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Automation for Small Businesses

How often do you end the workday thinking “if I only had a few more hours…”? This is not an uncommon thought for the small business owners who are recovering from the economic struggles of last year. While we cannot stretch time to accomplish all we need, we can find ways to make the time we have work for us. Many small businesses have found greater efficiency by adding one simple practice into their daily workflow: automation. Automating repetitive tasks through digital applications can ultimately save you time and energy. The Zapier 2021 State of Business Automation report confirms how small businesses can benefit from automation in their workflow. Notable takeaways include:

  • 88% of the small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) noted that automation kept them in competition with larger companies

  • 65% of respondents reported lessened stress due to the implementation of automation, 63% noted it helps them fight burnout

  • 66% find that automation has become an essential part of their business workflow


1. Map Out Your Workflow

The first step in determining where automation can help you is mapping out your current workflow. First, start with a macro view of your responsibilities, listing a general itinerary of what a typical day looks like in your business. The above survey found that 94% of respondents claimed to perform repetitive, time-consuming tasks in their position. Identify the most repetitive tasks you encounter (a micro view) and outline the steps to complete these tasks from beginning to end. What are the specific details that are involved in your workflow’s most repetitive tasks?


2. Identify Places for Automation

Using that outline, look at the pieces that could potentially be automated to decrease the administrative pressure on your end. Begin thinking about what pieces of your workflow could be hands-off, giving you more time to spend on the pieces of your job that require more attention. Consider the questions below:

  • What administrative tasks (filing, note taking, archiving) are involved in your workflow?

  • What does your lead generation look like? Do you have consistent messaging that is sent out?

  • What does your follow-up process look like with clients?

For more ideas on what you can automate, check out this article that identifies 25 potential areas of automations.


3. Find the Right Software and Create Automation

There are many different applications created to automate your workflow. There are dozens of applications available that are all aimed at creating a smoother workflow for your daily operations. You may find that you already are using softwares that include automation, you just have not taken full advantage of those features. Does your CRM have automation capabilities to make your workflow smoother? What calendar shortcuts exist when scheduling meetings and assigning follow-ups? Start with the automations you have access to now, and then look at the many options that are available for your use.


4. Review and Repeat

Once you have identified an area that automation can help and have implemented the most helpful software and create the automation, take some time to review what is and isn’t working. There are so many ways to integrate automation into your workflow, and once you begin it will be easier and easier to see places where you could use it.


Let’s look at the above steps in an example:


1. Map Out Your Workflow

WORKFLOW: Following-up with a potential client

1. Attain contact information

2. Archive in office contact database

3. Call with introductory message

4. Archive call notes on contact’s profile

5. Set a reminder to follow-up with email

6. Send Email

7. Add to the new lead email database


2. Identify Places for Automation

Looking at the above workflow, there are a few steps that could easily be done with automation (highlighted), taking the administrative tasks off the employee’s to-do list.

WORKFLOW: Following-up with a potential client

1. Attain contact information

2. Archive in office contact database

3. Call with introductory message

4. Archive call notes on contact’s profile

5. Set a reminder to follow-up with email

6. Send Email

7. Add to the new lead email database


3. Find the Right Software and Create Automation

For this workflow, we will be using HubSpot, the database that hosts the business's current contact information.

1. Attain contact information- NO AUTOMATION

2. Archive in office contact database

Create HubSpot automation that prompts user for questions about type of contact, lead stage, and any other pertinent information

3. Call with introductory message- NO AUTOMATION

4. Archive call notes on contact’s profile- NO AUTOMATION

5. Set a reminder to follow-up with email

Create HubSpot automation that once a call is logged the contact will be sent an email three days later following up on their needs

6. Send email

Create email template in HubSpot that sends from the date listed in the last step

7. Add to the new lead email database

Create automation that once email is sent, the contact is moved to the correct mailing list according to if they did or didn’t respond


4. Review and Repeat

Let’s review what our new automation process has done.


First, it has taken out the need for consistent employee engagement after the initial contact. The above automations have created a specific timeline of tasks that run independently of employee engagement. This is ideal for more general tasks, such as following up on an introduction or sending out general office information.


Secondly, these automations ensure that no contact follow-up slips through the cracks. These automations don’t completely remove the personal aspect of these communications but do allow employees to determine which leads are most responsive and save their time for more engaged clients.


How can automations improve your business’s efficiency? Our team can help you find the right applications to help any workflow of yours function more seamlessly. For more information on how to implement technology to serve your growth, contact us today!


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