Automation (in business) is the term used to describe using software to streamline and automate tasks that would otherwise be done manually. Automation can help businesses increase efficiency, cut costs, and improve customer experience by reducing errors in order to maximise productivity and operational efficiency.
Automation is the equivalent in software-terms of using a power tool to put a screw into a piece of wood. The power tool makes it easier to do the job than a simple manual screwdriver. Automation is the power tool in this example. It simply replaces the need for lots of physical human effort by using software.
What are the main benefits of using software for automation?
- The most obvious benefit is the cost saving and creating a leaner business. You can replace the need for a staff member to do a piece of work, as those repetitive tasks could be performed with software.
- If your team members are overwhelmed with work, you can use tools to reduce their workload and enable them to focus on tasks that require greater human input. This way, they can devote more time and energy to activities that require their specific skills and expertise.
- Boring tasks can often be replaced with automation, which significantly reduces the risk of errors and problems. This helps your business to save time from fixing mistakes, whilst giving your customers a better experience.
- Rather than replacing tasks that your staff carry out, you can amplify their output. e.g. you can use tools that allow them to create a report in minutes rather than hours by partially automating their work. This ultimately helps you to look after more customers with the same number of staff.
- You can have automation tool respond to a fresh client enquiry within seconds or minutes, which is known to help significantly improve the chance that the lead will convert.
- A business using software tools to improve automation is considered to be more valuable, as you’re using the effort from your staff as efficiently as possible. Since employees are often the largest cost in any business, using software tools appropriately to keep a lean headcount is pretty attractive to investors and buyers.
There are 5 main areas in which you might use automation in your business:
Automation in Marketing:
This includes lead generation and lead nurture.
- e.g. using tools to automatically add new prospects directly to your CRM/customer database, and then send them a welcome email.
- e.g. using automatic weekly emails that get sent to past clients, past customers and prospects to nurture and remind them who you are, to help you win more sales
- e.g. using automation to respond to an urgent client support message from your website, texting details to your phone so that you can contact the client within minutes or hours.
Automation with Financials:
This includes areas of your business where you get paid, or managing records within your accounting software.
- e.g. using a tool to automatically raise an invoice in Xero when someone books on one of your training courses on a WordPress Woocommerce website.
- e.g. a tool that means you can raise an invoice and email it to a client within minutes of finishing a project. The tool pulls in all of your current price list information so that your latest prices are included in the invoice.
- e.g. a tool that raises an invoice in Quickbooks instantly when a client requests (via your website) to pay for a service by invoice.
Automation with Fulfilling a Product
When you have customers who are purchasing products, these automations make it easier to fulfil shipping or posting those orders.
- e.g. creating a tool that automatically monitors your packaging levels based on your product sales, and keeps you informed of when you need to order new shipping materials.
Automation with Fulfilling a Service
When you have clients where you offer a professional service, automations can help you get things done more quickly.
- e.g. a bespoke tool that helps you to create an audit report within minutes rather than the 2 hours it does currently due to constantly formatting a document in MS Word.
- e.g. a quoting tool that brings together several templated blocks of content, so that building up a proposal can be done without endless copy-n-pasting and fixing typos.
- e.g. a tool that will raise an invoice for a deposit once a client signs and accepts your terms of business proposal document.
Automation with Reporting
As your business grows, you need to keep an eye on key information and data in your business. Automations with reporting and KPI dashboards
- e.g. using a bespoke tool that connects to your website, showing you how many leads you’re generating each month, so that you can compare that data with last month in your KPI dashboard.
- e.g. using an automation that extracts data from your accounting software Xero, and breaks it down into 3 types of revenue, so that you can compare the relative revenue of each category each month.
In conclusion, automation in your business through the use of software offers significant benefits, including increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved customer experience. By leveraging automation tools, you can streamline repetitive tasks and allocate your team to more valuable activities where human attention is best focussed.
The vast majority of businesses aren’t yet using automation in any meaningful way, which means you can gain some competitive advantage over other businesses in your industry (and area).