As a small business owner or freelancer, one of your most valuable assets is your time. Unfortunately, your time is a limited resource, so it only makes sense that you would make the most of the time you have. We want to do it all, but what if we didn’t have to? What if some tasks were automated for you? This article will talk about Small Business Automation and how you can free up some of your time.
What is Small Business Automation?
Small business automation is just like automation in any other sense. It takes a task that would otherwise have to be done manually and does it automatically. Certain triggers can be set that allows you to define when a task gets done. You can even define what gets done when a trigger is hit depending on certain criteria.
Tools to Automate Small Business Processes
Zapier is an online tool that is focused on automation for busy people like yourself. It will move information between your web apps automatically, so you just need to set it and forget it.
For example, let’s say you use Gmail for your company’s email, Dropbox for your company’s file storage, and Slack for your team’s communication.
Set, what’s called a “Zap”, to automate saving email attachments to Dropbox.
- The trigger you’d set would be anytime a new email comes into Gmail.
- An action you could set is to copy the attachment from Gmail to Dropbox.
- Another action could be to send a notification in Slack to alert you or your team of the new file.
This would all happen automatically. Think about the time saving you would get from this.
Let’s say you have a remote team, that is based around the world. If you get an email with an attachment at 3 AM, you probably wouldn’t even look at it for another 6 hours. Then, you would need to save it to Dropbox, and alert your team on the other side of the world about the new file. At that point, they’ve already clocked out for the day and are headed to happy hour.
With this automation, the email hits your inbox at 3 AM your time. Moments later your team receives a notice in Slack about the new file. They can then start working with the file right away. Chances are you’re still dreaming while your team is working. Productive, right?
MailChimp is an email marketing service that is great for small business automation. Using a service like Zapier mentioned earlier, or a custom sign-up form, you can streamline how you target each customer.
The idea with email marketing is to not flood inboxes with emails. The best practice is to send targeted emails based on specific data like past sales.
For example, you can send an email to customers who bought a certain product in the past. This lets you target an upsell to customers who you know would be interested in that particular product. It’s much more effective than sending a blast email to your entire contact list.
Needls is one of the easiest ways to advertise on social media. The program automatically creates, targets, and optimizes your ads for you.
All you need to do is upload images, videos, and a basic message, and the program does the rest for you.
Needls also provides analytics so that you can keep track of your advertising effectiveness.
A good small business automation social media strategy includes sharing content that isn’t created by your company. The idea is to curate content from other sources so that your social media account becomes a trusted resource.
People tend to follow trusted resources (hint hint).
With Quuu, you select a few categories that your target market would be interested in. Quuu will then generate posts that get shared to your social media accounts automatically.
For example, if your business is in marketing, you can select categories like Digital Marketing, Event Marketing, Inbound Marketing, and Influencer Marketing.
Then, each day Quuu will send curated posts to your social media accounts that are in those categories.
Hootsuite / Buffer
You’ll also want to inject your own content to your social media accounts from time to time. Using a service like Hootsuite or Buffer (required to auto post with Quuu) allows you to schedule out posts on all of your social media accounts.
Want to wish your followers a Merry Christmas this year, but it’s only July? No problem! Just write your post and schedule it for the future.
You might be tempted to share an awesome article that you found right away. But chances are your followers won’t see it if it’s too late at night. You can easily schedule your post for the next best time to share so that way your followers have a greater chance of seeing the post.
Quickbooks Self Employed
Nearly everything is automated with Quickbooks Self Employed, which is great because who likes bookkeeping?
Automatically import all of your transactions to Quickbooks, by syncing your bank account with it. Never miss an expense again.
You can even teach Quickbooks to learn how to categorize certain transactions. For example, if you have monthly recurring expenses, you can tell Quickbooks to categorize them whenever they come in.
If you drive a lot for work, you should be deducting your miles with your taxes. Quickbooks has an app that will help you track your mileage. All you need to do is tell it whether or not a trip was for business.
Quickbooks will prepare your quarterly estimated taxes for you as well. All you need to do is print off the form, write a check, and drop it in the mail.
If your business is like many other small businesses, a lot of your first interactions with a client are through your website’s contact form. When the client fills out your contact form, it gets sent to the appropriate inbox, you or someone in your company follows up, and hopefully land a deal with the client.
This may be fine in some cases, but let’s think about all of the other processes that should happen with the new client’s information.
- Document the details of a project you will be working on for that client.
- Make the client’s contact information available to more than just the individual who received the initial contact form email.
- Subscribe the client to the appropriate newsletter list.
- Include their contact details in your Accounting/Invoicing system.
When your client fills out your contact form, you can have the Gravity Forms add-on create a new contact automatically with the information entered into the contact form. This is a great time saver because it knocks off #1 and #2 from the list before you even start the conversation with the client.
If you’re using the Invoicing add-on, you can check off #4 as well, because it pulls customer information directly from WP-CRM System.
You can subscribe the client to a newsletter, with the MailChimp add-on by subscribing each contact individually, or you can add them all in bulk.
Other Small Business Automation Tools
What other ways do you automate your small business? There are many different products and services that offer automation. Let us know your favorites in the comments.