Automation is Not a Four-Letter Word

Article by Joan FriedlanderIn recent years the purpose of automation has shifted from increasing productivity and reducing costs, to broader issues, such as increasing quality and flexibility. ~ Wikipedia

Automation for the service-based business may seem contrary to the mission of your company, to directly and humanly serve the needs of your client in a way that significantly impacts his or her life.

We’re all too familiar with automated response answering systems that either prohibit one from talking to a person, or bury access to a live person so far into the keying sequence that you can’t find it, or worse, hit the wrong key and have to start over again. Gone are the days when simply pressing “0” to get an operator always worked.

When I talk about automation I’m not talking about that. I am, however, talking about utilizing smart, simple systems to automate certain aspects of running your business and serving your customers in such a way that the customer is consistently and effectively served, and you –- and others on your team –- are free from continuously getting stuck in the repeating, mundane activities of doing what needs to be done.

“When you take the time to design your lead generation, nurturing, and conversion processes like the big guys, and then hook the system together with the right moving parts, you can compete with any size organization.” ~ John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing

Following is my short list of the types of tasks and projects that you can automate without losing sight of your customer.

  • Routine follow-up email after product sales.
  • Routine email communications for programs you lead.
  • On-line scheduling that puts making and changing appointments in the hands of your customers, yet works within your availability.
  • Appointment reminders
  • Invoicing and payment receipts for recurring orders and services
  • Answering the phone when you aren’t available and picking up messages
  • Response to many routine email inquiries
  • Forms and documents provided to new clients
  • Anything that’s “plug-n-play,” allowing you to fill in blanks and create wonderful-looking documents

Automation is liberating, but it’s not sexy. It often comes with a learning curve. If you’re one of those business owners who is still doing just about everything yourself, you’re probably not going to have enough time to learn how to use something that can help you get routine tasks done more quickly and easily, without you at the keyboard or on the phone. Heck, you probably won’t have the time to research it either.

Let this be another reason to add someone to your support team who can do these sorts of things for you!

Here are just a few tools to consider for your automation needs:

Swift Page: Create marketing plans that automate outreach to your prospects.

GotVMail: Virtual phone system for entrepreneurs; starts at $9.95 per month.

AmazingMail: Web-based system to design, print, and mail postcards, direct mail pieces, announcements, invitations, and more.

AWeber: Automates your email marketing. Integrate your newsletter, customer and prospect database, and follow-up campaigns with just one service.

HourTown: Online scheduling software for small business owners. Need a virtual assistant? Ask around or start here and fill out an RFP.

Take Action!

  1. Make a list of those repeating, pesky tasks that are important to running your business, but slow you down.
  2. Review some of the resources I’ve listed above, or do an Internet search to find out if there’s an automation solution for just one of the pesky tasks on your list. Sign up for a free trial and play around with it.
  3. If you know you need to automate some of your tasks, but are stumped about where to start, check out my audio program Dare to Automate.

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