When you built your business, automation probably wasn’t at the top of your mind. You pursued your career because you’re passionate about providing clients with great service, not creating complicated systems and processes. But what if I told you that business automation doesn’t have to be complicated at all, and that it’s actually one of the most powerful ways to provide clients with even better service, grow your business, and spend more time doing what you’re passionate about? Read on to learn how business automation can take your business to the next level, from simplifying workflows to optimizing client onboarding and more.
What Is Business Automation?
If you Google “automation,” you’ll find lots of results about big machines used in manufacturing. Perhaps needless to say, that’s not what we’re talking about here — but it does rely on the same basic principles.
Business automation, just like manufacturing automation, refers to processes that get things done with minimal (or no) assistance from a human. With manufacturing automation, those processes involve physical material and equipment; with business automation, those processes involve digital information.
Let’s look more at business automation and how it works. At its simplest, business process automation is the transfer of information from one point in a process to another. If you look at your typical workflows, you’ll notice that certain steps along the way involve two or more parties exchanging information. Often, one person or group needs to give information to another person or group before certain actions can take place. If this transfer of information gets held up or forgotten about, then productivity is stalled — making these steps the perfect opportunities for business automation!
Let’s take the client onboarding process as an example. In this scenario, your client has information that you need in order to do your work: their goals, guidelines, schedule, materials, etc. Rather than sending lots of emails and follow-ups that bog everyone down and move nothing forward, you can set up a simple business automation that lets your client easily pass the necessary info onto you. Voilà: you’ve saved everyone time and frustration without lifting a finger.
Why Should You Use Business Automation?
Saving you and your clients time and frustration is a very compelling reason to use business automation, but it’s not the only one. I love business automation for a number of different reasons, and truly believe that it can benefit all businesses, big and small.
Some of the top reasons to use business automation are:
- Consistent quality of the results: There are times when human idiosyncrasies are great and desirable and actually make you better at your job. But there are other times when you want to get specific information in a specific manner and format, and consistency is key. In these instances, business automation ensures that you get the results you need.
- Automations are never too busy to get things done: Life happens. We’re all busy, imperfect humans, and sometimes your to-do list is just too long to get to everything on it, or something unexpected comes up and you forget about a task. Automations don’t have these problems.
- Cost and time savings: As the old saying goes, time is money. If you can save yourself time by offloading certain tasks to business automations, you have more time to focus on growing your business. Plus, automations ensure that you don’t lose potential revenue by dropping the ball with clients.
- Instant access to information: As I mentioned, business automations are all about transferring information from one party to another. That means that they capture that important information and keep it in an easily accessible place — no searching through emails or notepads trying to find the info that you need!
How Do You Set Up Business Automation?
Before you can set up automations for your business, you need to identify the steps in your work process that it would make sense to automate. Everyone has different workflows, so it’s important to map out how work happens in your business. Clearly define what needs to happen and in what order, and who is responsible for each component.
Once you’ve drawn your workflow map, note the points in the process where information needs to be transferred from one person or group to another. These are the best opportunities to implement a business automation.
Here’s where it gets a little technical — but just a little, don’t worry! In order to set up business process automations, you’ll need to use different tools. It can feel a bit overwhelming to navigate all the different software options, but the best tools will actually make your life much simpler and more streamlined in the long run.
I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the different tools available for business automations, and have zeroed in on the ones that I find the most helpful. The tools I love are:
- Calendly: Calendly is an appointment scheduling software that can help you automate gathering inbound leads.
- Dubsado: Dubsdao is a customer relationship management software that can help you automate steps like creating contracts and proposals.
- Zapier: Zapier connects the different web apps that you use, transferring information from one to another.
- Integromat: Integromat is similar to Zapier, but offers more advanced customizability, making it a good choice if you’re doing complex automations.
- ActiveCampaign: ActiveCampaign can help you automate various parts of customer relationship management, in particular email marketing.
The last step before you begin implementing your business automations is to consider the format of the information being passed along. Setting up and using automations is much easier when your information is clean and standardized — in other words, everything is in the same format and stored properly, and all extraneous words or data has been taken out. This will not only make it easier to automate, but much easier for you to use!
The Four Types of Business Process Automation Every Service Provider Should Have
There are an endless number of business automations you can set up, and since we all have different workflows, the automations we have are bound to be different. However, there are a few key steps that nearly every service provider, without exception, should automate.
No matter what service you provide or how big your business is, automating the following four steps will save you time and help you get more clients and more revenue:
- Application Automation: Every service provider needs to generate leads to get new clients. But sorting through inbound interest takes a lot of time, and you inevitably end up wasting your precious hours on clients who aren’t right for you. You can set up an automated application system that gathers information from the client and automatically zeroes in on those who are the best fit. In this way, the automation acts as a gatekeeper that guards your time, so that you only devote your energy to your ideal customers. It also allows you to learn more about your customers’ needs and how you can best help them. Take my workshop on setting up Application Automations here.
- Proposal Automation: Too many service providers leave money on the table by never sending a proposal or failing to follow up after a promising call with a client. The reason for this is simple: because drafting proposals and sending follow-ups is time-consuming. If you set up automations that make it as easy as possible to send proposals and follow up, you’ll naturally close more deals. Dubsado is amazing for automating the process of sending proposals — if you have your application process automated and have already gathered vital information from the client, all you’ll have to do is some quick customization before you send the proposal off! You’ll also want to include follow-up tasks in your Proposal Automation. When you consider that it takes, on average, 7 contacts to close a deal, it’s clear that follow-ups are just as important as the proposal itself. Luckily, Dubsado and some of the other tools outlined above make it simple to automate follow-ups as well. Take my workshop on setting up Proposal Automations here.
- Onboarding Automation: When you take on a new client, it’s natural for you to want to provide the best service by handling everything for them. But in reality, you can’t begin until you have certain information from the client. Automating the client onboarding process will keep you out of the way and make it easy for the client to give you the information you need. This automation process will include forms to fill out, sequenced in such a way as to not overwhelm the client — i.e., they won’t “unlock” certain information or requests until they’ve completed certain steps. Onboarding automation can also include setting up recurring meetings and project boards in Asana or Trello. Take my workshop on setting up Onboarding Automations here.
- Offboarding Automation. You don’t hear a lot about client offboarding, but it’s an essential step when it comes to boosting your brand and attracting new clients, as well as protecting your business from future liability. Offboarding tasks include getting testimonials that you can showcase on your website or turn into case studies, as well as gathering feedback from clients that you can use to improve your services. The offboarding process also involves relinquishing access to files and data so that you won’t be held liable for any future mishandling. These tasks are easy to forget once you’ve completed the scope of the project for your client, so having an Offboarding Automation set up is essential for ensuring that you don’t skip this important step. Take my workshop on setting up Offboarding Automations here.
If you’re not super technically savvy (or even if you are) business process automations can feel daunting. But the truth is that setting up business automations is easier than ever and will save you tons of valuable time in the long-run, while also helping you grow your business. Get started with the automations outlined above, and continue to add on as you become more comfortable — or just stick with these four! Either way, you’ll free up tons of time for growing your business and doing the work that matters most to you.
Do you want to learn more about how automations could help your business, or get help setting automations up? Send me a message and let’s talk!
Keep in mind that I may receive commissions when you make purchases from links included here. However, this doesn’t impact my reviews or recommendations. Every product I endorse here I genuinely value and believe can be very helpful for business owners.