Small business automation might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about how to keep your small business running smoothly, but many tasks can be automated to save you time and improve your workflow.
If you’re a service-based small business owner or thinking about starting one, it’s crucial to automate certain aspects of your workday. It allows you to save time and scale back the burden on your small team of employees.
Research shows that automating routine processes saves businesses an average of 12 hours per week per employee! Here are three types of small business automation to consider if you’re struggling to keep up with everything you need to do daily.
In this post, we’ll look at three of the most effective types of small business automation so you can evaluate what needs automating in your own small business. Allowing you to create an efficient workflow that works for you.
If automation isn’t something you’re doing, it's time to start! You might be surprised by how much extra free time it can give you.
Utilizing automation to capture leads is a great way to increase your email list and conversions. Building your list is one of the most important things for a service-based business owner.
What is a lead?
A lead is someone who has expressed interest in your company’s product or service. They may not be ready to buy just yet. But they're more prepared than if they only visited your website as a random visitor. They are a potential customer!
I am an analogy person so let me use one that we call can relate to – dating!
You may not be ready for a relationship today. But you know at some point soon, you would like to be in a relationship. So what do you do when you meet someone you are interested in learning more about to see if they are a potential mate? First, you get a way to be in contact with them, so you can learn more about them and determine if you are really interested.
While it’s true that leads can come from any source, having a direct connection will always be better.
So you could follow the dating interest on social media and stay in touch. Giving someone your phone number gives more personal access. And is not reliant on the social media site to be up and functioning for you to communicate with that person.
In business, it is the same. Getting access to a lead's email inbox is like getting a dating interests phone number – it's more personal.
There are easy ways to nurture leads online through automation and bring them closer to becoming paying customers over time.
It’s helpful to identify those people – they are your leads. So start building a relationship with them, so you can get back in touch with them when they are ready to purchase.
What things can you automate for getting leads
- Social media
- Telephone interaction
- Website interaction
You can automate some aspects of social media by automatically setting up your profiles to share relevant content and by scheduling posts ahead of time so they go out when you’re not around.
For example, if you have a Facebook page for your business, use Facebook’s Schedule Post feature to publish posts at optimal times during your workday. Alternatively, you can use a social media publishing tool to schedule across multiple profiles.
My personal favorite right now is SoacilBee. It gives access to social publishing across platforms, is affordable, and also has concierge services that allow you to have help with getting your content created, scheduled, and more.
But there are plenty of social scheduling tools out there to fulfill the needs of your business.
If you are a service-based provider, you most likely don't have time to be on the phone with potential clients because you are providing a service to your paying clients. However, there are phone answering services that you can use to provide basic information, take messages for you, and allow you to set time aside to make contact with those potential customers that work best for you and allows you to give them their undivided attention.
You can use autoresponders to send automatic emails to those who visit your site but don't convert into paying clients or leads. It is a great way to follow up with potential customers, especially if they have shown interest in your product or service, by filling out a form on your site.
You can create email sequences that allow leads to learn more about you and your company and make them aware of your unique offerings. Allowing them to determine if they want to take the next step with you in your customer onboarding process.
Automate Getting Paid
Let’s be real, you are in business to make money. Sure you love what you do and why you do it, but you have a life that you have to support as well. Which means you need to get paid.
Auto-billing, auto-invoicing, and auto-payment collection are designed to give customers lots of easy and convenient ways to pay, making their purchase seamless. This is a great way to streamline your workflow and provide excellent customer service at the same time.
Sending service-based proposals
Depending on what kind of service-based business you are running, you may need to send proposals to clients to give them options of how they can work with you. Tools like Dubsado and Honeybook make this seamless and even allow you to create public-facing proposals, allowing you to skip the discovery call process for clients ready to get going.
With automated proposals, sending customized information to different leads who have signed up to hear from you is simple.
When setting up automated proposal processes, making your proposals make sense and personalized is essential, making sure to think about the stage in your sales funnel. In addition, creating clear call-to-actions (CTAs) is a must, so clients know how to take action on your proposal – whether by scheduling a meeting or purchasing. Creating a seamless process for clients.
When your clients have decided they are ready to work with you, make it easy for them to send you their payment. Automated invoicing makes it easy for clients to start working with you when they are ready.
It also removes some of your manual tasks and leaves room for more important things like meetings and sales. And, automated invoicing can also ensure clients get their invoices faster, making them more likely to pay you when it’s due.
In addition to the tools I mentioned above – Dubsado and Honeybook- you can also use tools like Freshbooks and QuickBooks to set up automated invoicing.
Automating Customer Service
Once a client has become a paying customer, it is important that you can keep them happy and satisfied with your service. Whether it is giving them the ability to quickly answer their questions or book the appointments they paid for, proving top-tier customer service doesn't have to be complicated and have you running around like a crazy person.
Creating an FAQ section
The longer you are in business, the more likely it is that you get asked similar questions over and over again. If you can anticipate questions that potential and existing clients may have, creating a page dedicated to frequently asked questions could be beneficial.
Having this page set up allows customers to quickly get answers and also allows you to send them links to get answers to their questions for consistency. This means that all customers will get the same response across the board.
It’s a good idea to ensure that these FAQ pages are easily accessible from your homepage. It’s also a good idea to have it linked in your email signature or bio on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Depending on your service needs, tools like Intercom and Zendesk allow you to answer customer emails and incorporate a support section where you can publish tutorials and answer client questions easily.
Automating scheduling for service-based business owners
When running a service-based business, one of your main goals should be to automate what you can. By investing in online booking tools, software programs, and contact management systems (like CRMs), you can ensure your customers are taken care of quickly and easily—and have more free time to talk with and work for/with them.
Several scheduling tools out there let you set your availability, sync with your calendars, and allow your clients to get in where they fit in.
This eliminates all the back and forth and leaves them feeling like they are working with a true professional.
It also lets you scale your work and ensure your customers are always taken care of quickly. It’s a win-win!
Automation in a service-based business
The biggest takeaway I want you to have here is that you don't have to do it all to have it all.
You are only one person. If you have a small team or are a solopreneur, automation can be a complete GAME CHANGER for you. It's not just about having more free time to spend with your family and friends. But also about getting more done in less time so you can spend even more time on what matters most.
You don't need to do it all yourself! There are tools designed specifically for service-based businesses like yours. These tools allow you to automate tasks and systems, so your business runs as smoothly as possible without you needing to manage every detail constantly. And let me tell you, my life and business changed once I started using these tools!