Process automation is a necessary part of business at any level because, no matter how big you are, your time (and your staff’s time) is always best allocated to the activities that generate income. However, it’s neither possible nor even desirable to automate all aspects of your operation.
The Next Industrial Revolution?
In 2014, a San Francisco-based robotics company called Momentum Machines unveiled their latest creation: a 24 square-foot robot that can make 360 custom gourmet hamburgers per hour. Customers can choose the meat blend (beef, turkey, bison, etc.), the toppings and sauces, and how they want it grilled. The robot slices the toppings only after the order has been placed, so it’s as fresh as can be. The robot even bags up the order, automatically.
But a real live person still has to load the machine with meat, buns, toppings and sauces. It’s doubtful that those tasks could ever be fully automated, as there are issues like quality control, which can’t be entrusted to a machine.
Momentum identifies itself with “the next industrial revolution.” The original UK industrial revolution of the mid-1700s brought us steam power, mechanized production, and the factory system. Though it had its critics, the evidence shows that it was the first time in history where both population and personal income increased simultaneously.
As someone starting or already running an online marketing business, you can create your own industrial revolution towards the goal of increasing your personal income. But, like the burger robot, you can’t automate every single operation.
One of the primary tasks to automate is your email follow-up. This is the sequence of email messages that will be sent to every prospect who opts into your offer, starting with a “welcome” email that they get right after they sign up.
The way you automate it is with an email autoresponder. Email marketing companies like Aweber, GetResponse and MailChimp have this function. It might seem mysterious and complicated, but when you get an account, you also get access to tutorials that show you how to set it up.
In the early days of my business, I didn’t even know what an autoresponder was. I thought I had to send my follow up emails to my new leads one at a time, every time a new lead came in. I finally figured it out after a few months.
First, you need to create the follow-up sequence (at least 30 emails, though mine is 90 messages long). Then load it into your autoresponder. From there, you can set the timing so that the autoresponder triggers a new message to go out automatically to each new lead every 24 hours or however you want to time it.
You may put a fair amount of work into creating the sequence, but once it’s done, you can automate it and it will take care of itself.
Live Broadcast Emails
Automating your follow-up sequence will save you a lot of time and effort, but you can’t completely rely on it to do all of your marketing.
The follow up sequence will eventually come to an end for each of your leads, so you have to write and send “live” messages to your list as well.
This is not something you can automate or outsource.
After having received 30 (or 60 or 90) emails from you, your list knows you. They know your “voice” and your attitude. If you use video in your message, they really know you. You’ve cultivated a relationship with them and the strength of that relationship is the actual source of your income. It’s far too valuable a business asset to entrust to an outside copywriter.
Even after seven years, I still sit down every day or so and create a live broadcast email that goes to my entire list. It takes about an hour to write.
You simply have to take responsibility for it and do it on a regular basis. Following your automated sequence, you should send your list a new message every day or as often as possible.
Similar to your email follow-up sequence, you (or someone on your team) can automate your social media posts. At MOBE, we create a week’s worth of posts and load them into a social media communication tool called Hootsuite. This tool lets you schedule when each of your messages will be published and on which social media platform. (MOBE uses it to deliver certain kinds of posts to our Facebook groups.) Then it just triggers them at the scheduled time and your posts show up.
Again, you’ve got to create the content, but with Hootsuite (or other similar platforms), you can “set it and forget it” so that you don’t have to be distracted with the tedious and time-consuming task of manually posting social media updates throughout the day or week.
While you’re still running your company alone, one of the smartest things you can do is put your business processes in writing. By this I mean write down instructions on how to do it.
Let’s use Facebook pay-per-click ads as an example. First you learn how to do it. Then you do it until you get good at it. Then write it out: “How to Place Facebook Pay-Per-Click Ads,” and then outline step one, step two, and so on.
I suggest that you always make your documentation as simple as possible, as if it’s going to be used by a fifth-grader. Never take for granted that anyone understands the process as well as you do. Rather, break it down into the simplest possible chunks so anyone can grasp it and act on it.
This isn’t really automation per se, but as you scale up your business, you will begin handing various tasks off to other people. Having clear documentation will eliminate the need to explain how to do it over and over. The person can refer back to your documentation. They can pass it on to the next person who takes on the task. This will free up hours of your time that you can devote to other cash-producing activities.
There are a lot of business processes that you can automate. (Google “business automation software” and you’ll see.) However, to be successful, you must routinely create and send “live” marketing communications to your list. That’s one part that you can’t and shouldn’t attempt to automate.