Automation simplifies various aspects of business by automating tasks that would otherwise require manual effort. Examples of automation can be found right in your inbox: the “sorry I missed you” email from a salesperson who just left a voicemail, the birthday coupon from a restaurant, or the reminder from a retailer about the product you added to your shopping cart but didn’t purchase.
Automation has become a vital factor for success across industries, with nearly 80% of top-performing companies utilizing marketing automation. However, automation is no longer limited to large corporations. Small businesses can and should incorporate automation into every aspect of their operations. By automating processes, such as lead generation, sales closure, customer service, and routine office tasks, small business owners can focus their time on the goals that truly matter, such as business growth.
This guide will provide insights into the essential aspects that every small business should and can automate. Moreover, it will illustrate how automating business processes is easier than one might think.
Automation in Leads
Whether you’re meeting prospective clients or addressing those who have already reached out via phone or email, automating business processes enables you to efficiently and swiftly acquire and retain leads. Embracing automation streamlines your operations, enhancing word choice, structure, readability, and eloquence, while preserving the essence of the original message.
- Respond Immediately to Contact Requests
If the “contact us” email address on your website actually means reach out to you, you might be overwhelmed with emails awaiting your response. Delaying replies is not an option. A 30-minute delay reduces your chances of qualifying a lead by 21 times compared to calling within five minutes. With automation software, you can effortlessly respond immediately. Instead of relying on an email address, consider adding a “contact us” form to your website. Use smart client management software to incorporate a short code for placing the form on your site. Once a prospect fills out the form with their name, email address, and comment/question, the small business automation software sends an instant email reply. Though it’s a prewritten template, it can still sound personal. Potential clients will appreciate that their note hasn’t just disappeared.
- Assign Leads to a Sales Rep
While some prefer calling directly instead of using the “contact us” form, initiating a phone conversation can help build relationships with potential clients. However, without proper lead tracking, valuable opportunities may be missed after the call. By using automation software, you can create an internal form for phone inquiries. This form allows you to input contact details and notes and assigns a sales representative for follow-up. The form notifies the sales rep and triggers an automated introduction email to the prospective customer. Sending the email within 5 minutes creates a prompt response impression. This exceptional customer service leaves a positive impression even before the sales rep starts working with the lead.
- Master the Art of Phone Tag
Running a small business can turn phone tag into a frustrating game. Imagine leaving a voicemail for a potential client, only to have them call back when you’re in a meeting. You jot down a reminder to return the call later, but another voicemail comes in. If this game continues while you’re busy juggling tasks, you might give up and lose a valuable lead. To prevent such losses, establish an automated process for returning phone calls. Use automation software to log that you’ve left a message, triggering an email to the contact saying, “I just left you a voicemail. Apologies for missing you! If I don’t hear back, I’ll follow up tomorrow.” The software then reminds you to make the call as promised, eliminating the need for notes. Efficient follow-ups, no lost leads.
Automation in Sales
Think of automation software as a sales team project manager. It helps prioritize tasks and guides leads through every sales stage. With automation software, your sales process becomes more streamlined and effective, allowing for greater productivity and success.
- Map Out Your Sales Pipeline
The journey from prospect to paying client involves multiple steps. By mapping and automating the process, sales reps can guide prospects effectively, ensuring no one gets lost along the way. Automation software streamlines the sales process, helping reps smoothly transition leads, foster consistency, and provide visibility into the next steps for each lead.
You should define the sales process in four basic stages:
Identification/Assignment: When a lead is tagged as a new opportunity, software automatically assigns a sales representative to establish contact.
Contact: A sales rep initiates a call to progress the lead to the contacting stage. In case of voicemail, an automated email follow-up is sent.
Engagement: The sales rep converses with the lead, understanding their needs and showcasing how our products/services can benefit them.
Qualification: Once the sales rep determines qualification, including budget and decision-making authority, the lead enters this stage. The sales process unfolds, incorporating various automated actions for wins, losses, and leads not yet ready to decide.
- Prioritize The Most Promising Leads
Having an abundance of leads but limited time to contact them is a delightful challenge. However, it requires a solution. When faced with a never-ending to-do list, where do you start?
Enter automation software, the savior that prioritizes prospects based on their engagement with your marketing efforts. Through lead scoring, you can focus on potential clients ready to make a purchase, rather than those needing further nurturing. By identifying leads based on their interest level, you can anticipate their needs and deliver targeted messages tailored to their mindset.
Automation in Customer Service
Through automation, you can serve your clients as if you had endless time. Provide immediate assistance, address their feedback promptly, and even send birthday wishes effortlessly. Discover these simple methods to automate your customer service and enhance the overall experience.
- Ensure Clients Can Easily Request Assistance
When clients need assistance, struggling to find contact information and dealing with slow responses can be frustrating. Poor customer service has led 6 out of 10 consumers to abandon purchases.
To consistently meet and exceed client expectations, automate the process of responding to help inquiries. Include a “contact us” link in every email, saving clients the effort of searching on your website. Clicking the link will promptly notify you or a designated staff member for follow-up. With automation software, clients receive better, faster, and more personalized assistance compared to using a general phone number or email address. Use a contact drop-down menu to include employee names, ensuring tasks are routed to the appropriate individuals. Assign specific staff members to different types of requests for immediate connection with the most suitable person to help.
- Gauge Client Satisfaction
Satisfaction surveys, whether positive or negative, offer valuable insights to improve your business. Streamline the process with automation software, sending survey links to recent customers. Keep the survey simple with one question: “How satisfied were you with your recent purchase?” and three multiple-choice answers: “not satisfied,” “neutral,” and “satisfied.” Automate follow-up actions. Configure the software to trigger tasks for contacting clients via phone or email for negative responses, preventing further damage. Research indicates that while most consumers give companies another chance after poor customer service, nearly 60% will switch to a different company after subsequent negative encounters.
- Acquire Referrals
Word-of-mouth, the oldest marketing strategy, remains the most trusted form of advertising. According to Nielsen, 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know. However, clients sometimes need a gentle reminder or an incentive to spread the word. One effective way is to send automated emails, where you can offer a small gift or coupon as a token of appreciation. When clients enter their friend’s info into a web form, we’ll task a team member to call the referral. Why call? Emailing without permission increases the risk of being flagged as spam. By calling, you can personally inquire about their interest in receiving your emails.
- Simplify Event Registrations
When organizing an event, your to-do list can become lengthy. Streamline your focus by automating time-consuming tasks in event planning: sign-ups, confirmations, and reminders. Offer RSVP options on your website through ticket purchases or a simple web form. Utilize automation software to trigger confirmation emails with event details. Set up automated reminders before the event to reduce no-shows.
Automation in Office Management
Leverage workflow automation for small businesses to streamline office tasks that consume excessive time.
- Enhance Daily Task Efficiency
While business automation cannot replace all human tasks, it can enhance repetitive processes that require a personal touch. This saves time and maintains organization. For example, sending handwritten thank-you notes to new customers can be streamlined through automation. When a new client is identified, an automated task reminder prompts you to write the note. The software pulls the client’s address from stored contact information, eliminating manual lookup. It also helps track these to-dos, ensuring no one is overlooked. Leverage automation to optimize efficiency without sacrificing your personal touch.
- Track Important Documents
Documents are crucial in various business operations, whether it’s sending contracts or collecting forms. However, that doesn’t mean you should waste your valuable time on them. Instead, let your software handle the tedious task of chasing after paperwork by setting up automated processes.
Once a completed form lands in your inbox, simply make a note in the system to inform the software that the submitter is off the hook. And if the link remains unclicked, the software will automatically send reminders as a gentle nudge.
By streamlining these processes, you can focus on more important tasks while ensuring efficiency and timely follow-ups.
- Collect Job Applications
As a small business owner, you may not have the same hiring resources as larger companies. Instead of manually managing applications, consider using software to automate certain tasks.
Include a web form on your job description page for candidates to submit their names and contact information. Direct them to a second web form for preliminary interview questions about their strengths and work experience. The software can then alert you to review the application.
Automating the process saves time and filters out candidates who can’t follow directions. Focus on genuinely interested and qualified individuals. It’s okay to lose a few applicants along the way if they can’t adhere to the process.
Automation technology is the key to streamlining small-business operations. Making use of available automation strategies can lead to a maximum increase in efficiency, productivity, and overall organization. The successful implementation of these simple strategies can help small businesses run like well-oiled machines with minimal effort required. It’s time to take your business processes to the next level – and with automation you can reduce costs, increase profits, and better serve your customers.