Whenever you are starting out as a small business owner there are certain things that are a necessity for the survival of your business. In order to be productive there are several parts of your business that should be automated. Although, as the business owner we know that automation needs to be done, it is often the first thing to fall by the wayside especially when hundreds of other items may take priority over it.
With some up-front planning and the right automated tools and resources you can put several parts of your business on autopilot. Here are 10 tips to help you accomplish this!
1. You Must Have a Plan
I know this seems like an insult of your intelligence, but very few small businesses have a proactive business plan developed before they start their business. Consider the fact that most small businesses start out with a very simple idea that catches the attention of consumers and sells. This doesn’t leave time for a “business plan” because the time is automatically put into chasing the potential money that is being made. If you stop for a minute and take the time to create a plan (even if it’s only a six month plan) you will have something to look at that will help you easily see what things can be automated and what things can’t.
2. Automate Your Marketing
Ask yourself questions like; “How will my customers buy my service?” How do I attract my customers? What is it about my product or service makes them want to buy it? Having these questions answered up front allows you to figure out how to promote your product even when you’re not able to push the marketing yourself. Here are some ideas for automating your Marketing.
- Blogs like WordPress allow you to schedule your posting for days, even months in advance. This is great for the small business that rely on these posts to drive traffic to their site. There is no way that we as the owner, can be online 3 to 4 time a day to schedule a post. Using a blogging service that allows you to put that worry behind you and focus on other parts of your marketing is crucial to your business success.
- Email Marketing is another great source to automate your business. You can create a series of emails to go out to possible leads at scheduled times. This will allow you to target new clients while continuing to give special care to the ones you already have.
- Social Media Software is one of the greatest things ever created. It allows you to automate all your Social Media posts IN ONE PLACE. You can control where the post goes and how often they are sent out.
All your social media should be linked together as to help consolidate and make things easy for you. Make sure to have unique content on each platform. Social Media tools are necessary for the small business owner that does not have thousands of dollars to spend on “expert” marketing.
A lead can contact your business at any time of day. You need to have a system in place that allows that potential client to leave their information on your site when you are not online. Most sites use Contact Us forms or something similar. What is often forgotten is the need to initiate immediate contact.
Let’s be honest, if you returned a call or email to every lead that came through every time it came through there would be no time to actually conduct everyday business. This is where an automated email response is a great tool. This is an instant email that is sent out as an instant reply when someone contacts your company. I would suggest having two different emails; one email for future customers and one for current customers. That way you can leave a more personal message to your current customers. Example, for a new lead you would want to first: Thank them for contacting your company and then explain your procedure for new leads, operating hours, etc. This will keep you from losing a new client, because they feel that they are being ignored.
B. Automate Your Sales
If your business is one that sells a product then all your automated marketing should have a link that leads to a site that allows them to buy or at least place an order even if it requires your attention before the sell can be finalized. A great tool for this is an E-Commerce site or sales website to automate your sales process.
4. Automate Your Follow-up
After a person contacts your business you should follow-up with them. An email is always a great way to show your business cares and appreciates their business. Even if the contact does not turn into a sale you can thank them for their time and let them know that you welcome them to come back and try your services at any time.
If you land a client there should be an email that thanks them for trusting you and your product or service. After you start delivering the product or service, you should send out a survey email asking them how your product or service is working for them. What many owners don’t realize is that this not only secures a long term relationship with the client but serves as a means of marketing. How is this marketing? I can answer that question with a question. When have you ever had a good experience with a company and not referred them to someone else? Exactly!
Many people don’t consider outsourcing a means of automating things but it is. When you need something done on a daily or weekly basis you can have another company automatically do these things each week without you having to give it a second thought. It’s a great way to further your business and start to scale it. Check out my post last week on how outsourcing can save you money!
6. Automate Your Inventory
You should automate your inventory. There are thousands of automation tools out there. If you are a retailer there are inventory system managers that control everything and can sync with your online business. One great company that sells these types of tools is Wasp Barcode. Have an inventory management software keep track of everything and know exactly where your business stands at all times.
7. Automate the Tracking of Your Customer Support
There are support issues involved in every business and 9 times out of 10 they need to be handled by someone other than the owner. This is why there needs to be an automated way to send support tickets to the necessary department. Having a special email just for customer support can do this. It beats having to forward the information or having to be the middleman in any situation. There is even software that allows support tickets to be created and the process be sent out to the client and the owner. When the issue is resolved the ticket is closed out and everyone is on the same page. This instills confidence in the client.
8. Automate Your Testimonial Requests
You need to automate the request for testimonials. There are systems that send the automated emails to certain areas according to their response. If the client is happy they are asked for a testimonial in exchange for a discount or other special promotion. Testimonials are great ways to show off your business to other businesses. They also help others to become confident in your service. If it works for one business, it will most likely work for another business.
9. Automate Your Complaint Follow-Up Methods
No business owner ever wants to deal with complaints but it has to be done. Automating is your way to deal with the complaints when you are ready yet giving them immediate attention. You would be surprise how many complaints go away by the person receiving an email that apologizes for the trouble. It’s easy and can be automated to people other than yourself.
10. Automate, Automate, Automate
Once you learn how simple your life can become with automation then find that pretty much everything is possible to automate to someone other than yourself. Did you know you can even automatic your coffee break? Yes, your cup of coffee can be put on automatic thanks to coffeemakers that work on a timer. Automate your lunch, have an automatic attendant answer your calls or send an automatic response to your emails. If you are organized enough you can have your business automated to the point where it can continue to function even when you have to be away for a few days. No there is one thing automating can’t do, replace the human element in your business. To counter act this you can have an assistant that performs some of the human automation for you. This person can go through the leads and schedule appointments for you to talk with the ones that are serious about moving forward and set aside the ones who were just curious. This person can also return calls to current customers, take incoming calls and anything else you need to have taken care of while you cater to the more important task.
These tips only scratch the surface of what automation can do for you. The only way you can get the full benefits of it is putting it to use and getting started today. For those who have already launched your business and are wondering how in the world you will have time to set it up. I suggest you outsource and have someone tackle the task for you. The small amount of money you pay out to get your business automated will more then pay for itself when you find more time on your hands. It will also help your business in being more efficient and productive. I have heard it said a million times but can’t help but repeat it here, “Time is Money.”
Photo credit: Working on a beach by Big Stock Photo.