If I had a dollar for every time that I felt that there weren't enough hours in the day....
Or a dollar for every time night that I went to bed with my poor to do list still unfinished....
Or a dollar for every time that I felt overwhelmed with things to do - boring things...
Tell me you feel the same!
As an entrepreneur it is so easy (especially if you are a team of one) to spend hours doing things that you don't want to be doing, and specifically things that don't make you money.
You can't get more hours in the day - that's just impossible. But thanks to modern technology you can clear your to do list by automating many of your tasks.
Business automation is especially valuable to entrepreneurs, because your greatest constraint is often on your time. You're likely running your startup with a on a shoe string budget and trying to cut corners because you have limited resources...but you need the results and growth of an established company to establish and maintain your credibility and productivity.
The main benefits of automation are:
Improved quality and less margin for error
Improved robustness (consistency), of processes or product
Increased consistency of output
Reduced direct human labor costs and expenses
So here are some of my favorite tasks to automate. If you have any questions or suggestions drop them in the comments below!
Social Media Posting
One important aspect of marketing for small businesses is social media management. Small businesses must be able to track engagement and develop their reach through various social media networks. Creating content for your social accounts may be easy, but posting your content at peak traffic times for all of your networks maybe difficult, especially if you have target markets in various countries.
Let’s say the peak time to get the most traffic in one particular region happens to be at 2am your time. No one wants to have to wake up at 2am just to click “send” on a post, right? When you automate social media management, you can connect your Facebook profiles and pages, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and even LinkedIn and schedule when and where each post should be sent. The program will automatically queue your updates and post them at peak hours, therefore boosting your online presence and freeing you up to focus on other things.
Tools: Later, Hootsuite, Zoho Social, Buffer
In our business we use: Later
Managing Your Inbox
Email can be one of the most time consuming tasks on an office worker’s daily to-do list. When it comes to sorting emails, you can set up labeled folders for different types of emails, like newsletters and communications with clients. You can even enable Smart Labels within Gmail, so that the platform will automatically sort some of your emails, like promotions and social notifications, into separate folders.
When it comes to responding to emails, there are likely some responses that are going to be the same or at least similar. Set up canned responses in Gmail or email templates in Outlook instead of re-typing those messages over and over again.
Tools: GSuite In our business we use: GSuite
While it’s widely acknowledged that email marketing can boast a 3,800% ROI, “automated email messages average 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than ‘business as usual’ marketing messages.”
Email marketing is one major strategy that small businesses can use to reach out to their clients and partners. Businesses can use emails to share about deals they’re offering, changes in the policies or procedures of the company, and much more.
Once you have drafted the email, you can use an email management program to send the email to specific groups of people, schedule the day and time you would like the email to be sent out, and you can use attractive templates to catch people’s attention. This helps in building credibility, improving communication, and boosting sales.
Tools: ConvertKit, Constant Contact, Vero, Drip, GetResponse, ActiveCampaign
In our business we use: ConvertKit
Every email client (whether desktop or web based) offers users the ability to create customized signatures. It may not seem like typing your name takes up too much time in your day, but having this information entered into your messages automatically can be a godsend (especially if you’re prone to typos!).
Every business has to deal with reporting. Whether you’re concerned with sales, inventory or leads, creating a form template – or even a form that auto-fills fields from another software program—can be a huge time saver, whether you’re dealing with accounting software, Excel spreadsheets or mailing lists. Depending on the program you’re currently using, the automation process will be slightly different, but taking the time to learn how to use your technology effectively will definitely pay off.
Keeping in Touch with Customers and Clients
Email is a wonderful data collection and customer retention tool, but unless you automate your system, chances are your customer relations are going to fall by the wayside. Instead of reminding yourself to write email follow ups all the time, use an autoresponder service like Constant Contact to frontload any email communications you have and schedule them to deliver automatically.
Best of all, many of these services are so specific that you can customize lists within lists. For instance, if you wanted to send out a happy birthday notice to everyone on your sales list that has a birthday in the coming month, you can do that, using the power of list filtering and autoresponder management.
When scheduling meetings with many people, finding a time good for everyone’s schedules can be a daunting task. Instead of going back and forth in a long email chain, set up a scheduling app to simplify the process.
Tools: Calendly, Acuity Scheduling
In our business we use: Calendly & Acuity
Good customer service is vital to the success of a small business. As much as you may want to be available to your customers 24/7, this is not always possible. This is where chatbots can provide a great support. If a customer visits your website after work hours with a question, the pre-programmed chatbot will respond automatically to the customer and help them arrive at a solution.
This will help improve sales and marketing, since people will be able to see how responsive your business is to their inquiries and needs. Small business owners, through these chatbots, will be able to respond quickly to the queries of their customers and will have more potential to captivate their loyalty and interest.
Alternatives: ChattyPeople, Telegram Bots, Chatfuel
When it comes to time management in small businesses, there are tools such as Time Doctor, that can keep track of the progress of your employees. No business is perfect. Owners and employees alike may get distracted and derailed from accomplishing tasks on time. Truth be told, mastery of productivity is quite complicated to achieve, when you consider all of the factors that affect how we spend our time in the workplace.
Using tools like this can be helpful in guiding you to fully maximize your time. Not only that, but keeping track of your employees’ timesheets will be easier than manually writing down the time they logged in and logged out. Moreover, this encourages your staff to treat time as gold without making them feel like they’re being micromanaged.
Tools: Toggl, Timestation, Time Doctor
Instead of spending your limited time paying bills each month, use a service like Bill.com to manage all of your payments. The service works with any bank and even integrates with Xero and Quickbooks. You won’t have to go cut checks or manually enter them into your accounting system. You can manage all of those payments online in one place. Bill.com claims that it can cut users’ bill-paying time in half. Or, just check directly with your bank. Many now offer bill payment services, sometimes at no extra charge.
Delegating Customer Support Issues
Handling customer communications via email can become a nightmare as your business and the volume grows. Instead of letting one employee’s inbox get buried in messages, while other members of your team are in the dark, employ a ticketing system or online help desk like ZenDesk, Zoho, Groove or FreshDesk.
Help desk solutions provide a central place to access customer issues and communicate. Set up a contact form on your website, and route communications by type to central inboxes, where assigned individuals on your team can answer them. These solutions also help you create a knowledge base of commonly asked questions. This becomes a self-serve portal for customers, eliminating the need to answer many questions individually.
Tools: ZenDesk, Zoho, Groove or FreshDesk
Filling Out Online Forms
This is a personal productivity enhancer. Inputting your name, company, address, and contact information time after time in online forms can be tiresome. A software program like Roboform stores your data so you don’t have to manually enter it each time you come across one of those pesky online forms. Or simply use the similar functionality built into browsers such as the Chrome.
In the meantime be sure to share this article with anyone that you know that owns a travel business and subscribe to get tips like this delivered straight to your inbox each week!
NB: Any hyperlinks lead to sites for which I am a proud user and affiliate. Feel free to reach out to us with questions as we use those particular services in our own business.