By Larry Alton
If you peer into the future of small business growth and tech trends, you'll see tips on topics ranging from responsive Web design to richer website animation. Among the most important of these trends, you'll find business processing automation. This is a powerful tool that makes it possible for businesses to streamline the growth of their business through reduced overhead and increased customer satisfaction.
According to Jeff Haden of Inc.com, automation is the only way for small businesses to remain competitive in the future. Haden states that if you aren't willing to take the time to automate now, "someone else will automate you out of business."
Many tasks within a business structure are vital but also quite time consuming. This poses a major problem for small business owners who lack the manpower or ability to pay for extended man hours. Automating your business processes is the solution, and with these seven small business automation tips will help you turn your business into a well-oiled, productivity machine.
Small Business Automation Tips: Start Small
Automating business processes rates as a pretty significant change for your business; it's best to ease into it slowly. Begin by automating your smallest, easiest process. Haden uses the example of Automic, (formerly UC4), a process automation company. It helped one of its customers to reduce the time it took them to provision new smartphones from 20 minutes to two minutes.
Focus on just one time-sucking process that you can improve, and then move onto another function. It's always smart to start with a process with a high ROI. It gives you the absolute best results from maximizing your efficiencies. After a few successes, you'll be well on your way to a culture of streamlining operations.
Small Business Automation Tips: Reduce the Number of Processes
Automation can reveal business processes that you can do without. Oftentimes, automating a task consolidates several processes into one. It becomes evident that tasks you previously believed played an integral role in your business structure actually only supported a more important process.
Once you automate that process, the other supporting processes become obsolete. In terms of finances, time, and manual labor, this step will save you significantly.
Small Business Automation Tips: Build an Automation Culture
Humans don't always feel kindly toward automation. When companies start automating, many employees worry it will push them out of a job. In reality, automation can remove some jobs, but it will also create other jobs. It develops an all-around culture of higher efficiencies and higher-paying jobs.
When speaking to employees about why they should appreciate automation, point out how the system will benefit the employees. As long as you can get employees on your side, in-house automation will be a breeze.
Small Business Automation Tips: Hire Automation Experts
After a certain point, the automation process will become too much for you and your current employees. You'll have to bring in outside automation experts who can analyze each of your business processes and find ways to increase those efficiencies.
These outside experts bring experience that can boost your leadership initiatives and help your employees to see the big picture. Organizational change as vast as this requires some expert attention, even if it means adding to your team from the outside.
Small Business Automation Tips: Rely on Automation Tools
The benefits of automating in today's society are that you have a large collection of tools at your disposal to complete the process. From automating your digital marketing presence to facilitating your customer service needs, having the right tools makes the procedure simple.
For example, the highly recommended Hootsuite automates your social media engagement. It connects to more than 35 global social networks so that you can monitor and post to all of your social media accounts all from a single dashboard. MailChimp, another useful tool, lets you automate your email marketing; and the best part: it's free.
Small Business Automation Tips: Focus on Email and Social Media
As mentioned previously, it's important to automate the easiest process that generates the most ROI. Your email and your social media marketing campaigns probably fit the bill. Although you can't automate real-time replies on social media, you can schedule updates, posts, and alerts.
You can also send automated-response messages to customers when they contact you, or you can create a schedule to enhance your email marketing strategy. It's a great way to generate leads without working overtime.
Small Business Automation Tips: Let Data Come to You
Data collection plays a very important part in small business automation. Large, big-budget businesses can hire entire departments to gather, sort, and analyze data about their customers and company performance. Small businesses don't have that luxury.
Fortunately, small businesses can improve their data analysis processes through an automated system. Tools such as IBM Watson Analytics, Google Analytics, and Qualtrics can monitor and analyze numbers and information from a variety of sources. These include social media, customer support, tech, sales, finance, marketing, and more. By automating data analysis, you can collect hours of data in just minutes.
As Haden points out, a small business today cannot remain competitive and continue to grow if it doesn't embrace automation. With the number of free automation tools and services available, small businesses have no excuse to ignore automating their business processes.
The sooner small business owners realize the need for automation—and instill that change in their company culture—the sooner they will reap increased efficiencies, more customers, and better profits.
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter.
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