Automation can save a small business time and money if it is started in a small, focused and concentrated manner. The first major decisions will be what to automate, and why. Then it will be a case of implementing the automation and monitoring its success.
Setting Your Goals
Your main goals for automating key business tasks will be to save time and money. There are many tools available that can help automate many of the mission-critical business tasks you need every day. Once you have them automated, your business can start to grow because you will be able to get more done in less time, freeing you up for more marketing, product creation, and so on.
Processes to Automate
There are a number of key areas you can automate. One might be automating your email marketing in order to build relationships with your target audience. Another might be reporting, such as metrics that show the success of your latest email campaign.
Successful automation will usually start with breaking down the task into a number of essential steps. For example, if you were going to automate your email marketing in order to let your autoresponders do most of the work, you would:
- Create a list
- Create or locate content for that list
- Upload content into the autoresponder
- Set the schedule for the content to be delivered
- Deliver the content = automated
- Check the results of the emails in the autoresponder
While it is true that four out of these five tasks will have to be done by a person, once it is set up, the automated part will do the work for you over and over again. Set the report on the metrics to be delivered to you automatically and you have a virtually hands-free marketing system you can monitor in only a minute per day.
Online Reputation Management
If you are concerned about your online reputation, you could search on Google and other websites every day using your business name, or you could set up a Google Alert that would deliver results straight to your inbox daily or weekly. This can save you hours of time. It also means that if anything negative does crop up, you can put out a small blaze before it becomes a forest fire.
How to Decide What to Automate
There are a few characteristics to consider:
- It is repetitive – It is basically a task that requires you to do the same thing over and over again without any significant variations.
- It has a simple workflow – It has a few steps that are each repetitive and easy.
- It is focused and targeted – The process is designed to accomplish one task, not several at the same time.
- You find it dull or boring – If you don’t like a task, chances are you will procrastinate, or not do it very well. But if it is mission critical, automation can help ease the pain.
- You don’t have the time for it – There are only so many working hours in the day. The more time you spend on sending out emails and digging through metrics, the less time you have for everything else. Automation will save you time and can also increase your profits, because you can focus more on tasks that earn money directly such as product creation and marketing.
- Tasks that are impossible to scale – Using email marketing as an example again, you would never be able to manage a list manually and get anything else done. Sending out welcome emails to 1, 2, 5, 10 people would take up more and more of your time. With an autoresponder, however, it doesn’t matter if you have 1 person or 100, it will do its job.