Run a Small Business? Here’s What You Should Be Automating
Do you run a small business? If so, there are a number of ways you can improve your marketing performance, simply by automating certain tasks. And with the rise of cloud software in accounting, to the fast-forward growth of digital adoption because of COVID-19, integration of operational tools allow marketers even greater automation and insight than ever before.
You might not have the time or resources to hire a full-time marketer for your business, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have some extra tricks up your sleeve.
When it comes to running a successful marketing campaign without hiring an expert, your best bet is to automate as much as possible. Especially since, according to recent website conversion stats, a whopping 68% of consumers say they have far higher expectations for businesses’ digital capabilities following COVID-19.
These days, with all the online tools available to businesses just like yours, smart automation is easier than ever before. And as long as you know what areas in particular need attention and which tools actually benefit you in real life, any size business can start implementing automation into their workflow today.
Businesses that don’t take a proactive step into automation will not only be left behind, but won’t be able to compete financially with rising operational costs.
Here’s a list of a few things you should consider automating…
- Email Sequences: Delivering a consistent experience is critical in building trust with prospects, which is why it’s important to automate the delivery of relevant content at each stage in the funnel.
- Lead Nurturing: Delivering relevant content at crucial stages in your funnel keeps prospects engaged and lowers the risk of losing a customer.
- Campaign Management: Keeping track of everything from social media promotions, calls-to-action, landing pages, and CRM integrations can make even simple campaigns complicated very quickly.
- Customer support: Customers expect fast replies, and a representative to speak to 24/7.
- Payments and accounting: selling products across different channels can get confusing fast. With automation tools like QuickBooks and WooCommerce, you can get a handle on your funds and invoices, and save time.
Additionally, marketers should be automating day-to-day tasks such as email outreach and lead nurturing, including:
- Repetitive daily tasks, like scheduling and sending emails and social media postings
- Reminders to follow-up with leads and customers who haven’t responded to your outreach effort
- You should also automate the delivery of lead magnets, such as eBooks or checklists, which you can use to deliver additional value to your prospects during introductory email sequences.
Let’s unpack these a little more…
Form emails to lead generation—here’s exactly how automation can help do the heavy lifting.
1. Email sequences
One of the most powerful ways to optimize your business is through email marketing automation. Now that so many people rely on instant online communication, emails are an important way for you to stay in touch with your audience—especially since updates about new products and sales can go out automatically whenever you need them to.
Of course just because it’s automated doesn’t mean there isn’t any work involved: you still need to come up with fresh ideas for blog posts and articles that will interest industry influencers, and you’ll want to work on finding ways to promote those posts through social media. But once you’ve got the ball rolling, an email marketing campaign can mean more sales without adding any extra work for your business.
Instead of manually sending individual emails, you can create a “campaign” that sends different email messages to each type of lead who subscribes through your website form—so if someone fills out the form for your newsletter, they’ll receive only emails related to the newsletter. The same goes for an ebook download—so even though you have a “free ebook” form, you can create a campaign that sends an email with the free ebook to the subscriber, and then a follow-up email a week or so later offering a high-value product.
2. Lead generation
Automating lead and contact management is one of the best ways to start automating your marketing.
If you’re not doing it already, stop manually collecting contact information and start using lead magnets so people subscribe to your newsletter instead. This method ensures your customers always have a place where they can opt-in to receive updates, and allows you to continually nurture a lead, no matter if they are at the top of the sales marketing funnel, or ready to buy at the bottom of the sales marketing funnel.
Just make sure that everything they sign up for is relevant—if they signed up because you ran an ad campaign about helping senior citizens find high speed internet deals, then sending them emails about upcoming sales isn’t going to do anyone any good. No one likes getting irrelevant emails. That means sending timely, personalized content is even more important than usual.
3. Campaign management
Marketing automation doesn’t have to be limited to email or lead gen, either. If you’re having trouble with your social media marketing, apps like HootSuite or SproutSocial will post your updates and messages for you at whatever times work best.
Not only does this help keep things consistent and looking professional; it also saves time by allowing you to pre-write several posts in one sitting and schedule them all at the same time. People like knowing seeing a company active across multiple platforms—so if you can master an effective strategy for automating your social media presence, it’ll be a win.
And there’s the time spent sifting through metrics to see which campaigns are working best… well, marketing automation software does this for you too! You’ll know exactly what strategies are getting the most clicks (or leads), and can make smart decisions on where to put your resources.
This all sounds pretty good right? Marketing automation makes your small business more efficient—it’s hard not to get excited about that. And yet, some people worry that their small business doesn’t need marketing automation because they don’t sell something that’s in high demand. But you don’t need to be selling the newest iPhone (or whatever else is hot stuff) for marketing automation software to make your small business more efficient.
4. Customer support
According to ConversionCow and their latest website conversion findings, current industry standards for average session duration is 2-3 minutes. This means you have that long to help your customer find what they need.
These days, your customers expect you to be available 24/7. But if you run a small business with a few employees, you’re probably already at maximum capacity from the time you open your doors until close.
Unfortunately, that might mean that some of your customers have to wait on hold for 30 minutes (or more) before speaking with someone—and if they call often enough, those minutes add up fast. But with a chatbot, those customers can get answers to customer service FAQs immediately, which can help reduce the amount of time on hold.
In addition, a chatbot can provide consistent responses to common questions that new customers might have about your products/services, which ensures that every customer gets the same answer no matter who they speak with.
And if you’re using web chat software, a chatbot can let new visitors start a conversation without requiring them to email or call in first. In other words, it reduces your support overhead while simultaneously increasing convenience for your consumers—a win-win!
5. Payments and accounts
It’s vital small businesses keep a grip on their accounts. Whether you’re dealing with invoices, billing, loans or taxes, your business needs to be able to easily track the money going in and out.
If you have a growing customer base who might use many different payment methods (such as cash, bank transfers or PayPal), automation tools can manage each one of these transactions for you. WooCommerce and QuickBooks are two popular options for this job—and both can be integrated with MyWorks, alongside Amazon and Paypal.
How to choose marketing automation software
There are plenty of marketing automation platforms big and small. However, not all software is created equal. When choosing your platform, you should consider how fully-featured it is for your company’s needs.
What do we mean by “fully featured?” For example, a simple email service provider (ESP) might be the right place to start if you’re looking for something that can help you send out a regular newsletter or a drip campaign to nurture leads over time. But as your business grows and becomes more sophisticated with its marketing efforts, an ESP probably won’t have enough functionality to keep up—you’ll need a platform designed for much more complex applications than just sending emails one at a time.
Here are some features to consider when choosing marketing automation software:
- Price: as a small business, you’ll want to find marketing automation software that’s affordable.
- Scalability: Some tools are only designed for smaller businesses, while others can support both small and very large organizations. The latter might be a better fit if you anticipate future growth or have an especially complex sales process. You should also look at the cost of additional features within each platform so you know how much more your business will have to pay as it grows.
- More than email: marketing automation provides much more than just options for sending out emails. It can take charge of other time-consuming tasks, too, like creating personalized landing pages, automating social media posts based on the latest blog post you’ve written, tracking leads through different stages in your sales funnel, and much more.
- Mapping out your sales process: You can use marketing automation to track leads through your sales funnel, which will also help you map out the best sales process for your business. For instance, do you notice that most people leave halfway through? Maybe there’s something wrong with the product, or perhaps it doesn’t answer their needs. Optimizing how you present it to them at each stage can greatly boost conversions. You can also send different emails to specific customers based on their behavior—e.g., customers who abandoned their shopping carts might require a special offer.
Tracking all of this activity takes time and effort, so if you’re still handling every aspect of lead acquisition yourself, don’t expect marketing automation software to solve every problem.
It’s still crucial to have a deep understanding of your customers, product and industry. That’ll give you the insight you need to tailor your campaigns effectively—whether it’s finding out which services are popular or what content is generating lots of views or leads. Once you know that information, marketing automation software can help turn data into actionable insights.
The bottom line is that as a business owner, you have enough to stress about without having to waste valuable hours doing repetitive tasks. If there’s something you could be wasting even more time on, why not automate it? It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is—every hour saved by automation should be put toward making your business better somehow.
Automation can also help smaller teams keep their hand in everything, at least to some degree. By developing templates for common customer interactions (such as welcome emails or follow-ups after a purchase) and automating them, business owners free up time to focus on more personalized approaches. Smaller companies may not have a dedicated marketer either, so investing in an automated solution makes sense from a resource standpoint as well.
By standardizing the outreach process, smaller teams have a better chance of scaling efforts and reaching more customers across multiple points of contact. This helps marketers build a scalable approach that fits into their existing workflow without imposing too much overhead.
How MyWorks can help
MyWorks is an all-in-one solution for accounting and payment processing. With a single platform to organize workflow and automate key processes, small businesses have an easy way of connecting their processes across PayPal, Amazon, QuickBooks and more.
Organizing contacts can be challenging for small teams, but MyWorks provides the tools necessary to manage business-critical operations while creating personalized experiences along the way.
If you want to grow your eCommerce business seamlessly, you can schedule a demo call with MyWorks today!
Irwin Hau is the Founder and Director of Chromatix—ecommerce web design agency, based in Australia. With an advertising agency background at 2 of the top agencies in Melbourne, he has analyzed over 60,000+ websites and led his digital agency to amass over 80+ industry awards and mentions over the last 12+ years. Additionally, he runs Irwin Hau—a digital business coaching consultancy that focuses on helping small and medium businesses with full digital transformations by adopting custom designed web tools and cloud integration solutions.