A Beginner’s Guide to Automation for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs)

A multi-national research study into global productivity released by Unit4, showed that employees spend about 69 days per annum on administrative tasks that cost organizations up to $5 trillion a year. The same survey suggested that companies of all sizes will have to implement automation to remain competitive. So you might be asking yourself, how can you make sure your small or medium-size business (SMB) does not fall into an administrative blackhole? We'll discuss a few strategies to get you on the path to automation.

Posted: 22 Dec, 2020

business automation

You've probably heard that automation is one of the most significant ways to improve a service-based SMB's efforts to grow its business. If you're interested in automating your workflow but don't know where to start, you've come to the right place. This post is an introduction designed to help you understand the basics of automation. We’ll discuss what automation means in the context of an SMB, how to identify key processes that can be automated, and how to create benchmarks for process improvement that will transform your business.

What is automation in business?

You're probably familiar with automation because it’s all around you. From vending machines that dispense coffee, candies, and other treats to car washes that clean a vehicle in 5 minutes flat - automation permeates our daily lives. But did you know you can automate your workflow and business processes? Business process automation describes the application of a technology to perform repeated business processes or tasks where manual labor is usually utilized. In this context automation is leverage to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and simplify operations.

For instance, you can automate key portions of a hiring process, which can often be time-consuming and chaotic. Automating critical portions of a process such as on-boarding of new employees can cut through the endless paperwork, missed tasks, and policy purgatory that often mires employee onboarding.

Who needs automation?

Automation isn't reserved for large organizations alone. Startups and small businesses can also automate their business processes by incorporating automation into every aspect of the business. From generating leads, to serving consumers, closing sales, or scratching off routine office tasks from to-do lists.

A small workforce doesn't necessarily have to be a drawback. If you use the appropriate automation software and services, you can compete with large organizations that are bigger and less agile. This allows you, as an SMB owner, to completely dedicate your valuable time to critical tasks such as growing your business when recurring processes are automated.

Benefits

You'll enjoy innumerable benefits when you automate your SMB business processes. This includes:

Lead generation

You generate and retain more leads when you automate and scale your lead generation efforts. Additionally, with automation software, you can pinpoint which leads were generated and track them as they move through your sales funnel. Afterward, when those leads make purchase decisions, you'll have the right data to improve the efficiency of your sales funnel.

Improved consumer satisfaction

Consumer satisfaction is critical in any business, it’s the lifeblood of both SMBs and start-ups When you focus on operational quality and relevant processes, you'll easily surpass your customers’ expectations. However, this can only be possible with automation, which will in turn, increase consumer preference for your business.

Springboard to digital transformation

Most companies that aren't on the path to automation find digital transformation positively overwhelming. You can surmount this challenge when you implement automation solutions to improve your business processes. Start with the less complicated processes and slowly work your way up.

Simplifies business processes

Another benefit of automation in business is that it simplifies specific processes. You'll quickly reduce wasteful activities and focus on boosting tasks that add value when you have valuable insights, faster turnaround times, and clear accountability.

What every business should automate

Automation isn't limited to specific tasks. You can automate high-volume tasks which require several workers in order to execute. Also, taking time to automate key processes for time-sensitive projects often pays off with efficiency when executing. Lastly, tasks that are related to compliance or will be in the path of audit trails are great places where automation can be applied. These small investments result in huge returns of productivity while helping your small business build its capability.

How do you automate a small business?

Now that you know what the business automation process involves, how do you go about it?

Step 1: Identify tasks that need automation.

The first step toward automation is to determine which tasks need automation. Selecting the appropriate tasks to automate is extremely important. This is where several businesses get off to a false start with automation.

You must understand how automation works before attempting to automate any task. You should consider automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as:

  • Lead generation
  • Sales orders
  • Procurement
  • Product launching
  • Call center processes
  • E-commerce
  • Bulk image resizing and optimization
  • Helpdesk support
  • Events
  • Data aggregation and migration
  • Office management
  • Payroll
  • Backup and restoration
  • Collections
  • Customer service engagement
  • Time and attendance tracking
  • E-mail and push notifications
  • Invoicing
  • Employees leave requests

Step 2: Select the right tools

After you've decided on the tasks to automate, you need to choose the right tools to help facilitate automation. There are tons of automation tools and platforms available. The most common for businesses include:

  • Leadformly
  • Zapier
  • ActiveCampaign
  • Edgar and Buffer
  • Breezy

Step 3: Determine your targets

You have identified the tasks and tools, now what do you hope to achieve when you automate these tasks? It's pointless to spend money and effort on automation if they aren't going to help you achieve an objective. Therefore, make sure you set realistic targets before putting any workflow in place to refine processes and measure progress.

Step 4: Track progress

Similarly, if you don't choose the right KPIs and set targets, you'll find it difficult to gauge the impact of automation on your business. More importantly, you'll lack the capacity to identify opportunities to improve your automation and ensure continuous improvement.

Step 5: Make it the standard

You won't gain a competitive edge over the big guys if you don't adopt an automotive culture in your company. Once you understand the nitty-gritty of automation, everything else becomes a walk in the park for you. You'll probably look at most of your repetitive tasks and consider if it can be automated.

Get started with marketing automation.

Remember Rome was not built in a day. The key to automation is to start with small changes. You'll be amazed at what you can automate and how productive your SMB or start-up can be. If you're looking to automate your tasks, Contact us. We can provide the right solution for any number of your business challenges.

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