When you hear the term automation, what comes to mind? Robotic interaction? What if I told you, you could eliminate marketing tasks from your to-do list and still automate your company so you sound human, sincere and interactive.
There are a myriad of ways you can automate tasks in your business. By doing so, you give your business legs to scale upwards and grow. Instead of being confined by your human limitations, you’re enabled to engage with customers in a way that makes them more likely to buy.
All of this sounds ideal, but what does it look like in practice? Here are five of my favorite tried-and-true ways to automate a business the smart way.
#1. Let Your Email Generate Sales for You
Too many businesses avoid using email automation out of fear that it’ll look inhuman and robotic. Although this can be a turnoff to many customers, automating email as a sales funnel doesn’t have to be impersonal. Done right, you’ll see a dramatic increase in your conversions.
Need proof? Take a look at Milkhouse Candles. This small candle making business started in 2002 by a husband and wife duo. Their first batch of candles sold out within 20 minutes. After that, they reinvested their money and continued to watch their company grow. After a while, they reached a point where they knew they could do more with technology to drive more sales.
Enter, Infusionsoft – an email marketing system that allows businesses to set up funnels in an effort to drive sales (among other things).
The company put together a few different campaigns – a newsletter, an internal sales campaign and a campaign specific to trade show appearances. Then, they put the marketing automation software in action. With this software, they’ve made their business more efficient and scalable. “It’s not about mass e-mails. It’s about giving your customers what they’re asking for,” according to Eric Sparrow, CEO.
You can take the same approach in your business. Set up a series of emails to create your own campaigns. Then, use these to nudge leads down the sales funnel toward making a purchase.
#2. Make Customers Feel Valued
If your business is like most businesses, you have customer service requests coming in via email on a regular basis. You might not be able to respond as quickly as you’d like to each one. This wait time can wreak havoc on your customer retention numbers.
According to the New York Times, waiting in line for help feels like torture. Online, this wait time can feel even more frustrating. How does the customer know you received her request? How does she know when to expect a response?
Here’s where another automation strategy comes into play.
Setting up an autoresponder that acknowledges receipt of the customer service request gives your customer a sense of security. When you respond with an estimated answer time, you immediately reduce the anxiety of the unknown. The customer knows you received her email and she knows you will be getting back to her soon. As your business grows, this will become an increasingly important practice to deploy.
#3. Keep Your Social Media Profiles Active
Social media is a huge time drain. It takes time to post and even more time to respond to fans and followers. You don’t have time to constantly be checking in on your Twitter, Google +, Facebook, and Instagram profiles, but you want to have an active presence on any social sites your business utilizes.
Marketing automation changes this. There are a few ways you can automate your content to keep your social media profiles current saving you time while you continue to make connections with potential new customers.
- Install the WordPress plugin Revive Old Post to get more play out of older blog content. This will send a steady stream of people to your blog from social media to check out past content, and they’ll stay for new posts, too. There are also several tools you can use to automatically publish new content, such as Twitterfeed. Having this taken care of ensures you promote new blog content without having to worry about it.
- Hootsuite has an interesting tool called Suggestions. Enter a few keywords for content you care about and you’ll be given several pre-populated tweets related to those keywords. With a click you can schedule them so that your Twitter stream is always full of content interesting to your followers.
- Tweet Jukebox is another automation tool worth checking out. It’s especially useful if you have a marketing campaign you want to promote for a fixed period. Enter your tweets and set a schedule for when they should automatically publish.
#4. Nurture Your Customers After the Sale
Congratulations! You landed the sale and now, you can sit back and relax, right? Wrong.
Once you fulfill an order, interacting with customers is more important than ever before. Not doing this could cost you a valuable opportunity to connect with your customers, ensure their happiness and increase the odds that they will buy from you again.
Like your campaigns pre-sale, you can automate your customer retention campaigns to keep your customers happy without having to make an extra effort.
One company that did this well was Coca-Cola in the United Kingdom. In 2008, they noticed a decline in their sales among teenagers. To recapture that market share, the soft drink company deployed a new campaign – on-pack point rewards.
Here’s how it worked. When a customer would buy a product, they could enter the code on a website called Coke Zone for reward points. This would engage the customer on a new level. More importantly, it got them to hand over their personal information so Coca-Cola could target them with an automated ongoing campaign to get them to buy more.
The strategy worked.
Coca-Cola saw a 49% open rate over time and a 71% click through rate. More importantly, they found their way to the top of the sales charts ranking consistently at number one in Food & Drink online in the UK.
#5. Automate Tiny Actions
Automating your business doesn’t have to mean automating large campaigns like I’ve talked about until now. You can also automate small, simple actions to take one less step out of your already hectic day.
Zapier is a program that caters to this style of automation.
In Zapier, you can set up rules to do specific tasks. For example, any time you create an event in Google Calendar, you can have it automatically invite your colleagues. Or if you sell products through Shopify, you can set up a rule so that the system automatically creates a contact in Salesforce.
There are any number of tasks you can set up with this tool, and many programs that you can connect activities between. The point is to take your mind off the smaller tasks so you can invest more brain power into your growth.
How Automation Can Help You Scale
There are so many ways to automate your business. I’ve only hit on the tip of the iceberg with these five. Ultimately, the goal of using automation is to free up your time while the business grows itself. This is called scale.
Scaling a business requires you to stop trading hours for dollars. To grow, give robotic tasks to software and tools whenever possible. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish and how fast you can catapult forward when you invest more of your time in the creative, human aspects of the business and less in the redundant tasks.
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