Written by: Guest | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
Guest Post by Alexa Lemzy
Large companies tend to invest in business process automation to ensure efficiency. But small businesses are more likely to think that they either don’t need or can’t afford BPA. They are wrong on both counts.
For small companies, optimizing your business processes has many benefits. It’s not difficult to do, and here are four areas you can start with:
Businesses run on sales. Making those sales depends on the effective marketing of your goods or services. This is why companies, regardless of size, invest so much of their resources in marketing.
Lead generation, whether for new or repeat business, is at the heart of marketing. Marketing automation tools can increase both the quality and volume of your leads.
One case in point is global digital security company McAfee. In the past, it was generating a very high volume of leads but had a low conversion rate. So the company decided to try marketing automation. Through automation, it was able to reduce the total number of leads generated by over a third. At the same time, the company increased its conversion rate by an amazing 400 percent.
You don't have to be a vast enterprise to experience the benefits of marketing automation. There are many marketing automation tools for small businesses, and most of them allow you to optimize a specific area of your marketing. Here are some options areas you can automate:
- Email — Email marketing is ideal for small businesses because it's affordable and has a good ROI. Many popular tools allow you to automate your email campaigns, allowing you to send pre-determined emails over a period of time. Popular platforms, such as Mailchimp or GetResponse, also integrate with other BPA software. These integrations can further help you streamline and optimize your processes.
- Social media — Social media marketing works best when it involves many channels. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer let you keep track of all your channels in one place. They have support for all popular networks including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Among their many features is the ability to generate reports. This allows you to examine the effectiveness of your social media campaigns.
- Blogging — Content marketing through blogging helps build interest in your business. But managing a blog is often stressful and time-consuming. Luckily, Google Trends can help automate parts of the process. You can use it to see which search topics are trending among your prospective customers. And then use those ideas to create new blog posts. WordPress also has a helpful feature which lets you schedule blog posts ahead of time. This simple feature can create a more efficient publishing process.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is another area that benefits from automation. In the past, you had to develop your CRM strategy from scratch and keep track of it in a hands-on way. The good news these days is that, as for almost everything else, there is software to get this done for you.
Modern CRM software, such as Salesforce, go beyond tracking your customer's history. It can also improve these other areas of your business:
- Compare supplier-efficiency over time
- Track your supply chain
- Create reports for use by your sales team
- Assess an individual sales rep’s performance
You'll need to do a little research to find the best choice for your business. But once you do, you'll save a lot of time and costs in your processes.
For many small businesses, the idea of being open from 9 to 5 is fast becoming a thing of the past. Websites never close. But you don’t have to worry about being there for your customers around the clock. There are automation tools for that.
With tools such as Zendesk and Freshdesk, you can automate a lot of your customer service. Both of these tools make it easy to track customer concerns and questions. They also keep track of customer calls, emails, chat messages and social posts.
Text messaging is another area you can optimize. The power and flexibility of text messaging are often ignored by businesses. But many people now prefer texting to other forms of communication. SMS providers, such as TextMagic, can automate your text messaging operations. For example, they can set up predetermined responses based on keywords from customers.
Keeping your books in order is an important, but time-consuming part of running a business. Your time can be spent in other areas. That's why you should consider using expenses tracker to automate your finances.
Tools like Expensify or Divvy do a great job of helping you keep track of your money. They create digital copies of your financial documents so you don’t have to worry about losing them. Divvy is also free for businesses. And Expensify will also integrate with QuickBooks .
Other tools like PayPal and Square also have features to simplify your finances. They can help you with everything from receiving payments to paying your bills, and also take care of automatic recurring payments. This is great news if you sell subscription services on your site.
Although PayPal is better for high-volume needs, Square is much easier to use. Customers who place an order using one of these tools will get an automatic invoice every month. And the tools will also trigger an automatic payment.
In addition to making your sales process easier, these tools can also simplify your accounting. For example, you can export your sales data from PayPal and share it with your accountant who can then use that information to prepare your taxes and perform other tasks.
The bottom line
Automation is a great way to optimize your small business processes. There are many tools you can use to streamline the different departments.
The key to finding the right tool is to understand your goals. With the right goals, you'll find that automation translates into exactly what you are working for: growth and increased profits.
Alexa Lemzy is a business optimization expert and blog editor at TextMagic. She helps businesses improve their operations using mobile technologies. You can contact Alexa on Twitter.