You’ve probably heard that expression before: time is money. If you’re running a small business, that probably rings true for you. Every second you spend on tasks that don’t help you to grow your company is a second lost.
Fortunately, thanks to technological innovation and increased accessibility of technological solutions, small and mid-sized businesses can benefit from a range of tools that help to automate many of their daily operations.
By automating particular tasks, you’ll save time and spend it on growing your business instead.
Here are 7 tasks you should automate in your business today.
- Communication with clients and customers
If you fail to automate the communication channels you use to interact with clients and customers, you risk that your relationship becomes less engaging in time.
Instead of reminding yourself to write email follow-ups, you could simply set up an autoresponder service (for example, Constant Contact) to help you deal with all the email communications between you and customers, scheduling the delivery of these messages automatically.
The best thing about the services is that they are completely customizable. For example, if you want to send out a happy birthday notice to people on your sales list that have a birthday in the coming week, you can easily arrange that type of messaging by list filtering and autoresponder management.
- Collecting media and web content
Even if you like to spend your mornings reading the newspaper, you might be losing time.
Instead of spending an hour scanning through articles every morning, you can have everything you want to know delivered to you through specialized apps. That kind of third-party app acts as a media collection system that learns your reading habits and then collects magazine, newspaper and blog articles that you are interested in.
You can only imagine how much time you will be able to save on media consumption every day.
What about web content? You need a smart RSS tool to syndicate your web content easily. You can then use the feed generated by such tools to feed third-party applications such as Twitter feed to post links to that content automatically to your social network sites the moment they go live.
If you’re running a small business you probably write hundreds of emails every single day. Why not use email templates? Email templates are bound to save you plenty of typing time. Create smart form letters or partial forms in which you can fill information. That way, instead of spending time writing emails you send out regularly, you’ll need only a couple of clicks.
You can do that with Google’s free Canned Response service. It helps to automatically create email templates without having to type in anything. All you need to do is set up your templates and set your automation rules that will govern your email communications.
What about email signatures? Practically every email service offers its users the ability to create customized signatures. But if it seems that typing your name takes up way too much time from your day, you can have this information included in your messages automatically. That kind of feature comes in handy if you’re prone to making typos and other errors.
- Marketing activities
All smart owners know you can’t compromise on marketing. Even if it seems that you have zero time to spend on the developing and executing your marketing strategy, there’s no way around it – you simply need marketing for your business.
That’s why it’s a smart idea to use marketing automation software. It will act as another employee in your team. That type of software will give you many ways to automate large pieces of your online marketing.
For example it will help you to create a series of steps for generating leads on your websites, or develop engaging follow-up activities.
Here’s what marketing automation looks like in practice. Let’s imagine a number of customers who visited your website and filled out a lead form to get one of your free downloads. You can easily send them a series of follow-up emails without raising a finger.
- Website login
If you’re running a small business, chances are that you rely on members-only websites for a great deal of services, for example ordering inventory, bookkeeping, or web hosting.
Now take a look and see how much time it takes you to log into these websites. It is a repetitive task that soon gets annoying. And you can imagine how much time you lose whenever you forget your username or password.
Tools that allow for automated login can save you plenty of time by storing all of your login data in one place and using it whenever applicable. Windows offers basic login storage as well as some security software such as Norton 360.
But if you need more help, you can have a look at products like HandyPassword and RoboForm that automatically manage the login process for you.
- Online forms
If you often find yourself filling in online forms with information like your name, address, billing data, and others, you should consider using software that allows users to automatically fill in such forms.
You can be sure that all data is securely stored on your computer and is only called up whenever you need it. That’s how you save time when downloading free materials, signing up for services, or subscribing to email lists.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it for inventory, sales, or lead generation – your business needs reporting. Creating a form template is a smart move. That kind of form will autofill fields from another software program, helping you save a lot of time when you’re dealing with XL spreadsheets or mailing lists.
In each case the automation process will be a bit different, but take the time to learn it and you’ll be able to use that technology efficiently to grow your business. Knowing how to be productive at work is key to making the most of the time you dedicate to your business.
That’s why automation is a smart move. By reducing the amount of time you spend managing these different areas of operation, you’ll be able to devote more attention to a far more important task of optimizing the performance of your team and developing your business
Automate these 7 tasks and you’re bound to save plenty of time that can be used instead to boosting your bottom line and leading your business to success.
With a background in business administration and management, Tess Pajaron currently works at Open Colleges, Australia’s leading online educator. She likes to cover stories in careers and marketing.