company.
With Shoeboxed you put all your receipts into an envelope and send it off to shoeboxed. They then scan in your receipts and can send them to Evernote, and your accounting package such as Xero. No more data entry, it’s all done!
File Storage, File Sharing, and Backing Up
There are many online file storage places that make it easy for you to back up your business, and if necessary, even share files. Don’t let a hard drive fail screw up your business. Some options you can use are Dropbox and Box; both have free options, as well as advanced options for businesses for when your needs expand.
Customers and Contacts
Here are some ways to keep your contacts updated and ways to automate your processes when interacting with your contacts. Don’t forget about ways you can batch process activities.
Have a contact form on your website! This way people can contact you as you sleep, and wont go elsewhere. You can also funnel your responses to go to the appropriate person to respond.
With wordpress, one popular contact form is Contact Form 7 – but there are plenty around so choose one that suits you.
Reduce the amount of queries and support by anticipating questions and problems that customers and potential customers may ask. Provide them on your website. This wont stop them all together, but will reduce the amount of questions you receive. It may even convert more people to your product because their concerns have already been answered.
After the FAQs, direct your support through a ticket system. This will easily allow you to manage problems that your clients are having, and if needed multiple people can help with a single case so the process does not just rely on one person – something that would bottle neck your conflict resolutions. There are many ticket systems you can use, Zen Desk is one of them.
Customer Relationship Management
There are many different software packages that are out there for Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and as your business grows it can be harder to juggle all your customers that you have and give potential customers the attention they need to convert. A powerful CRM can give you the edge your business needs, from automatically labelling hot leads, and automating your sales funnel. Two popular CRMs are Salesforce, and Infusionsoft.
Tasks and Projects
For companies that need a place to easily collaborate and track projects, here are some solutions to help automate your business.
Trello is a great task tool for businesses. You can easily assign users to each task, and each task can be broken down into a checklist. Attach files, label, and set deadlines.
Sales,Inventory & Accounts
Here are some tools to help you with your sales, inventory and your money.
I highly recommend Xero for your accounting needs. It has invoicing, payroll, and is constantly being updated. This software is on the cloud as well so you can access it any where. It is easy for your accountant to log in and fix all the mistakes that you made!
Shopping Carts and Online Ordering
Have a system for people to give you money while you sleep! Money coming in is essential for your business, so make it easy for people to pay you and eliminate any barriers. Even if your product needs your input before they can hand over their money, have a way to generate a quote or for them to contact you on your website at any time.
One way to do this is to set up a shopping cart on your website. For wordpress websites woo commerce is a great option – it is secure, easy to use, and is always being improved.
Xero has some great budgeting tools, but to manage the money the money you have right now I recommend You Need A Budget, or YNAB. This piece of software allows you to budget the money you have right now so that you know exactly where your money is going, and so that you don’t over spend. Considering cash flow is a huge problem with small businesses, YNAB is a worthy investment to stop your business from going under.
Staff can add much value to your business and allow you to step away and take that much deserved holiday, but they can also present their own problems. Here are some ideas to help you automate processes surrounding staff.
Hiring can be a time consuming process. Find ways to automate the process, especially if your company receives a lot of resumes. Recruiterbox is a great way to track applicants, respond to applicants, manage job openings, and assign users to handle different parts of the recruiting process.
The more employees you get, the more of a nightmare rostering becomes, especially if there is a lot of shift work involved.
FindMyShift makes the process simpler, with drop and drag rostering, managing holidays, lunch breaks and more. Using a tool like FindMyShift will save you tones of time and headaches!
Training can be an expensive exercise for you business, yet it is essential. All the big businesses have great training for their staff, and so if you want to compete against them you should provide the same. Training can take time and money, so one of the ways you can really automate your training is to provide it online. You can create password protected websites with WordPress that allows your staff to access training materials. You can create different sections to be available to different types of staff – from managers to administrators – so that each employee gets access to material specific to them.
Consider creating videos as many people are visual people. You can upload these to Youtube, for example, and mark them as private – that way only your staff will be able to access it and not just anyone. You can then use parts of these videos are part of your marketing as well.
While setting something like this can take up a lot of your time, in the long run it can save many hours of training, eliminate questions as staff can just log on to refresh their memory, and it also saves you on overheads such as paper.
SproutSpire can help
If it all sounds overwhelming, SproutSpire can help you set up your training portal, just contact us. We can help with any of the above products, and we can also analyse your business to work out areas that you could improve by automating.
What tools do you use to automate your business?
Leave your answers in the comments below, and be sure to tell me if this post has got your creative juices flowing in how you can improve your processes within your business. If you found this post helpful, do share it on your favourite social media sites and subscribe to the newsletter to get more helpful advice on using the Internet to improve your business.