When you run a small business, it’s easy to get so caught up in the manual, mundane tasks that you no longer experience the joy and excitement of serving customers. But with a little effort, you can rediscover that missing piece of the puzzle. The key is to automate the time-consuming tasks so that you can focus on meaningful ones. Are you willing to give it a try?
Strategies for Better Business Automation
The business world is moving faster than ever before. Rapid technological iteration, fast-to-market products, and quickly changing consumer trends all create challenges for businesses. And if you’re bogged down in administrative tasks and time-intensive processes, you’ll find it nearly impossible to grow, expand, and improve.
While there will always be tasks, processes, and responsibilities that require manual input, so much of what you’re using precious man hours on each day can be automated without compromising quality or output.
Not sure where to begin? Here are some ideas and strategies for better business automation:
Use AI and Machine Learning
“It’s now possible to convert your business metrics into data points and then turn those data points over to an artificial intelligence engine that optimizes many things like price and digital marketing spend,” Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne writes. “Getting familiar with artificial intelligence and machine learning is crucial.”
One way to use AI is to utilize a dashboard tool to automate data organization and analysis so that you can make better real-time decisions. When you have a constant stream of reliable data that’s already organized and assimilated for you, you’re able to make confident and objective decisions. The result is less time spent organizing information and more time acting on it. That’s where the real value lies.
Use the Cloud for Document Collaboration
While virtual collaboration is useful on so many levels, it’s had the unintended effect of slowing down approval processes and communication within many small businesses. Even something as simple as getting a document reviewed, approved, and signed by three or four people can take days. Emails are sent, attachments are downloaded, documents are signed, they’re uploaded again, sent to someone else, and the process repeats. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
One of the biggest advantages of the cloud – at least in a small business setting – is the ability to share files and collaborate. Whether it’s a free tool like Google Docs or a custom solution designed with your business processes in mind, cloud technology can help you avoid the endless back and forth emails and get more done in less time.
Automate Lead Tracking and Nurturing
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the business of selling $10 physical products or $10,000 software subscriptions, you’re competing for leads with every other company in your niche. And whether you’re processing 25 leads a month or 2,500, it’s unrealistic to manually track and nurture them all.
“Manual lead tracking is virtually impossible and you’ll waste a lot of time trying to keep up; it’s one of the most obvious places automation makes sense,” entrepreneur Ian Blair writes.
The good news is that there are plenty of affordable tools to help you streamline your tracking and nurturing of leads. Find one that works for you (and make sure it seamlessly integrates with your existing tech stack).
Outsource Social Media Management
Social media is obviously important, but few small businesses have the time to invest in the proper management of each channel. Granted you find someone who is skilled and trustworthy, you can save time by outsourcing social media management. This allows you to constantly push out content and engage with followers without taking valuable time away from core business tasks.
Zero in on Repetitive Tasks
Want to find additional ways to automate your business processes? Study your business through a microscope and look for any task, responsibility, or process that’s repetitive. Ask yourself, what are we doing multiple times per day – and how much time is it taking?
Once you discover repetitive tasks – and they do exist – you can then find or develop solutions that automate the task and/or perform it better. This frees up time to focus on the things that can’t be automated (like creativity and leadership).
Give Your Business a Boost
Automation isn’t the answer to everything, but it sure can help. As you look for ways to grow your business, consider streamlining your approach to certain tasks and challenges. This will allow you to better allocate your time and embrace new opportunities that propel your business forward.