5 Tasks Small Businesses Need to Automate for Better Productivity
Jock is an entrepreneur and the founder of Digital Exits, who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of small businesses. He has built and sold several businesses himself over the years, and now works as a consultant to those who are looking to get their business off the ground, especially on the web. Find him on Twitter at @JockPurtle.
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We all know that in business time is money. Wasting time on unnecessary tasks, or spending too much time on those that are menial or redundant, can cost a business major money. And when running a small business, you need to make sure each and every minute is used as well as it can be.
Finding ways to make the most of your time is a key way to help your business succeed. Many small businesses will do things such as hire a virtual assistant to help things run more smoothly. This is a great idea. But there is something else a small business should be doing to help things run better: automation.
We know that not everything can or should be automated, but some things are so much better when they are that you need to make the switch now. Let’s take a look at how automation can have a positive impact on your business.
We’ve already touched on how automation can save you money. But there are more reasons to automate. Perhaps the most important is that automation helps free up you and your employees to spend more time on core business activities. It’s no secret that people waste time at work, and this takes them away from their more important functions, which slows down the pace at which a company functions.
Also, a business that successfully embraces automation is going to be more profitable and more valuable, something you should be interested in if you have ambitions to sell your businesses one day down the road. But even if you don’t, know that a business with well-integrated automation is going to run more smoothly and be more attractive to work for and to invest in.
Here are five tasks you could be automating:
Social Media Posting
Social media marketing can be relentless. Often times you are posting multiple times a day across a variety of different platforms. While this might seem like something that might not take up too much time, you’d be surprised. And beyond just how long it takes, remember to post and to share content is one more thing you need to remember to do in your busy day—you don’t want to have to get up and leave an important meeting so that you can post on social media. Services such as Hootesuite are great for this. You set up your posts in advance and then it does the rest, freeing you up to focus on other things.
You can also try Monarch for WordPress, one of the best social sharing add ons for your site. Or check out some other choices for Social Media automization.
Time Sheets and Payroll
This is one thing that can easily eat up hours. Since you want to be 100 percent accurate, you can end up spending way too much time tracking down employees’ or contractors’ hours, entering them into your system and then verifying that they are correct. It is much easier and far more accurate to automate this process. There are apps, such as Timely, that do a fantastic job of this. The entire time tracking process is automated and the app even alerts employees when it is time to submit hours. There are other similar services out there, but finding a way to automate time tracking is a must for any small business.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
This is a big buzz word in today’s business world. The ability to manage new leads, save information and track customer activity so that you can better market to them has become a major function for a wide range of businesses. But as you most likely know, it can also take an eternity, or for some of the more data-heavy stuff, it might not even be possible for you to do alone.
Automated CRM programs will make this process a whole lot easier. Some of them will scan through emails, identifying and saving customer information so that you can access it whenever you need it. Many programs go one step further and track customer activity. This gives you a good idea as to who is buying what from you so that you can pursue the relationship and use it to help generate more sales. Hubstop, Zoho and Spotly are all great options for CRM automation.
This one is a bit tricky, as marketing is not usually thought of as an activity that can be automated. But the truth is that it is rapidly becoming a common practice, with more than 50 percent of companies indicating they use some form of marketing automation. This works great for social media marketing and other content creation. There are places where you can load up images and messages and they will create flashy, shareable content that you can easily send out through your channels.
Automated email marketing is another big one. You can generate emails and send them out to your email list quickly and easily by using an automated email marketing program. This is an area, though, where you will have to find a balance. For automated marketing to work, you need to have a clear strategy so that all you need to do is execute. If you are automating when you are unclear about your overall goals, you may find that this process does not meet expectations.
Gone are the days of sending around then, “when is good to meet?” email. By using programs such as Calendly, you can easily schedule meetings when everyone is free. Automated calendars will also send out invitations or updates, and they will share any necessary documents with the participants so that everyone is on the same page going into the meeting, helping it be more productive and efficient.
In reality, there are tons of things your business could be automating. Take some time to identify areas where you are performing repetitive tasks or wasting a lot of time. Chances are there is a way to have it done more quickly and efficiently, helping you turn your business into an engine of growth and profitability.
About the Author: Jock is an entrepreneur and the founder of Digital Exits, who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of small businesses. He has built and sold several businesses himself over the years, and now works as a consultant to those who are looking to get their business off the ground, especially on the web. Find him on Twitter at @JockPurtle.