What Your Small Business Should Be Automating in 2018

Automation has long been an important tool for large enterprises. But with easy cloud-based services now available to all, businesses of all sizes can get in on the automation game.

And they should.

Not only does automation free your hands to focus on other areas of your business, it is also the best way to manage your data collection and processing. Rather than staring at endless lines on a spreadsheet that start to blur together, these tools will generate the information you need to create optimal outcomes for your business by managing and sharing data in a form that is relevant to your team and the company as a whole.

According to research by Mckinsey and Company, 45 percent of activities can be automated. This does not mean everyone needs to fear for their jobs. Experts point out it’s most effective to automate specific activities, not occupations as a whole. Even IT managers, system designers and data analysts can benefit from automations that streamline data processing and lead to more effective business strategy and implementations.

Here are critical activities for many businesses that can benefit from some level of automation — things you could be automating right now.

Continuous database delivery and integration to support better data analysis

While businesses in the digital realm generate endless streams of data, none of it is useful unless it’s being analyzed. Don’t let the stream trickle through your fingers. Seek out automation strategies that will allow you to harness your data and use it to help improve your business development and operations.

Turning knowledge gained from collected data into real-world solutions and business strategies can be hampered by knowledge specialization. You don’t necessarily have to know the ins and outs of your own database infrastructure, but you do need to process the information you feed it in a way that is legible and actionable.

Datical offers solutions to this problem of processing by reshaping the underlying infrastructure of databases to provide continuous delivery and integration.

Improve your accounting and invoicing

The key to stress-free accounting is good recordkeeping. But we all know this is easier said than done. When you are involved in running the day to day operations and putting out the inevitable fires that ignite, accurate bookkeeping can sometimes get shunted to the end of a to-do list.

Tools such as Invoice Ninja allow you to painlessly track data as projects evolve and keep track of your accounts and seamlessly transform project quotes into invoices. This streamlines payments with clients and also eases accounting overall. What’s more, this platform offers 99 percent of their services for free, so it won’t cut into your budget.

Keep your backups up-to-date (Don’t say we didn’t warn you)

It is essential to protect your business data. In 2018, that includes not only the files on your computer but also your web platform. If your website is compromised by a hacker or malware, your access to user data could be damaged as well as having an adverse effect on your relationship with potential clients.

Performing manual backups can be time-consuming and require ongoing maintenance. You can set up automatic backups on your computer to store files on an external drive, or use services such as Acronis, Backblaze, or Carbonite to back up in the cloud. For your website, continuous data protection works in the background and updates your backup every time a change is made.

How to simplify customer data entry

In order to provide tailored service to customers that is truly informed by their needs and interests, you need a streamlined system of record keeping that pulls from website, email & telecommunications, as well as social media and ad engagement.

A Customer Relationship Management Platform (CRM) such as Salesforce, Zoho, and Pipedrive collects this data from various platforms in one place which everyone at your company can access. Then when it comes to interacting with clients you can do so from a better informed place which saves time for everyone and keeps customers feeling valued.

Of course, no one wants to feel that their relationship with a company is automized. But utilizing the time altering tools available to us in 2018 allows us to engage with work and clients in an informed and meaningful way that can only lead to a return on investment.

Email marketing can be easier

Consistent email marketing not only builds trust with your customers, it allows you to collect relevant customer data in order to better serve your base. Click Throughs, email opens, bounces and unsubscribes are tracked automatically on most platforms, supplying you with a wealth of data that allows you to refine your marketing strategy.

Hubspot, for instance, lets you set up automated email nurture campaigns where the right emails are sent based on customer response. This can greatly cut down on the time spent interacting with potential customers.

Social media automation

Social media presence is imperative to build visibility for your company. Reportedly, 75 percent of users take action after viewing a post they like on Instagram — a statistic that puts email marketing stats to shame.

Tools such as Paper.li and Buffer allow you to automate not only posts but management of followers, honing your audience to those genuinely interested in engaging through follow/unfollow, clicks and subscribes.

Making small or large businesses more efficient

Automation isn’t just for large enterprises now. Every company can get in on its benefits, including the SMB. So make sure you’re using the cloud-based tools available today for better automation.


About the Author:

JT Ripton
JT Ripton is a business consultant and blogger who enjoys writing about many things, business and technology among them. Ripton’s advice has appeared in numerous places like BusinessInsider, Entrepreneur.com, The Guardian, and The Street. Follow him @JTRipton