Think of all the daily tasks your business requires to function properly. How many of these tasks are done manually on spreadsheets, by entering data into the computer or through generating individual responses to customers? These repetitive duties can eat up time and bog down a business.
Imagine implementing an app and with the push of a button all your tasks were completed in little time with less effort. Not to mention, the app followed up, scheduled the next marketing email, and tracked useful data that resulted in sales. This is all possible.
Apps have become a necessary part to running an efficient business. These are not finger foods served at cocktails parties, but computer programs built for automating daily tasks. If your small business relies on you to do much of the work at the very least you should consider automation for bookkeeping, a payroll tax and sales tax system, email marketing, and meeting scheduling with automated follow up reminders.
What is automation for small businesses?
Automation is the implementation of a computer application or subscription to a service that streamlines workflow and accomplishes tasks that a person would manually have to do. The days of switchboard operators asking how they can direct your call are a simple example of what automation has become. Now it’s an electronic voice giving you a list of choices and numbers to push for service.
Does automating really save money?
The goal of automating is to simplify your business. Through automation, a company can reduce effort, time and the costs required to do manual tasks. By freeing up staff, more time can be spent on primary goals that move the company forward. Not only does automation save money it can drive up revenue, complete repetitive tasks faster, at higher quality and without human error. Automating can help with the following:
- Reduce operating costs by saving time and labor costs
- Reduce factory lead times with systems that keep production on schedule
- Improve shipping times and costs
- Increase returns on investment (ROI) rates by reducing operating costs. Efficiencies in labor expenses means less overhead.
- Create the ability to compete globally
- Streamline communications. Plan meetings, set task reminders, follow ups, and work schedules
- Reduce the need for accounting personnel
What processes or things should I automate?
In the Sci fi thriller Independence Day, a giant green-eyed creature sat in the control room of a spacecraft and pushed a single button to launch thousands of ships to invade earth. You don’t have to be an alien creature to instantly launch thousands of online marketing campaigns across all social media platforms. Nor does the result have to be scary. There’s an app for that and you can even add a smiley face to your message if you like. Check out these aps for email marketing:
Take time and review all the manual tasks that your company performs. Look for areas where you can make changes. Consider the following:
- Bookkeeping especially if you are still doing this manually on a spreadsheet
- A payroll and accounting app like QuickBooks or a payroll service company with online automation that sends your data for them to process.
- Invoicing and collections. Keep your cash flow moving with automatic payment due notices that allow customers to pay via credit card, PayPal, Zelle or Venmo.
- Sales tax collection and payment, especially if your business sells in multiple states. Check out taxjar.com
- Social media and email marketing apps with a scheduling tool that can launch campaigns across all platforms at once
- Drop shipping and warehousing automation for manufacturers or print on demand companies
- Sales and order processing apps or outsource to companies with data and processing services
- Task management system with follow up reminders and scheduling. This may also include an intercompany communication system
As with any suggestion, do your research and as always do what is best for your company.
Top automation tools for businesses:
If you are looking for some proven, great automation tools for your small business, we’ve compiled a list.
*Of course, we don’t endorse or recommend which apps and which automations to use for your business, the following is only intended to get you started and is in no way a complete list:
- Zapier can automate your work across 5,000 + apps
- IFTTT is like Zapier. Use this to create automations between apps so you don’t have to bounce around
- Activecampain for advance email marketing
- Hootsuite or buffer are social media essentials
- Calendly A simple automation tool that cuts out back-and-forth emails for scheduling meetings, phone calls and other appointments with email links to a calendar system (we use that here, at Paris SBDC)
- Xero As your business grows your accounting needs increase. Xero can minimize the workload otherwise handled by an accounting department
- Constant Contact Great for emails, newsletters and keeping customers up-to-date
Are you considering switching a few of your small business tasks to be automated? We can help you evaluate and decide the best processes and automations to have. Contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area: Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.