Automation is an often-discussed topic these days, and you may initially think it is unnecessary or inappropriate for your small business. However, it can provide growth potential for your company, regardless of its size. Here are seven thought-provoking examples of what’s possible.
1. Providing More Time for Rewarding, Value-Added Tasks
People who work for small businesses often wear many hats. This adaptability can help your company in some cases, but it may also mean that people do not have the opportunity to use their talents in ways that would benefit your business the most.
Automated technologies can assist with duties ranging from data entry to organizing digitized information. Humans usually still factor into most of those jobs, but automation lets them save time.
Thus, automation creates more time in someone’s schedule. This allows more chances for an employee to spend larger segments of their workday doing valuable tasks that strengthen the business and are fulfilling.
2. Handling Frequently Asked Questions
A 2019 study found that chatbots made customer response timeframes three times shorter than without that type of automation. Respondents also cited those improved metrics as the top cost-saving measure for their companies.
Chatbots support small-business growth because those tools can answer the simple questions people pose that could drive profits. They include, “What are your opening hours?” and “Do you offer free shipping?”
There is also usually an option for people to talk to humans if they prefer or if a question is too complicated for chatbots to handle. When bots take care of the repetitive, quickly answered queries, customer service teams can devote additional time to the more complex needs people have, which could improve loyalty.
3. Improving Lead Nurturing Efforts
A customer relationship management (CRM) tool is excellent for helping a company grow and scale more easily because it lets all sales team members see what events happened with particular leads and current clients. That advantage helps everyone involved maximize their time by knowing how and when to engage with people for the best results.
Plus, most of today’s CRM products work in the cloud. This allows sales team members to see the most up-to-date information from wherever they are and take the appropriate action.
Automated elements of a CRM product can also simplify data collection efforts. For example, Nimble is a CRM solution that automatically combines your contact data with more than 200 social media and business app tools. The Nimble Prospector feature automatically displays company and contact details for a customer and your team’s complete communication history.
4. Streamlining Invoice-Related Tasks
Generating and following up on invoices are two tasks that can become more time-consuming than they first seem. Even so, both of them are essential for helping businesses succeed because they relate to receiving payment for the goods and services delivered.
Suppose you use automation for the accounts receivable duties at a company. A tool could reduce the time it takes to create and distribute invoices, thereby increasing the likelihood of prompt payments. If a customer generally places orders for the same products and amounts, automated features can speed the process of creating new invoices for every order by importing some data.
Moreover, a tool could send automated messages to encourage early payments or provide them close to an invoice’s due date. Such helpful and scheduled messaging relieves the burden on staff members by cutting out some of their manual tasks.
5. Enhancing the Hiring Process
Human resources (HR) professionals typically have direct impacts on facilitating small-business growth. For example, they help companies find the best-qualified candidates to meet a company’s current and future needs.
Automation can improve HR processes in several ways. For example, it could send auto-response emails to confirm receipt of someone’s resume and let them know when to expect another reply. Some tools also automatically check documents for keywords that could indicate a candidate aligns with the company’s needs.
A 2019 survey found that 42% of small-business owners don’t utilize technology to its full capacity. Joel Steigelfest is an executive at Oasis, the HR firm that conducted the study. While commenting about the results, he suggested how automation could help in the human resources sector.
“Savvy small-business owners would be wise to consider whether routine HR tasks such as payroll, benefits processing, and applicant tracking could be more efficient when automated through third-party tools and processes. This allows them to remove the burden on non-revenue-producing tasks so they can better focus on their core business and grow,” Steigelfest noted.
6. Promoting Organizational Resilience
An organization that cannot tolerate the natural ups and downs associated with running a business and dealing with unexpected events will likely have difficulty achieving steady growth. Automation and supporting technologies can make companies better equipped to remain strong during challenging times.
According to a recent global Cisco survey, more than 70% of small-business representatives reported that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their efforts to digitize their businesses. Moreover, 31% cited automating and digitizing processes as top investment areas for the next 18 months.
When hard times occur, some team members have to temporarily assume other roles to guide the company out of a crisis. When a business already has several automated tools in place, it’s more likely to keep operating smoothly during challenges. Additionally, the organization should be able to bounce back faster than competitors that do not use automation. Both of these advantages promote sustainable growth.
7. Bringing More Relevance to Email Communications
Many people get dozens of emails per day. If they repeatedly receive messages without opening them, many email services learn to treat them as junk mail and automatically move them to the spam folder. That’s why it’s so crucial to craft emails that your customers notice and want to open. Automation can help those things happen and facilitate growth for your small business.
Research published in 2019 found that 73% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. It also showed that 62% of people believe businesses should adapt based on their actions and behaviors.
Many brands do that with automated email communications that reflect things people recently did at a website. For example, if a person visits an e-commerce site without finishing a transaction, they might receive an email prompting them to complete it and giving them contact details to get help if needed.
Another way to incorporate automation into email marketing is to rely on segmentation. Perhaps you operate a family-owned department store and will soon have a sale on pet supplies. Using an automated tool to send emails about that event to people who have bought products for their pets is a good way to increase the chances of stimulating future purchases without annoying the customers who don’t need or want to buy those items.
Automation Makes Sense for Growth-Oriented Small Businesses
Leaders at many small businesses say they want to grow their companies, but they don’t always spell out how they plan to do it. These seven examples show that investing in automation is a wise move for decision-makers committed to short-and long-term growth.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to try all these suggestions at once. Doing so could make it more challenging to determine which techniques work best for your needs. The better approach to take is to roll out automation slowly and methodically. Depend on metrics to help you see the links between the automated options you choose and how the business achieves more growth.