How would you feel about increasing the number of productive hours you spend working every day, without working harder, or for longer? What about eliminating errors, enhancing your business processes, and reducing all the dreaded admin you have to do? Good news, you can — It’s all about automation.
One thing every small business owner, entrepreneur, middle-manager or startup can agree on is that there’s never enough time to get everything done. Whether it’s managing finances, dealing with customer service, boosting sales, or creating content, demands on your attention are seemingly endless.
Perhaps the most subtle, and the biggest drain on your time is that dreaded area, Administration. It’s all the small things — Replying to email, updating customer details, sending out invoices, tracking project tasks, producing reports. It might not add much value to your business, but it’s essential to running a successful operation. Unfortunately, you and your employees could be spending as much as half of your time on administrative tasks
Benefits of automation
It’s time to put a stop to that by automating as much of your business operations and processes as you can. The revolution in “Software as a Service (SaaS)” apps (software that runs in your web browser) has created a vast ecosystem of automation that you can take advantage of. Here’s how automation can help your business:
- Significantly reduce the time you spend on admin — Automation can increase your productivity by around 20%, simply through processing information and data without you needing to get involved.
- Remove errors when transferring data and information — Mis-keying, lack of oversight, and being rushed can all lead to normal human errors when handling information. Automation removes that problem by transferring data automatically.
- Enhance business processes and how you support employees and customers — With information that’s there when you need it, you and your employees can provide more efficient and effective customer service. That helps to build trust with your customers, which is good for the bottom line.
Examples of automation
There are hundreds of ways automation can help your business, here are just a few examples:
- Automatically billing time you record against client projects back to their invoices — If you run projects in Basecamp, Trello, Asana, or many of the other project management apps, you can record time spent on client tasks and automatically bill it back to your invoice and accounting software.
- Integrating your Client Relationship Management (CRM) and customer support information together — If you track customers in CRM software, you can automatically add their details to your customer support solution. That makes providing excellent customer service a little easier.
- Tracking your return on investment from Adwords in Google Analytics — If you use Google’s Pay Per Click advertising product, AdWords, you can automatically link it to your Google Analytics account. That lets you easily track visits, sales, conversions, and revenue so you can see your marketing ROI and invest more wisely.
- Linking your bank feed to your accounting software — No one enjoys account reconciliation, but you can make it a little easier by importing your bank account data into your accounting app to make reconciliation easier.
Other ways to automate your business include:
- Sending emails to Slack channels.
- Adding mailing list signups to CRM.
- Generating business reports from data.
- Sending data to Google Sheets for analysis.
- Publishing to your content management system automatically.
- And many, many more.
How to automate your business processes
Automating your business is very simple.
- Decide what information you want to transfer between apps.
- Identify the apps you want to transfer information between.
- Find out if you can transfer information natively, or if you need to use a third-party service.
- Setup the automation.
- Test it and go!
There are two main ways to add automation to your business — Via “Native Integrations,” and via “Third Party Apps.”
Most decent SaaS apps have inbuilt integrations. To find out what your particular software supports, search for the “Integrations” page on their website and find out what it links to. They should also have clear instructions on setting up your integration.
Third Party Apps
There are two main services that allow you to automate apps and transfer information between them. They are “If This Then That (IFTTT)” and “Zapier.” Both work with most of the major SaaS apps. They allow you to link two or more apps together, poll those apps periodically for data, and if they find any, transfer it to the new app. Both are very easy to set up and use.
Once you’ve set up your automation, test how your data is transferring and make tweaks. Over time you’ll be able to significantly enhance your workflow.
It really is worth taking the time to understand automation and how it can work for your business. You’ll enhance your productivity, reduce frustration, avoid errors, and create happier customers.