Automation is a popular buzzword these days, and reports suggest that it’s on track to become one of the keys to success for businesses. According to a Gleanster report, for instance, about 80% of top-performing companies have already been using marketing automation software for two years and obtained positive results. For small business owners, however, the word “automation” itself is often shrouded in mystery. Is it some expensive investment that only big corporations can afford? And does it involve robots that make human workers obsolete? Not really.
First, automation is in no way reserved for large companies. In fact, one of its key benefits is that it empowers small businesses, freeing up employees’ schedules so that they can focus on key processes, not repetitive tasks. Second, automation isn’t a threat for human workers, it’s a helping hand. So, while initially, automation will eliminate certain jobs, especially in fields like manufacturing, new jobs will be created at the rate they are destroyed.
If you’re a small business owner who has been wondering about the real-life applications of automation and how it can specifically help your company grow, here are some examples that will pique your interest.
Inventory management is a crucial part of your business activity, but how often do you find yourself dreading it? And you’re not wrong to dislike it because keeping track of inventory items manually can be a major hassle. Fortunately, you can use online inventory management tools to help you. For example, if you have a small hair salon, the software will give you an overview of your available stock, notify you when you’re running out of a certain product, and tell you which of your products you use the most so that you can order them in larger quantities. This way, inventory management becomes more straightforward, less time-consuming, and you minimize the risk of human error.
2. Marketing and eCommerce
No matter your field of activity, you need marketing to boost visibility and generate leads and automation can be of great help here:
- A business that uses marketing automation tools generate 451% more leads [Source]
- 91% of marketers rated marketing automation tools as vital for the efficiency of their campaigns [Source]
- 76% of businesses that implement marketing automation tools get a return on investment in the first year [Source]
If you have an online store, marketing automation can help you even more by boosting customer engagement, leads, and sales. You don’t have to be Amazon to enjoy these benefits:
- Send automated personalized emails to encourage repeat orders
- Remind customers about abandoned shopping carts
- Send personalized emails with deals and offers based on previous order history
- Send welcome emails, survey & feedback emails, birthday and anniversary discounts
- Keep customers up to date with new product launches or exclusive promotions
One of the reasons why so many customers prefer small businesses is their attention to customer support. However, when you’re understaffed and your employees are struggling to do many things at once, customer support is the first to suffer. Don’t let that happen to your business. When customers are put on hold for more than a few seconds or are unhappy with the attitude of company representatives, they won’t hesitate to look for solutions elsewhere.
Here are some ways customer service automation can help you:
- Chatbots can offer 24/7 customer service, answer simple queries, and put customers in touch with human representatives for more complex requests.
- Automated emails can send updates regarding the customer’s order or query
- Customer support systems can automatically link the customer to someone from the right department, depending on the nature of their request
4. Financial management
One of the biggest mistakes that small business owners make is handling their own finances, using manual processes. Not only is this ineffective and time consuming, but also leaves room for plenty of human errors that can cost you in the long run. As tempting as it may be to act like your own accountant, you still need a pro to help you, and automated financial management tools can prevent many costly mistakes. In the same way that you use the PAMM investment model in Forex to avoid rookie mistakes, financial management automation can help you better organize your finances and make wise decisions based on hard data.
A recent study showed that automation could save financial departments thousands of hours through these critical features:
- Automate bill collection
- Autofill forms and bills securely
- Automate your payroll system
- Connected systems help you get a clear overview of your financials and even estimate future earnings and losses
- Speed up budget approvals and reimbursement claims
When accountants and other staff members have to do huge volumes of manual labor, mistakes are inevitable. By automating these processes, not only can they save up to eight hours a week but also maintain data integrity.
Office management is essential for your company’s productivity, but even in the smallest businesses, these tasks can pile up and become chaotic. Next thing you know, you’re more preoccupied about growth strategies and client retention and more about day-to-day activities and minor issues. To grow your business, you need to stay focused on the big picture and not let repetitive office management duties overwhelm you.
So, what can you automate exactly? Here are a few examples:
- Password managers can keep employee login details secure and avoid data breaches
- Task manager tools simplify workflow and ensure employees know what they have to do so that you don’t have to remind them constantly
- Integrated ticketing systems keep all employee questions in one place so that you can keep track of them and address them as quickly as possible
- Meeting organizer tools let you know what conference rooms are taken so that you can streamline internal meetings
- Automated subscription services can deliver office snacks and supplies regularly, depending on your needs
- Schedule employee meetings and performance reviews
- Manage complaints and in-office issues.