For every business, whether large or small, there are times that the workload can pile up until it becomes overwhelming. The more that small businesses grow, the more they tend to experience the ever-intensifying pressure of an increase in production demands as their customer base grows, and even the frustration of having to make changes in the management of their own small business practices.
Try as business owners may, they cannot clone themselves, nor can they overwork their staff members in order to double their efficiency. That would be an exercise in futility.
Enter the goal of automation: work smarter not harder.
Automation in Small Businesses
Many small business owners spend a lot of time focusing on tasks that use up a lot of valuable time; time that can be spent more wisely in other areas of the business. To automate your small business simply means to find ways to rely on technology to automatically perform routine procedures on behalf of your business. It is the most quick and efficient way to save time and reduce your workload. As Jeff Haden of Inc.com has said, “Automation is the only way for small businesses to remain competitive in the future or someone else will automate you out of business.”
The following four areas provide a number of different resources to help you automate specific tasks in your small business:
Graphic Design & Illustration
Tasks such as creating a newsletter or designing banners or graphics for websites can be accomplished by using programs such as follows:
- Canva, a free graphic design website with an easy to use interface.
- Adobe Photoshop, one of the best graphic design tools available. Adobe Illustrator is also a great tool for designing logos and other graphic elements. But both tools require a great deal of time and skill to master.
- Microsoft Word offers a large number of templates that can make quick work of designing newsletters, letterheads, memos, and much more.
Using programs like these, you can easily use and create your own templates that make digital design that much quicker for you as you run your small business.
Handling the finances of the small business is a routine task that involves data gathering and management. When manually, it could possibly take a lot of time. Some recommended programs for this area would be the following:
- Freshbooks is a cloud-based accounting software especially for small businesses that specializes in sending invoices, tracking time, and managing receipts and expenses.
- Openbravo is another cloud-based suite based in retail management.
- Google Sheets is a free online option that allows you to create spreadsheets.
- Microsoft Excel is another great tool for creating spreadsheets and keeping track of data .
Not only can these tools help in the efficiency of the small business, but they also go a long way in terms of reducing human error.
Email and Social Media Marketing
Spreading the word about your latest promos or offers is a task usually completed by the marketing department of your company. This is most easily done when you use proper tools for gathering data from your subscribers or customers.
For email marketing, you may collect email addresses by incorporating forms within your website. It may be through pop-up forms, opt-in forms (located either in the sidebar or at the footer of the website) and possibly through clicking the contact form within the website.
Once you have generated a list of emails, the following tools will become quite useful:
- Mailchimp, a free tool for marketing automation that offers a place to store and categorize your clientele’s email addresses and send out professional emails and campaigns.
- GetResponse is email marketing software that allows you to send email newsletters, campaigns, online surveys and follow-up autoresponders.
- Mailerlite, email marketing software specifically for small businesses.
Through social media marketing, your small business could reach thousands in just one post. To help you automate your social media posts, you may use tools like the following:
- Buffer, a streamlined social media management tool you can use to share updates about your business and keep track of analytics.
- Hootsuite is a free platform you can connect to the majority of your social media accounts. It allows you to create a series of posts that can be scheduled for whatever date and time you’d like.
Automating your marketing posts is a great way of regularly getting information about your small business out to the general public without having to make it a daily task.
Small Business Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
For every business customers are always top priority, whether it be responding to an inquiry in a timely manner or following up on a transaction. It is a pivotal responsibility on the part of the business to cater to every need the customer has.
Some of the recommended systems for small business CRM are as follows:
- Zoho provides smart software for growing businesses that help to attract and retain customers.
- Insightly develops cloud-based customer relationship management and project management tools specifically for small and medium size businesses.
- Salesforce is a cloud computing company that deals with customer service, marketing, and analytics.
Consult Experts in Small Business Automation
At this part of the article, you may yet feel confused about which programs would work best for your own small business. If that’s the case, it’s time to consult experts who are capable of giving business solutions.
Such experts will carefully study your current small business processes and pinpoint any ambiguities. Bringing in a second set of eyes is always beneficial in catching problem areas that you may be too close to see. The expert can bring his or her notes to your attention, and you can decide on the next steps towards getting your small business’s automation techniques on the right track.
Today, the world offers so much technology for small businesses, and one of the ways we benefit from that is through automation. At Tuxedo Impressions LLC™ we always incorporate automation into your small business practices. The efficiency it will bring to your small business as well as your daily routine will be well worth it.
~ Jamara Wilson, Team Tuxedo Impressions LLC™