Just one mention of the word “automation” can spark confusion and overwhelm in the minds of small business owners who are already consumed with other revenue-related tasks. But marketing automation — especially when it comes to your website — is not something you can escape if you have any hope of surviving among the competition. Ignore these inevitable strategies and you will have lost an opportunity to reduce cost, save time, and increase efficiency.
Rest assured that automation as a business strategy doesn’t always mean live chat robots or artificial intelligence features that outsource control to someone else (at least not in the way you’ll use it). Automation can be really helpful in creating an upgraded customer experience for your visitors and greater productivity for you. It can be as simple as systemizing your most boring, mundane tasks first then scaling from there.
Below, we’ve outlined simple automation strategies you can use to refocus your time toward growing the business and making more money without sacrificing control or experience. We’ll suggest a few common tasks that are best automated and how to streamline them in a way that benefits the business — no automation tech expert required.
We understand if you feel hesitant to board the train to automation station. The technology behind it can be tough to comprehend and hard to implement without an expert on hand. But let’s consider the alternative to ignoring the trend entirely.
How much money have you floundered in lost productivity by having to answer the same questions about your refund policy to different customers or copy/pasting the same account information over and over again? Imagine the time you’ve already wasted because your internal systems and applications don’t “talk” to each other.
Jason Falls, founder of Social Media Explorer, has been crusading against the anti-automation stance for years. And rightfully so. Automation allows businesses to remain competitive in dynamic online markets. Applying this to even the smallest tasks can recoup more than 40% in lost productivity and generate more money than those who resist it.
So why use marketing automation? How can you leverage it as a growth tool? The key to automating your website is to brainstorm what tasks or processes you can offload to technology first. Try this:
Then, implement an automation routine in manageable stages that won’t completely disrupt your workflow or sacrifice the customer experience.
Remember, for small businesses just starting out, marketing automation is best used as a supplement to your existing workflows, not replacements.
Automating something in your business every week is just like investing money every week and reaping the rewards of compound interest. Start small, start simple, and grow from there.
To make automating your website as easy as possible, we created a how-to guide broken down into weekly segments so you can upgrade your website systematically. Here are six tasks we suggest all automation newbies tackle first.
*Note: we don’t consider any of these ideas too advanced to do on your own, and they won’t take an entire day to implement.
Automate Meeting Schedules and Appointment Reminders
For those new to automating their website for greater efficiency, it’s best to start with the low hanging fruit. One of the simplest tasks to remove from your plate is how you schedule appointments and remind your clients or team members of upcoming meetings. Not only will you spend less time writing emails, but you’ll also speed up the sales process by allowing prospects to book meetings when it’s best for them.
Calendly is a top-rated scheduling tool that allows multiple users on your team to view, manage, and edit calendars while also sending confirmation and reminder notes to attendees. Plus, it integrates with other platforms and devices, which will come in handy as you get more and more comfortable with other small business automation tools.
Automate Commonly Asked Questions
Consider dedicating week two to eliminating something businesses of all sizes suffer from: process duplication. Automation tools can be a lifesaver for those plagued by the redundancy typical of customer support, lead generation, and engagement-related tasks.
ChipBot’s collective intelligence features store answers to previously asked questions on your website, allowing customers to find answers they need to make a purchase decision quickly. Put simply, automating repetitive support means you never have to answer the same question twice.
With this intuitive automation tool, your customers will enjoy an upgraded online experience that doesn’t include delays or confusion, allowing you to nurture the relationship with less effort.
Automate your reactions to visitor interactions
Business automation software Zapier will inspire you to automate daily tasks you never realized could be automated. The entire premise of their software is to eliminate busy work and get more done in less time.
Whether automated social accounts help or harm a business, for example, is met with mixed reviews in the marketing industry, but most support the notion that automating your “reactions” to visitors on your website is helpful. During week three, consider using Zapier to streamline your email subscription sign up process or how you respond to a new demo request meeting.
When a visitor interacts with your site — such as a request for follow-up information on a product or submitting a request for a meeting — Zapier will track it and manage your reactions on autopilot so you can begin building rapport with new customers fast and effortlessly.
Automate Content Cross-posting
At ChipBot, we’re big fans of using cross-posting as an engagement strategy to help keep our social accounts active and share our content with a bigger audience. But staying present online requires time we don’t have, so we found a way to automate this process for best results. For example, we use Zapier to revise how we share our content from Quora and other sources.
Anytime we post on Quora, Zapier listens to it, creates a promotional video, and talks to Hootsuite to schedule the post out to Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook.
Automate Purchase Order and Invoice Creation
Whether you are a consultant, freelancer, or an industry pro, it’s likely that you’ll spend countless hours each week creating invoices or purchase orders for your customers — including the time it takes to follow-up and wait for a response like an agreement or payment.
Allocate a couple of hours during week five to automate this process by setting up quotes and invoices that deliver digital reminders, recurring invoices, and automatic payment dates. A spend management platform like Procurify can help you streamline purchase order creation and invoice tracking so you can spend less time focusing on how you get paid and more time on actually getting paid.
Automate Passwords and Login Forms
Week six is all about eliminating annoyances. There’s nothing like trying to log into a platform or program account, only to realize that you have forgotten your password. What should have been a 10-second process gets ballooned into a 30-minute endeavor to recover lost information.
Your list of account passwords and usernames will only get longer as your business grows. Store your login credentials using a safe and secure password manager like LastPass. Not only will LastPass help you create (and remember) strong passwords, it also lets you link business accounts to the site to engage its “autofill” feature. Never type another password, address, or credit card number into a form field again.
Sure, giving into such a complex trend like automation can feel daunting to the business owner who has made it their mission to ensure every aspect of their business is running at top capability. But when done right, automation tactics can become your best tools for growth, productivity, and engagement.
Try a few of these automation tricks on your website in the coming weeks and see how it goes. But fair warning: you might realize that you’re not as “anti-automation” as you thought.
Lauren Hamer is a Digital Content Writer and Copy Editor who helps top companies and small start-ups to define their brand through quality, conversational content.