Running a small business can be a testing time for new entrepreneurs. There’s just so much to learn about so many different things that many business owners get overwhelmed under the effort. Many get caught up in the nitty-gritties of keeping the business going that they have little or no time to work on innovating on their core product. This is the stage when a business starts to stagnate.
Don’t get caught in the trap of mundane tasks that can be easily automated. Pick up easier ways of doing non-core tasks and consciously carve out spare time for you to focus on taking your business to the next level.
Begin with these functions that can easily be automated, with results that are often more efficient than if you handled them manually.
Attracting users and guiding them through the sales funnel efficiently can requires a personal touch for sure, but there are things that can be automated here so you don’t miss out on key potential customers while wading through the deluge of leads acquired. Managing contacts, keeping track of their sales potential, maintaining a personal relationship with them all require immense amounts of work.
Use tools like Insightly or Zoho CRM that capture user records, their on-site activities, qualify them into viable leads and progress them through the sales funnel. These tools integrate with your Gmail or MS Outlook accounts and create a unified view of all your contacts, customers and leads. They let you manage your tasks and your calendar, enables you to auto assign and track automatically the tasks assigned to the members of your team. You can even automatically integrate social profiles of your leads and customers to know important details about them.
All this automated data at your fingertips frees up your time and helps you improve your sales pitch to each potential customer, leading to better conversions.
It is a well-known fact that customers respond better to timely communication from brands. Personalized display ads have a CTR that’s 10 times higher than traditional ads. In case of email marketing, triggered emails have open rates that are four times higher than regular emails.
Traditionally the process of sending out personalized, time bound communication – via email, PPC ads or even social networks – has remained underused because of the amount of effort involved in the whole process.
With automation now stepping in, you can send out targeted emails to customers based on specific actions like a welcome email when they register with you for the first time, a reminder email in case they abandon their shopping carts mid-shopping, etc. Your involvement in the whole process is almost zero, except for the initial set up time.
You can set up similar automation for your social networks, retargeting ads, even offer dynamic on-site personalization based on user behavior. Tools like Monetate (display) GetResponse (email) Personyze(website) help you target specific user behavior and strike when the iron is hot to maximize conversions. The best part? It’s all automated, so you don’t have to worry about it constantly.
Managing inventory is a critical though tedious process in every business that sells physical products. Throw more than one distribution platform into the mix and you have utter chaos on your hands. Tracking what sold in-store vs. what sold onsite vs on your mobile app and so on is more than most inventory teams can handle efficiently.
Staying on top of inventory and product catalogs across platforms is a piece of cake with ecommerce integrated tools like Shopify’s web based POS system. Not only does it sync your inventory across all platforms in real time, it also manages payments across multiple platforms, lets you track customers from all platforms in one single dashboard, even offers detailed analytics per item to help you improve your sales and marketing efforts.
Invoicing, Accounting and Payroll
Unless you have a dedicated accounting and payroll team in place, most business owners grapple with the alien world of financial instruments, taxation, salaries, the works. Creating and sending out invoices on time and sending out payment reminders to creditors is another productivity black hole.
Do yourself a favor and lighten the load of having a full-fledged team or an expensive outsourced accountant just to manage your company’s finances. Switch to a simple and intuitive accounting and payroll software such as Xero that offers you all the power of an accounting team without the associated costs and management hassles. It lets you create and send out purchase orders and invoices to customers, sync your bank accounts together into Xero, manage payroll and taxation for your employees, even schedule payments to suppliers and manage your cash flows automatically.
Keeping track of every business lunch receipt, the receipts for every car you rented on your business trips or worse, manually approving the business expenses made by your sales teams are dreaded time wasters in any business. However tedious it may be, it’s something that’s unavoidable and involves a series of functions that are typically manual – tracking, reporting, saving receipts, making payments and integrating them with your financial records.
Stay on top of all your business related expenses with tools like Concur or Insperity Expensable. These tools help you collate your business expenses, set spending limits for your team, automate expense approvals and payments for your team and get a bird’s eye view of all your expenses in one place.
To wrap up
A small business has enough things that need immediate attention at any given point of time to have spare time for activities that can easily be automated. It’s a good idea to minimize direct control over whatever functions that you can if it means you have more time to focus on your core business process, while still performing the automated functions at high efficiency levels.
Do you automate any other non-core functions that make your overall business easier to manage? Share your thoughts and spread the love!