Should You Automate Your Business Processes? Definitely!

Business_Process_AutomationThis is the first in a series of ten posts about the need to Automate Your Business Processes.

One of the nice things about the online portion of any business, whether online only or offline/online, is that you can automate business processes. Think about the many day in/day out tasks you do related to your online presence and business. Many are repetitive and tedious drudgery that none of us enjoy. They waste time and energy, but, of course, they’re critical to our success. Many times, if you automate business processes, those drudge-work tasks will run automatically, and you can focus on more productive uses of your time and your cost to your company.

Business Process Automation is Good!

The main benefit of automating your business processes is that it speeds up and streamlines your work. As you move tasks to automatic, you free yourself to focus on more important things. In addition to ‘thinking’ tasks, there are also routine tasks that need more concentration and critical analysis on your part. But when you automate some of the routine tasks, you can use more of your valuable time to add real value to your business.

And automation can eliminate much error – let’s face it, computers do routine tasks extremely reliably, and their thought processes don’t fatigue. We’ve all been up at the wee hours finishing tasks that must be done, but we’re only half awake doing them. (Side note here: when we produced business meetings and product introductions at Minolta, when we first started out, we occasionally had to stay up all night to complete them by presentation deadline. As far as I was concerned, if we had to stay up all night to complete a show on time, it was a sign of bad management – either mine, or someone else’s. So I “outlawed” all night work sessions, and we learned to complete our programs in more reasonable time frames. Our rested workers made fewer mistakes, both in production and in presentation… AND, we saved money by not using as many production hours.) Now, when many of our tasks are completed by software programs and online services, these mistakes tend to disappear.

One of the biggest benefits of automation is that processes become easily scalable… as your business grows, you can grow your various automated resources, many times without actually adding personnel. For instance, if you have to take product orders manually, a sudden increase in business can quickly overwhelm the business. But an automated sales system will easily scale up to meet the new demand… and easily scale back down during a seasonal slump.

Automate Some Business Process Tasks Easily

For almost every aspect of your online presence, there are automation tools available. Be careful because once you start using them, you’ll be astonished at how much more time you have for important tasks. Then you’ll wonder how in the world you ever got along without them. Here are some everyday tasks that lend themselves to business process automation:

  • Website Creation. There are many tools available to quickly and easily set up content management systems based web sites (like WordPress).
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A lot of the drudge work of SEO many times can be handled by automated systems.
  • Content Creation. Content really shouldn’t be created automatically, but there are tools to help you shave some time off the process.
  • Sales Funnel Management. Want to spend more time analyzing your sales funnel and less time maintaining it? Automate it!
  • Email Marketing. A consistent, honest email presence is really impossible without an automated service like Constant Contact or iContact. They maintain lists, keep our CAN-SPAM compliant, and save you HOURS of work.
  • Social Media. There are many simple tools that help you quickly and easily manage your social media accounts and presence.
  • Testing and Analytics. This basic function of every good marketing program can easily be automated for split testing and analytics, taking less time to set up, and more time available for analysis.
  • Website Maintenance. Many tools can help you make sure your web site is preforming at peak performance, and make sure any applications you use are secure and up to date.
  • Payments. There are many ways to automate accepting payments for your products and services: recording the sales in meaningful ways (to keep your accountant happy), and accurately, automatically, and electronically, moving received funds from the payment system to your bank account.

Business Processes You Should Not Automate

By automating many of your business processes, you now have more free time to deal with the processes that should not be automated. Most important is your marketing and marketing strategy. This is where your hands on guidance is time well spent. Only YOU can determine your short and long term goals and how you measure them (remember, “If You Didn’t Measure it, You Didn’t Do It”) to assure that you meet those goals.

Building and maintaining relationships is another task that can’t be done by machines. Though you may use social media and other online marketing to stay in touch with your customer base, it’s critical to Be Real with them. Automated responses and replies feel, well, automated, and your customers know this… keep it real!

And, when you get right down to it, content creation should not be automated. As part of keeping it real, you content needs to be fresh and original. The same goes for content curation. Though there are software programs that search out and find content for you to re-purpose in your communications, you should always be involved in the content and, “add your two cents” before sharing with your readers. Make sure it’s relevant to them.

Remember, of course, automated systems, that can be so helpful, aren’t necessarily perfect. You’ll need to learn how to use each automation tool to make it sing and dance for you and your business, and this will take a little upfront time. But this time will be well spent and will pay dividends for years to come as you build your business and still have more time to make the business better, plus more time with your family.


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