How much time do you spend every day doing manual, monotonous, and repetitive tasks? How long does it take to enter data into spreadsheets manually? How many times have you sent the same email to different contacts?
A small business owner can get hopeless and give up way easier than you think. At first, everything is exciting and fun. It gets boring after a while. You’d sit at your desk and think, okay, now what? The same stuff? Again? You’ll notice that you are spending valuable time checking repetitive tasks that are killing your motivation instead of focusing on developing marketing strategies and bonding with your customers.
Can you avoid doing these tedious tasks? Of course not. Can you get help? Absolutely.
Most of these daily essential but time-consuming tasks are not even your responsibility. But starting a small business means that budget matters, and most new business owners do not have the resources to build their team on day one. That’s where business automation tools for small businesses step in. Technology is growing and updating daily, and more tools are being developed daily to help small businesses grow. Automation tools for small businesses take care of all the daily, repetitive administrative work, allowing you to do tasks that require your full attention and focus.
Interested? I bet so. But what exactly is business automation? How do you use it? Where and when do you use it? Does it really assist you in running your business?
What in the world is a business automation tool, and how do you find one?
This blog post is dedicated to answering these questions and educating you on how automation tools for small businesses work. I will also introduce you to some of the best free automation tools you can benefit from. So sit back and read on. One of your worst business problems is going to be solved now.
What Is Business Automation?
On December 1, 1913, Henry Ford created the very first form of business automation. He knew he had to build his Ford Model T cars more effectively. He innovated the first moving assembly line to mass-produce an entire automobile. How does building cars relate to saving time on repetitive tasks? He managed to reduce the time it took to build one car from 12 hours to one hour and 33 minutes.
His innovation inspired companies to take automation more seriously. That led to developing what we now know as business automation software and tools. Business processes are a series of activities that lead to achieving a specific goal. Each process has a particular workflow. These workflows are repeated every time a lead enters your sales funnel; An email marketing campaign is launched, you hire and onboard a new employee, and even when you sign a contract with a business associate. These activities do not truly need human supervision, which means they can be done automatically. Business automation tools for small businesses use technology to automate and manage day-to-day tasks that are otherwise handled manually.
In their 2018 report on automation, Forrester noted that business automation can cut up to 90% of operating costs. Simply put, business automation minimizes costs, increases efficiency, and streamlines business processes.
Why You Should Automate Your Business
Business automation tools for small businesses help automate tedious tasks. But how exactly does that affect your business? Automating your daily workflow can be an advantage in different aspects of your work life. For example, you can spend the free time it provides on a daily basis on communicating with your leads to build trust and improve your customer relationships. Let me get into details so you can better understand why you need to automate your business:
When you assign complex manual processes to digital solutions, multiple tasks will be managed simultaneously. For example, when done manually, communicating with a client to set up an appointment and send them a contract can take weeks. Deciding on an appointment time that works best for you and your client takes a lot of phone calls and back and forth emailing. Sometimes you might even forget to respond to an email on time. A business automation tool automates the process of sending emails and booking appointments at the same time while reducing human errors.
Using physical papers to document and keep records affects the security of your company and clients’ information. Paper documents are highly prone to be stolen, corrupted, or even destroyed in unforeseen circumstances (for example, natural disasters like fire, flood, and so on). Automating your documentation processes adds security factors and safeguards your most confidential information. A business automation tool lets you store and manage documents digitally with higher levels of security like two-factor authentication and multilayered passwords.
Increased operational efficiency
When you assign tasks to business automation tools for small businesses, you don’t need to worry about the task being done correctly or check the process from time to time. The system will manage all the supervision for you. Business automation tools also have the ability to identify and correct errors within the operation. That results in higher efficiency and less effort from you or your respective employees. When your processes are automatically done, and your company is running more effectively, the overall performance of your whole team will improve significantly.
If you do a little research, you will find out that the most successful businesses – no matter the industry – are the ones that use business automation software. One cool feature of business automation tools is the ability to set reminders and alerts on upcoming tasks and to-dos to update your team. If you do have employees working in different departments, business automation can create a better link between your team members and also free up time for internal communication and employee relationship building. You will have more efficient time to sit down with your team for brainstorming sessions and idea generation meetings.
Enhanced service delivery
Your customers are your most valuable asset. That is why the experience they have with you must be one of the most important matters of running your business. Business automation helps with time management and delivers tasks faster than you can manually. Since business automation tools are taking care of your repetitive tasks, you can turn your attention towards your customer relationship and building trust. These two factors result in your business consistently meeting company goals and improvement in the buyer journey your customers experience when purchasing a product or service from you.
Significant cost savings
Small businesses and new startups are usually on a budget. That means that as a business owner, you can’t afford to waste resources when doing manual tasks or simply hiring employees to assign these tasks to. Business automation tools can benefit your pockets by eliminating resource waste and automating tasks for which you need extra hands (and brains). Saving bucks like this will also result in a higher profit margin that you can reinvest in your business. Simply put, business automation tools will utilize your resources in the most optimal and cost-effective way.
I know I have already mentioned this, but I cannot stress enough how business automation reduces manual errors. No matter how skilled and professional you and your employees are, mistakes will occur from time to time. Slip-ups, delays, inefficiencies, and for god’s sake, grammatical errors from typing the same email over and over again are all human errors that will happen. You shouldn’t underestimate the effect these tiny errors have on your business image. How to prevent them? Automate your workflow. Business automation dramatically decreases the chances of these errors occurring.
Automating business processes gives you the time to focus on progression through different steps of the process. Monitoring automatic workflows gives you insights into how each activity is done in the process. These insights will show you where you have room to improve your process and what steps can be done more effectively or are even unnecessary and can be eliminated. Being able to analyze and improve your workflow is an opportunity to smooth out rough edges and streamline your workflows effectively.
Let me start by giving you an example. A customer reports a bug in a digital service you are providing. Your support agent sends the ticket to the IT department and assigns it to a team member. The IT team member fixes the bug and reports back to the support agent. The support agent finally communicates back to the customer and reports the bug fix. How long do you think this process will take? Each employee on your team has their own habits and ways of doing tasks. They each also have other tasks they have to take care of. A business automation tool can bring harmony to the workflow and standardize your processes, so your team members have the time and resources to prioritize tasks and work effectively.
Improved employee morale
Using business automation tools for small businesses can increase employee morale. As I just mentioned, automation allows your team to get work done more efficiently. Approvals will happen faster. Employees don’t have to waste time waiting and reminding their managers. Business automation creates transparency in processes. This allows high-performing employees to get the recognition they deserve. The time freed up by automating processes also allows employees to innovate and improve the work they are assigned to.
5 Best Business Automation Examples
You now know how business automation tools can benefit your business. The real question is, what exactly can you automate? Almost all of the tasks done in a day can be automated. Have you ever received a reminder about an online shopping cart you abandoned? That’s automated. How about the birthday email and coupon from your favorite restaurant? Again, automated.
Only tasks that require your brain to work need your manual help. Don’t believe me? Here is a list of 5 important tasks you can automate with business automation tools for small businesses:
Responding to email contact requests
As a small business, it is highly critical to have different means to generate leads. One of these ways is through the “contact us” form on your website. You will be getting a massive amount of emails daily. The most important factor here that initiates your sales process on the lead that contacts you is responding almost immediately. Waiting even 30 minutes to respond to an email can decrease the chances of catching that lead. Now, I have a question. How many emails can you answer in a day?
It is humanly impossible to respond to two emails at the same time. Now think about a higher amount. Let’s say 30 emails coming in every 3 hours. The only way to respond immediately to these emails is to have 30 employees sitting just to respond to emails. Can you afford that? No small business owner can.
A business automation tool will respond to emails on your behalf immediately after an email is submitted. All you need to do is to write the email template. Use RunSensible as your business automation tool to create a web-to-lead CTA on your website, and then define the automation workflow to respond to emails as soon as they are received.
Assigning leads to sales reps
Your automatic email response was sent, and now you have a new lead. You have to assign this lead to a sales rep. People who contact you through phone calls have to be assigned to a sales rep as well. Yes, phone calls are a great start to building a relationship with your potential customer. But, the phone call itself needs a sequence of actions afterward, or the lead would be lost as soon as you hang up.
To define and execute this process, you can use RunSensible to store lead contact information during the phone call. Once the call is over, assign your new lead to a sales rep, and the tool will alert the respective sales rep to contact the lead. Meanwhile, you can also define an automation workflow that sends an introduction email to the lead after the phone call.
Let’s say the email is scheduled to be sent 5 minutes after the call. This way, your potential customer will think that the sales rep is contacting them as soon as they are informed about the lead. Your potential customer will be impressed by your customer service even before your sales rep starts working.
Capturing leads by creating free content
You can’t just offer a product and wait for customers to come to you. You have to create a lead magnet that would draw potential customers to your sales process. One effective sales magnet is free content. You can create and offer free content like ebooks, templates, PDF files, and videos.
Good business automation tools for small businesses like RunSensible can help automate the process of capturing leads by offering free content. The tool allows you to create a form on your website. Promote your free content and ask viewers for contact information like email. Once a lead fills out the form, the tool will automatically email them your free content. This way, you are offering valuable resources to people while also building an email list.
Using RunSensible, you can assign tags to the leads that come through by requesting free content. This allows you to know how effective your lead magnet is when they proceed in your sales funnel and make a purchase.
Setting a workflow for your sales pipeline
Your sales pipeline consists of a series of steps a lead goes through to convert into a buying customer. As I mentioned before, automation can help standardize your sales pipeline. Doing so will help your sales reps guide leads through your sales pipeline and ensure no potential customer is lost during the process.
Even before using business automation tools for small businesses, you do have a sales funnel. An automation tool will organize and streamline your sales pipeline. When the pipeline is organized and clearly defined, you can guide leads from one step to the other consistently while knowing exactly where each lead has to move on to next.
Let’s have a view of how RunSensible’s automation tool works through a basic sales pipeline:
A new lead has been generated. When a new lead is added to your list, the tool will assign a sales rep to contact the lead.
The lead moves on to this step when a sales rep contacts them. If the phone call goes through and communication begins between the lead and the sales rep, the lead will proceed to the next step. If the lead does not answer the phone call, the tool will send an automatic follow-up email.
The communication between the sales rep and the lead goes on. Your sales rep will understand the lead’s problem and needs and offer your products or services as a solution, telling them how your business can solve their problem.
The lead moves to this stage when your sales rep is confident that they are ready to make a purchase. The rest of your sales process starts from here. There will be actions that you can automate to determine wins and losses, as well as leads who are still not ready to be qualified.
Engaging with prospects who are not ready to buy yet
Some leads move quickly in your sales pipeline and make a purchase. Some other leads, however, do engage with your business but will not make a purchase. These leads need a specific type of attention. You need to nurture them until they are ready and confident to buy from you.
You can automate a lead nurturing process. Automating the lead nurturing process allows you to stay in touch with your prospects without needing to remember to do so. It will also ensure that no prospect will slip out of the sales funnel. When a lead is identified as one who needs nurturing, you can automate the process of sending emails (for example, monthly) to slowly push them in your sales funnel towards closing a deal.
You can choose to send emails with educational content, telling the lead how your business can help them, you can answer common questions they might have, and set up CTAs if they like to contact your sales reps. With automation, you can define a new workflow where the tool reminds you to contact them if they click on your CTA.
These were just 5 of the business automation tools for small business use cases. With automation, there is an endless pool of opportunities to elevate your business and manage your time.
4 Free Business Automation Tools for Small Businesses
Now that you know all about business automation tools let’s find the ones that you need. There are different tools offering different sorts of workflow automation. Deciding on which one or ones to choose thoroughly depends on how much of your daily work processes you need to automate. I gathered a list of the 4 best free automation tools that I believe can help you out in all aspects of your business.
As you have noticed, I mentioned RunSensible in the last section quite a few times. RunSensible is not just one of the business automation tools for small businesses; it’s the business management solution you need to run your business. With RunSensible, not only can you automate different workflows, you get CRM, email marketing, business phone line, invoicing and payment, opportunity management, project management, an online calendar, and so many more cool features.
RunSensible is an all-in-one solution designed to help startups and small businesses grow. You can manage your daily tasks and market your business. You can monitor lead behavior and define different sales, job, and opportunity pipelines. Apart from all these fantastic features at your service, the automation solution RunSensible provides allows you to automate every single task in your CRM, customer support, marketing, operations management, and onboarding of new employees.
RunSensible also allows third-party integration. You can import all your documents from Google or Microsoft. You can access your Gmail inbox and send outgoing emails from RunSensible’s dashboard. Basically, everything you need is gathered in one tool with an intuitive, user-friendly surface.
Zapier is like a huge directory of apps that come in handy when you run a small business. The reason why I say a huge directory is because Zapier supports more than 5000 apps to this day. Now, what exactly does this directory do? Zapier links all the apps you need and allows you to define automated interactions between them.
For example, you can use Zapier to save attachments in Gmail to Google drive. You can tweet your blog posts on Twitter as soon as you publish your blog post. Let’s make it a bit more complex. You can save new Google Docs to Google Drive and then back them up in Dropbox.
Zapier allows you to create automations like this to decrease the amount of time you do manual shifts between apps and spend your time actually running your business.
No matter how big or small your business is, if you’ve been in the market for years or just starting out, you need to produce content for your website and social media channels daily. Writing content on a large scale is dangerous because of one simple mistake that can basically destroy your brand’s image;
Grammarly is an automation tool that finds all grammatical errors in your copy and suggests the correct formats for them. But checking spelling and grammar issues is not everything. Grammarly suggests improvement in your writing based on the information you give the tool. When you first add your copy to Grammarly, the tool will ask you to set goals. These goals are options about your audience, formality, domain, and intent. Grammarly also scores your writing based on the goals you set. This gives you the ability to test yourself and learn from the tool to improve your writing skill.
As your business grows, your income and expenses increase. To manage the money that’s bouncing in and out of your business, you need an accounting solution. Xero is one of the business automation tools for small businesses that focuses on automating accounting tasks.
Xero can help automate tasks like invoicing, scheduled payments, cash flow management, and so much more. You get all the features you need to manage your money all from Xero.
Automate everything with RunSensible
Using business automation tools for small businesses, you don’t need to put valuable time and effort into repetitive daily tasks. Automation is like a virtual assistant. All you need to do is to tell the tool what you need and watch it deliver results.
RunSensible not only automates every single task in all aspects of your business, but it also offers valuable features that, together with automation, help increase efficiency and revenue.
Contact us to request a demo or sign up to use our 14-day free trial and test RunSensible for yourself. You are going to love it!
What are the advantages of business automation?
The most important automation benefits are reducing time, effort, and expenses significantly.
Is automating business processes free?
This purely depends on the business automation software you choose and the automation services they offer. Some handy tools like the ones mentioned in this blog post are free.
What are the different types of business automation?
There are four different types of business automation:
- Basic automation
- Process automation
- Advanced automation
- Intelligent (AI) automation