It’s every entrepreneur’s dream to build and sustain a profitable business. But instead of growing their wealth, conquering new markets and getting new customers on board, business owners find themselves buried in a boatload of mundane and repetitive tasks that take too much of their time and energy. Top it offwith personal challenges and you’ve got a recipe for burnout.
“Too much to do, too little time.” Haven’t we heard of this a thousand times before?
While being hands-on and all-out is good—after all, it’s your money and your lifelong dream that’s on the line—you should make use of your time wisely because it is something that we can never have enough of. Why work extremely hard when you can work smarter instead?
Why Manual Processing Just Won’t Do
Manual processing takes the fun out of doing business by stressing people out with routine tasks. It is costly and slow, which could lead to inconsistent results and a high error rate. Regardless of industry and your workers’ skills, it will take a great deal of resources to manually key in data, run reports and analyze them on a regular basis. Time spent on paperwork would have been better spent on customer-centric and employee performance management activities that can reap operational and revenue gains.
Fortunately, there is a way for businesses to reduce the inefficiencies and costs brought about by recurring and predictable manual processing: automation.
Automation is simply the process of improving and speeding up workflows and functions with the use of technology coupled with a perceptive mind. It is the answer to pressing concerns of today’s competitive, demanding and complicated marketplace.
Companies don’t have a choice but to find a way to do more with less and with automation, they can achieve just that. Businesses might have a fighting chance after all. They can maximize resources, cut costs, improve business productivity and agility, and provide a range of other benefits that drive growth.
Because of these advantages that automation provides, it’s no surprise that multinational companies such as Frito Lay, Cisco Systems, Emerson and many others have made it a priority.
What Do You Need to Automate?
If you’re convinced that automation is for you, you should identify which area of your business you would want to automate. Here are some that you should consider:
1. Accounting and Inventory
Automated online accounting platforms can help ease accounting woes. From accounts reconciliation, invoicing and expense claims creation, web accounting software such as Xero and FreshBooks can get your finances on track. For a minimal fee, they could also provide inventory management features to help retailers track assets and improve stock control.
Automating accounting processes keeps clients, partners and vendors happy because you can stick to payment schedules and commitments.
2. Data Analytics
Having useful information about your customers and what drives them to spend their hard-earned money on your business is paramount. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software or platforms are a big help in tracking and analyzing important information—your leads, both existing customers and prospects, and their buying behaviors.
A CRM doesn’t need to be expensive. You can always choose a platform that doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles. Cloud-based ones are your best bet. They are equally as efficient compared to on-premise platforms but are more affordable. Most vendors offer CRM services on a subscription and the costs vary depending on the number of users and enabled features. Among these vendors that offer smaller CRM versions is SalesForce. Their SalesCloud offering is priced at $5 per month for a basic CRM to $250 per month for an unlimited version.
If your team is always on the field, choose a mobile CRM like Insightly or SugarCRM. But, if you need to connect to customers using social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook, choose social CRMs like Nimble, Batchbook or BlueCamroo.
Statistics has proven time and time again that marketing automation tools should be a priority investment, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it save companies valuable time and boost engagement, but it also helps generate more business and revenues.
Marketing automation tools are used to systematize and execute multi-channel marketing strategies such as email and social media. They trigger specific internal and external communications based on a predefined set of criteria. Companies can send thank you emails after a consumer buys a product, or send follow-ups upon seeing abandoned cart items, or run promotional emails with coupons for new social media followers. The primary goal is to help companies consolidate data and create triggered communications to sustain and even enhance customer engagement and relationships.
If you don’t have any idea about which marketing automation tool to pick, business software review platform G2 Crowd provides a grid of marketing automation software products segregated into quadrants: Leaders, Contenders, Niche and High-performers. The platforms are mostly designed for the enterprise market, and were evaluated based on customer satisfaction, market presence and metrics. If price is an issue, small businesses can choose simple email automation software such as MailChimp and Vero.
4. Sales and Customer Support
In a study conducted by ClickSoftware, they found that around 86% of participants will stop doing business with a company because of poor customer service experience. Consumers want to feel important but this does not mean they want to be bombarded with data. When they ask for information, companies should be able to reply at the soonest time possible. And while they say price is one of the things that drive them to purchase a product, a satisfying sales experience is ultimately more important.
Customer service is a major element in the sales process. In fact, this “after-sales” engagement translates to either a churn or a repeat sale. To sales directors, it just means that businesses can no longer afford to make errors or deficits. Sales should be able to bridge the gap between the customer’s needs and the processes that fulfill those needs. But with the influx of requests coming in, such as queries from prospects and service upgrades from existing customers on top of managing sales teams, sales directors are bound to fail as customers grow. The tedious task of processing everything without sacrificing anything would be impossible to achieve without automation.
These days, you don’t know when a sale is going to be your last so make sure you’re on the right track by using solutions that help you streamline, automate and standardize your customer support processes. You can explore customer service automation programs such as Zendesk, Groove HQ or Zapier.
In spite of the benefits automation brings, it’s a surprise that some companies still rely on collecting data and running their business using paper-based and labor-intensive procedures. Aside from capturing intelligence data, automation can help repurpose content for efficiency and customization, as well as strategic and triggered content targeting. It’s the only way companies can accomplish more tasks with less time, effort and resources.
If you want to get ahead and keep up with customer and stakeholder demands, it’s time to adopt automation now. Wait a few years more and it might be too late.