As a small business owner I’m guessing that you know first hand the frustration of feeling like you never get to the end of your to-do list. Do you find that sometimes life feels like an unending race against time as you swing from project to project? It’s such a common feeling among business owners, especially those in the early years of their ventures. At some point, however, this has to end because it’s simply not sustainable over time. And when you realize this, you’ll find value in taking an honest look at your workload to determine if a new process or protocol can stop you from running in circles, helping to increase your productivity and your customers’ overall experience. I’ve been pondering this for a while myself. I am always aiming to do more with my business but I have gotten to the point that I am no longer willing to sacrifice getting a reasonable amount of sleep each day, or spending time with my family.
And that’s the reason I’ve become a huge fan of automation.
If you are recoiling internally at the word automation, just give me another paragraph of your time. I don’t mean removing the personal touch that your customers value, and that really sets your business apart. Instead, I want you to imagine a world – a business – where both qualities exist and work hand-in-hand, the personal touch with time-saving automation. The purpose of adding automation is to provide your customers with the information they need when they need it – like at 4 am when you are (hopefully) fast asleep and customers are cruising around your website. In addition, automation can create a proactive approach to prospecting and help customers get answers faster. If done well, automation can even turn into an automated sales tool for your business.
To keep the personal touch, carve out some space to add something just from you. For example, with Vegan Mainstream we regularly send automated email series’ out to our clients, but I make sure that at least one of the emails in any series includes a note from me. This note is often a simple text message with some valuable information and a question to engage the recipient. I have answers to these emails sent directly to me and I respond to questions personally. (If you are a larger organization or have a larger customer list, you might have your customer service team field these emails.)
If you are new to automation I recommend starting with the basics. The first stage is ensuring that if someone signs up for your newsletter or downloads an ebook, they receive a 3-part welcome email series. The key is making sure that all of the content you are offering is valuable, and that 80% is free. The remaining 20% can include an offer or an opportunity to sign up for more free courses or content with the intention of migrating someone from a welcome service to a sales funnel.
If you are an advanced marketer, look for activities that would warrant a 1-to-3 email response (articles read, website page visits, number of pages visited on the site, type of articles read, etc.).
For example, if someone who is already in your database visits a sales page on your site and they don’t sign up, you may send an automated follow-up email. This email could include additional information about the offer and ask if they have any questions.
If the visitor is not already in your database, you can set up an exit window lightbox display that asks if they would like someone to follow up on the next business day to answer their questions. They enter their name and email address, and your automated system sends you or your team a notification email, or assigns a member of your team a task to follow up with the customer.
The idea is to automate processes wherever possible to either bring customers into the fold or harness potential missed opportunities. This means making sure you have communications set up to engage your customers every step of the way. Automation can be done via marketing tools like social media; however, I think the best approach is to start with email marketing since, in my experience, it is the most effective tool for driving high engagement and increasing sales.
A word of caution: don’t be a spammer. Your customers and followers should have the option to opt-out at any time, and it’s best to keep your emails short, and set up in such a way that people don’t get emails from more than one series at the same time.
Once you’ve used automation to help nurture a relationship, it’s time to test driving sales. I often do this by including a “P.S.” offer note or links to my online consult scheduler in emails as a gentle reminder and easy access for anyone who’s ready to sign up.
Automation set-up is getting easier, as most email marketing tools or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) have these features included with the standard price. If you’re intrigued and want to learn more your next step is to confirm if your current tool offers automation. If you need help, more suggestions or would like to know the tools we use, take a look at our tool shed, here: https://veganbiz.veganmainstream.com/tool-shed/
Adding automation has helped me better manage my schedule, leverage my team to respond to messages if I’m not around, and allow me to do more in a day. If you are struggling with time management, or want to take your vegan biz to the next level, consider exploring the use of automation to save time, connect with customers and ultimately drive sales while you sleep.
Take an honest look at your workload to see if there is an opportunity for automation that could help to increase your productivity and/or your customers’ experience, and commit to implementing it within the next six months.