When most people imagine running their own businesses, they like to envision the fantasy scenario of the relaxed boss overseeing things via laptop from a sunny beach in an exotic locale. No need to answer to anyone, nothing left to prove — all the benefits of the professional world with very few of the drawbacks. Basically, what they are imagining is a super business automation.
Realistic? Not exactly.
What entrepreneurs discover (often to their horror) when they get their startups going is that running a business is brutally hard work. Being the person in charge gives you options, but it also heaps all the pressure on you, particularly when you don’t have a big team to which you could delegate some of your responsibilities.
But passing tasks to employees isn’t the only way to lighten your workload. You can also start turning business automation to your advantage. It may seem intimidating, but the more you use it, the easier you’ll find it — and if you can make it a habit, you can transform your business. Here are some tips for getting things done with business automation:
The process of getting a business off the ground and improving it until it becomes suitable for expansion is complicated and often costly. Even if you raise a solid amount of starting capital, you might see it drain away as you lay your foundation — but that doesn’t need to happen. By taking laborious tasks and automating them, you can save countless working hours that would be better spent on more creative projects.
Think about all the things you need to operate, and find easier methods for getting them. You need a website, for instance: instead of letting that process become a time sink, use hosted template-led systems to avoid the development process (try WordPress.com for cloud-based WordPress, or Shopify for ecommerce storefronts). Do you really need a custom website? It’s very unlikely that you do, so think less about what’s desirable and more about what’s justified.
Recruitment is a core part of turning a promising startup into a long-term success. Your employees are your biggest investments, after all, so you should make a concerted effort to bring in the best possible candidates. This can be a very tricky process, though — you need to carry on with your regular business and find the time to source prospects and hold interviews.
That’s where recruitment automation tools come in. By using software such as the SmashFly recruitment suite, you can track everything from initial contact to final offer, and use AI-driven features to keep priming candidates while you’re working on other things. And once you’ve assembled your team, you can keep everyone happy using an HR automation tool like Kissflow HR Cloud for easy onboarding, performance tracking, and even rate negotiation.
Bringing in relevant leads on a consistent basis is one of the biggest challenges of running a small business. Without brand recognition or inflated marketing budget of a bigger company, the secret lies in making efficient use of the resources at your disposal, and efficiency is a core strength of business automation. Digital marketing is the perfect fit for AI.
For PPC, you’ll find that most platforms have options for automatic bid optimization, and they typically work well with zero effort required. Tools like CoSchedule’s ReQueue social scheduler can take much of the strain from social media marketing, allowing you to line up your posts and have them automatically distributed at the most opportune times. And then there are the many options inherent to email marketing automation: everything from sending out abandoned cart messages shortly after people leave items unbought (only 3% of visitors are ready to buy immediately, but 47% might buy in the future) to dynamically selecting the target audience.
Dealing with customer queries, even on a small scale, can be extremely time-consuming. It’s tough to focus on new prospects when you’re putting so much effort into answering basic questions — so why not automate what you can? These days, chatbots are remarkably capable. You can program a support chatbot to recognize a wide range of common queries and requests and act accordingly, only getting you involved if it can’t resolve the matter.
Here’s a list of decent chatbot builders, each one offering a distinct process with advantages and weaknesses. Creating and implementing a chatbot will not only help with support, but also help with bringing in leads (particularly since it can promote your business on a 24/7 basis).
One of the advantages of running a small business is that you have room to innovate (big businesses are typically settled, so they can only move extremely slowly) — if you’re not making a habit of trying new things, you’re missing out, because any fresh tactic could be the key to unlocking significant business growth.
Pay close attention to general automation tools like Zapier or IFTTT, and think about how you could use them in creative ways. This is all about venturing off the beaten track, so it’s understandable if you find the idea too intimidating, but the potential is undeniable: with so many integrations available, you could design intriguing workflows to automate vital parts of your everyday operation.
Business automation isn’t a magic bullet capable of fixing everything, nor will it allow you to live that beachfront self-employment fantasy — but it will allow you to do away with much of the tedium of small business work, lowering your costs and giving you the free time and energy to actually grow your business.
November 14, 2019
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