From startups to the largest corporations, automation has become accepted as business must-have.
Automating workflows across all areas of your organization can help save time and money. Not only that, but it will reduce the need for your valued employees to carry out repetitive, redundant tasks. Ultimately, marketing automation supports scalability and will help increase the success of your business.
So, the question becomes: what exactly should you automate? And how should you implement automation within your organization? Are there things you simply can’t automate?
Our automation guide will give you all the information you need, along with some ideas on how to successfully adopt automation across your business.
Every business model begins with market research. But it’s not just for startups: the most successful organizations will be continually refining and developing their offerings in line with up-to-date market research.
Listening platforms such as Brandwatch and Google Alerts can be set up to automatically keep track of the latest market trends and competitors in your sector.
The next stage will be using this data to ensure that your content strategy, internal processes, and sales funnel are evolving with the times. Market automation won’t tell you what to do — but it will help point you in the right direction.
Reduce time-consuming research, and use market research and social listening tools to harness insights from billions of conversations happening online every day.
Many businesses begin their journey into automation with popular social media tools — social media marketing lends itself to automation, and social automation tools are becoming evermore sophisticated.
From scheduling posts in advance to automating responses to customers through social channels, they even give you the ability to automatically assign tasks to relevant internal departments.
Platforms such as HootSuite and SproutSocial have allowed social media editors and communication managers to automate all aspects of an organization’s social media strategy — except the actual strategy bit.
From communications to customer service, social media platforms can help you automate many tasks — but they can’t help you define your social strategy. That will be up to internal brand managers to define and refine.
Along with social media, email is another popular area where businesses of all sizes and types can easily embrace automation (especially when it comes to the ‘promote and follow up’ sales sequence).
From simple, time-saving tasks such as automatically sending welcome emails to forwarding contact form submissions to the relevant departments, there are countless opportunities to implement automated email sequences. These can help you scale your customer service operations, and ensure you operate an ‘always switched on’ business.
Combining email with retargeting adverts is a powerful combo that drives people back to your website. Use email platforms to set up retargeting ads to recapture people who have already taken that first, crucial step of expressing interest in your brand.
Don’t forget that quality copywriting and attractive visuals are essential for email success — don’t pour precious advertising money into poorly-constructed and weak email concepts.
From shopping to shipping, there are many ways that e-commerce automation can be implemented to save time, simplify the sales process, and encourage customers to re-purchase through your e-commerce site.
Automation is a fantastic way to recover abandoned carts (friendly reminders to people who leave your store without checking out). By using analytics tools and email platforms, you can pretty much run abandoned cart email campaigns on auto-pilot, complete with incentives and personalized offers.
Once sales have been made, automation can also be used to save you time and money in shipping costs. Dropshipping is a fantastic example here – you can avoid getting involved in the entire fulfillment process by automatically forwarding orders to warehousing & delivery partners. Even if you prefer to keep fulfillment in-house, there are plenty of inventory tracking tools that can help you part-automate your shipping.
The e-commerce dream of a fully automated store you can run from your mobile may be here — but customers are still customers. They will have questions, complaints, and queries — and no amount of automation can make up for some human intervention from time to time. Having brand guidelines and customer service avatars and scenarios in place will help empower frontline staff to deal with tricky customer service situations.
People buy with their eyes and shop with their hearts. Make sure that you invest resources into creating a beautiful brand, as well a well-oiled e-commerce machine.
CRM platforms can be used to automate a company’s interactions with new and prospective customers. CRMs have a sales-focused approach, but they are also about putting the customer at the heart of a business development plan. They will help you listen, as well as sell.
Automation is a big part of a CRM’s offering. CRM software providers like Infusionsoft allow businesses to send personalized communications to every contact without manual input.
CRM platforms are increasingly intelligent and can help you automate almost every interaction with your customers, but they won’t be able to save a brand or product who have got their alignment all wrong. A great automated sales pipeline won’t make up for service or product offering deficiencies — make sure that sales automation doesn’t take precedence over product development.
It’s exciting to think about how automation can help the customer-facing aspects of your business, but automation can also offer great benefits to internal functions.
Popular apps such as Google Drive and Docs allow teams to collaboratively save, share and work on a range of business documents without manually having to send them to each other.
Project management & team communication platforms such as Basecamp can help automate internal processes in a range of business functions. For example, by making sure that relevant team members receive automated updates about their projects, or by automatically checking in with staff on their progress on a daily basis.
HR platforms give HR departments the power to automate holiday & sickness records and extract useful insights from the data they collect. This could lead to an improved holiday policy or lower instances of staff churn.
Finance teams can use automation software to streamline many of their processes. Online bookkeeping apps such as Quickbooks can hugely simplify the invoicing process and allow employees to automatically track mileage and expenses.
Automation can be very practical as well. Thanks to a large network of partners and service providers, IFTT can help you automate things from turning the porch light on when your pizza delivery is on its way, to tweeting your Instagram posts as native Twitter photo — the possibilities are truly endless.
Don’t automate everything though — there is still a real need for human intervention on important HR and finance tasks. Use automation as a way to collect data and ‘plug in the gaps,’ but don’t let your tools run your business for you.
When you come to implement some of these automation ideas, make sure you have a proper plan in place and involve all stakeholders.
Map out existing business processes to work out how many hours your organization is currently spending on tasks which could be automated, and prioritize the most promising areas regarding time and cost-savings.
Calculate potential automation ROI – how much human resource, time, and money will you save by implementing a specific automation process? How much extra value could that new process add to your business on top of these savings?
And don’t forget to think about the potential security issues involved, including storing data on external platforms — adding unforeseen vulnerabilities to your business.
What Have We Learned?
From pizza to retargeting, this guide has shown you how automation can increase productivity, save time, and improve margins across your entire organization. Prioritize your business automation goals and put a solid plan in place to implement change. You will soon reap the reward, without having to be there at every stage of the process.