We are talking about automation, technology, AI and Machine Learning, and the future seems bright. However, when we shift the focus from big corporations to small businesses, it becomes apparent that changes haven’t penetrated SMBs quite as much. It’d a miss-out because automation is the key growth driver for small businesses. Gleanster’s survey showed that small businesses achieve 7 times more growth even by automating only their marketing. Imagine what these numbers could’ve been like if they introduced algorithms to other fields of work.
7 processes that small businesses automate right now
Small and medium businesses often work with limited human resources. One-man teams can’t accomplish fast growth - there’s only so much you can do in a day. Even 5-10 people teams are quickly overwhelmed with the amount of internal and external communication, management, documentation, and marketing. By automating these 7 aspects of your work, you can make your business grow in a week and free days worth of productive time.
HubSpot, a known authority in content marketing and digital promotion, discovered that companies that post 16 texts per month get an increase in traffic of more than 3,5 times. When you post a lot, the number of website visitors increases proportionally. Providing a high-quality article regularly is hard. It’s work that often requires a department. You can save time by using tools like Slack - an automated service that looks for content topics based on interests, locations, social media statistics.
Automate recruiting process
Creating job offers, dealing with hundreds of CVs, and contacting applicants sounds like a lot of work because it is. However, a lot of companies are inefficient in this process. Few owners know that you can automate the hiring process with tools like HackerRank. This software analyzes professional tests of developers, collects best offers, and contacts the most prominent candidates.
Business online security
Cybersecurity isn’t a priority for any small business. You handle tasks at hand - processing orders, keeping up with documentation, contacting clients, and dealing with internal management issues. It’s easier to rely on built-in security methods of your hosting provider - even considering that you likely never verified the quality of these practices. Instead of pushing security below on your priority list, you can automate your digital security. Darkface is a machine-learning tool that detects suspicious attempts at access and offers smart solutions. Even business owners with no knowledge of software development and testing can understand these actionable insights - although you might need independent tech consults from time to time.
Customer relations system
CRMs have already become a buzz-technology for many businesses, but the statistics aren’t so sure. CRM usage increased to 74%, which is an optimistic figure, compared to last year’s 54%. However, there are still 26% of businesses that don’t use these tools to keep track of their clients. If your business is one of these, you are falling behind, while competitors deliver to their customers a better experience. CRMs are irreplaceable for keeping track of communication activities, daily tasks, automating lead generation and keeping track of conversion, and improve customer satisfaction. You can try out popular options like Hubspot or Capterra if you are just starting.
25% of companies have already switched to automated digital tools, but 25% are still using manually edited timesheets. These are the two most popular ways to track employees' time - and the first one is the trend. Apps like Timely and Hubstaff make it easier than ever to record logged-in hours, manage projects and tasks, and receive automated reports on each employee’s track record. A lot of these programs offer free basic plans, perfectly enough to accommodate the needs of small businesses. You aren’t risking anything, but rather, winning a lot of time and driving increased work efficiency.
Email marketing and business communication
If you are still checking and answering emails automatically, you should know that it’s not the only way anymore. Fast email responses improve customer satisfaction and are the key conversion factors.
Applications like ActiveCampaign allow collecting people's contacts for newsletters
Mailchimp provides a full set of tools, needed to create, automate, track, and manage email marketing campaigns.
For personal and professional communication, you can use tools like Zapier - it notifies you every time there’s an email from an important contact via Slack.
Automate financial and business management process
Each business owner has heard an indefinite amount of times about the importance of recording revenue and expenses. However, only a few turn it into a system that can be sustained on a long-term basis. You don’t have to be a professional in Excel and accounting to still be efficient with finances - as long as you use the right tools. Neat is an application that scans your business and personal receipts, records personal and professional expenses separately, documents spending dynamics, and provides suggestions for more efficient management. Programs like QuickBooks allow automating accounting documentation and creating numeric reports for the entire team.
Why should your business consider automation?
A lot of business owners prefer not to bother with automation because it takes a while to set up, and the results seem to be abstract and far-fetched. Yes, it could the problem in the early days of automation - now the tools are free and simple due to increasing competition on the software market. So, here are the main 5 benefits of automating the business processes that you can get for free and experience right after introducing technological solutions.
Automate to save money
Automating reduces the need to pay for an additional set of hands. If you thought you need an editor to your marketing department to look for topics and analyze competitors, it might not be the case. These tasks can easily be automated - so your editor can be engaged in strategic tasks and actual content creation. The same principle works with any business task.
Automate to save time and build a system
You saw this one coming, but it’s true - automation is the key competitive advantage these days when companies need to be the first ones to introduce new solutions and reach customers. You can contact clients, develop and test software, track your employee’s efficiency, and run email marketing campaigns simultaneously - because the software will be the one working. All you need to do is focus on the quality of your services and products.
Automation leads to increased business productivity
Automation doesn’t only lead to work being completed faster. It’s also done better. Human error is an issue in many business fields - accounting, software testing, management, time tracking, documentation. Automated tools don’t get tired or sleep-deprived. It doesn’t matter if you task the software to compile 5 or 10 reports - they will all be done by the same standards. Now that we also have increasingly more powerful AI algorithms, these reports will look just like the human ones.
Automation delivers consistent performance in many processes
When you are juggling many tasks simultaneously, building a methodical approach is hard. Your work turns into random spikes of work: you can spend the entire day doing digital marketing and ignore the website bugs altogether. But then, you will forget about marketing for a month. With such ups and downs, it’s hard for your team to achieve anything substantial. The software, on the other hand, can be active all the time. You have to set its performance settings and track the progress - while you can keep up to date with other tasks.
Automate to make employees happier
No team member likes to do manual repetitive work that brings no immediate results. Writing reports on logged hours, collect data for documentation, manually configuring email campaigns - all these tasks require high amounts of click-and-press work. It can and should be automated - so your employees can focus on productive, creative tasks. Google found that such work is much more fulfilling to their team members, and all mundane tasks, therefore, are quickly automated.
Conclusions: now is the time to automate your business process
It’s tempting to think that only big corporations can introduce smart digital technologies to their work processes. However, medium and small businesses are the ones to close off from modern trends - busy business owners just don’t have time to review the actual efficiency of their daily work. In reality, it’s possible to bring automation to all these fields in over a month - you can start with communication and marketing since these directly deliver customers better experiences. Sure, your business will have to invest a couple of days to get all the tools set up, but ultimately, your business will be equipped with long-term systems. Already in the next month, you will see sustainable and measurable results.