These days, it seems that everything is automated. From your coffeemaker to your car, you hardly have to lift a finger to get anything done – and business tasks are no different. B2Bs and B2Cs of all shapes and sizes have automated nearly every business process: invoicing, marketing, communicating, fulfilling orders, and more and more and more.
To many new small-business owners, the prospect of automating is appealing but overwhelming. Where do you start? Do you need to automate everything? What do you do when your entire job is automated? The answer is that you shouldn’t try to automate every business task, but there are a few crucial processes that are run better by machines. Here are the first tasks you should automate at your business due to their ease of automation and their immediate benefits.
By automating your calendar, you no longer need to worry about double-booking your time or carving out schedule space for meeting. Automated calendars should share information across your devices and with people in your network, eliminating that age-old guesswork. Even better, automated calendars will send you reminders of upcoming events, so you can always keep an accurate schedule in your mind.
Obviously, it is impossible to automate all communication; computers won’t know what you want to say at all times. However, you can automate much of your business communications with customers and clients. For example, you can automate customer service calls. Because many customers will call with the same quandary, you can automate those responses and lift that responsibility off your customer service team. Though it might take some delicate writing to ensure your automated communications don’t sound lifeless and impersonal, the decreased workload in the long term is worth it.
Chasing leads is both the most important task and the task that wastes the most time. You can strike a balance between converting leads and maintaining high productivity by automating much of lead response management. When a new lead contacts your business for the first time, it should trigger an automatic email reply with important information. Additionally, leads should automatically be assigned to appropriate sales staff. An automated lead management system prevents delays that turn away new business.
Contracts are essential to every department in your business, but not everyone is skilled in drafting and applying contracts efficiently. By automating contract lifecycle management, you can ensure that each and every agreement is as strong and beneficial to your business as possible. Automated contract management systems help you through each stage of the contract lifecycle, from negotiation to termination, sending alerts when certain milestones pass and when the contract is no longer functional. If you already set and forget your contracts, you need automation for this task.
Your entire business hinges on your billing strategy, so the more you can do to reduce billing-related stresses, the better. Automated billing keeps track of customers’ accounts, alerting you or customers when payments are due. You can even have an automated billing system that informs you or customers when a chosen payment option, like a bank account or credit card, is running low on funds. When that information uses business automation, you are more likely to continue receiving on-time, in-full payments.
6. Social Media
Long one of the pillars of a strong marketing strategy, social media is a headache to manage. Each social site has its own rules regarding optimal post length, content, schedule, and more, and coordinating between business accounts can be excruciating. Fortunately, you can automate much of your social media marketing efforts; in fact, you can even do so for free using online tools. Though social media management systems won’t generate content for you, they will schedule your posts, respond to basic inquiries, and complete similar routine tasks, so you can focus on other aspects of your business.
Most of the best security measures are automatic, including firewalls, encryption, and antivirus scanning. You can even set your security software to update automatically, bringing you the latest and greatest protection for your business. However, strong security can never be fully automated; you will always need to check in to ensure that your defenses remain sturdy against undetectable threats, like new types of cyberattack and internal human error.
Automation will never fully replace your staff, but the right automated tools will relieve unnecessary responsibilities and give your employees more freedom to improve your business. If you don’t have any automated systems, you should consider acquiring one or more in the coming months.