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Here’s what small businesses can automate

3 minute read

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Automation: sounds all very futuristic, doesn’t it? When you think of automation in terms of robotics and artificial intelligence, it calls to mind the stuff of science fiction. The reality is more mundane, but automation can save you valuable time, effort and resources, as well as allowing you to be more consistent and professional in how you run your business. Make your work life easier by automating these aspects of your day-to-day business tasks.

Sales

Bringing in new business is probably your single most important task, at least in the early stages of running your own company. Automation can be a big help in saving time with the tedious admin associated with this, especially when it comes to lead generation. What’s more, it doesn’t just save time; it can get you better results than if you did it manually.

A case in point is LeadCrunch, which uses AI to analyse customers and match the most likely sales prospects to your business, not only saving you time, but claiming to boost your conversion rate by as much as 300%. Another useful tool is Sales Autopilot, which claims to “automate pretty much anything” with no need for coding, including email marketing, managing subscriber lists, texting customers and much more. Hatchbuck is another; it’s designed for small businesses and particularly strong on automating your follow-ups. If you’re on a budget, you could try the free Hubspot CRM to help you organise, track and nurture leads automatically.

Email and social

If you’re running email marketing campaigns, you can’t do much better than good old MailChimp, which automates numerous aspects of your marketing including welcoming subscribers, retargeting visitors with emails or ads, recovering abandoned shopping carts, sending order notifications and following up on purchases.

If social media is part of your marketing strategy, you can also automate your posts on social networks. Apps such as Hootsuite, Buffer and Sprout Social keep your social media channels handily in one place and let you queue up social media posts in advance, posting them automatically at times of your choice.

This saves you time by allowing you to write your posts in bulk without having to log in every time you want to post, as well as letting you schedule posts for the times of day you’ve found most successful in terms of engagement. You’ll still need to monitor the replies, but you can do so at a time that’s convenient for you. The same principle applies to your company blog; queuing up posts in advance and scheduling them in WordPress means your blog can stay updated automatically, even when you’re too busy to publish a post.

Accounting

The financial aspects of running a business can be time-consuming, but some tasks can be automated to save time. If you’re sending out invoices to the same customers for the same amount each month, these can be automated using invoicing apps such as Wave or Quickbooks, which you can configure to send automatic payment reminders so that you don’t even have to chase payments.

What’s more, apps like Quickbooks can automatically track and categorise your income and expenses so that you don’t have to log them all manually. The higher subscription packages on Quickbooks will also handle more advanced accounting tasks, such as calculating and filing VAT, running payroll, managing stock and tracking employee time.

Project management

Project management may not sound like something that can be automated, but for recurring tasks you can use Asana to automatically assign work to staff members, meaning you don’t have to create a task manually each time. It can even send automated reminders to ensure deadlines aren’t missed, as well as keeping you informed with status updates. You could also take the pain out of scheduling meetings by using Doodle, which lets you mark the times you’re available so that people can book in meetings with you, automatically adding the appointment to your diary.

With automation now capable of alleviating the burden of so many everyday business tasks, it’s exciting to realise the time you can save by letting technology do so much of the hard graft for you. When time is money, the benefits to your business – and sanity – are enormous.

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Zoe works as a Content Marketing Executive at the UK Domain. Previously working in advertising and the sporting industry, Zoe has over four years experience in marketing.

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