As small business owners one of the things we hate most is an underutilized employee. Whether they’re lazy or we just don’t have enough work for them, we’re losing money. Losing money spells death for any business, and as small businesses we know that better than anyone.
Your #1 most underutilized employee
Do you think of your website as an employee? You should. You pay for it and it works for you. It brings in more customers, answers questions, and tells them about your products and services 24/7, even while you’re asleep. But it can do even more.
In recent years cloud apps have become increasingly popular with small businesses. There are cloud apps for invoicing, accounting, email marketing, customer management (CRM), scheduling, time tracking, project management, etc. You name it and there’s an app for it.
There’s no doubt these apps are useful. Imagine the contractor who’s been using paper invoices for years that finally switches to electronic invoices. Not only can he generate the invoices more quickly, but he can also get paid instantly instead of waiting for a check in the mail.
For another example imagine a real estate company that starts using a CRM to track the hundreds of clients they interact with every year. How many more sales could that generate? Every business can benefit from using cloud apps.
They’re useful, but how do you actually use all of them? Do you login to each of them individually and enter the information? Do you hire someone to do it? Nah, you have better ways to spend your time and better places to spend your money. So, how can you make it easier?
Well, of all of your business tools, what’s the one thing that’s customer facing, lies at the center of your business, and can tie everything together? Your website. Use your website as a business hub to leverage cloud apps and integrate them with your workflow.
Making business website automation work
So, how would this work? Here’s walk through an example.
Let’s say a contractor uses multiple cloud apps to manage workflow, scheduling, billing, etc. Suppose he’s tired of doing repetitive data entry tasks for every new client and decides to automate them by integrating the apps directly with his website’s work request form.
Now when a client requests work through his website this happens automatically:
- A draft invoice is created in FreshBooks (invoicing, time tracking, billing, accounting)
- Customer contact details are added in Highrise (CRM)
- A new project is created in Basecamp (project management)
- The customer is added to the MailChimp newsletter (email marketing)
- An intake meeting is added to Google calendar (scheduling)
- A text message summary is sent to the business owner (SMS/instant text notification)
Every business, every industry, and every market has different tools and workflows, but these are just examples.
How could automating improve your business?
You could use hundreds of different apps to automate all repetitive tasks. Mix them together to create your perfect customer intake process. How could it change your business?
What if you have a physical location and customers see you in person? You can still use the same form on your website to enter the customer’s information, it all goes to the same place. You can even do it from a smartphone or tablet because mobile optimized websites make it easy to use on any mobile device.
If you could automate your workflow like this, would it improve your business? Imagine how much more you could do in less time compared to your competitors. Could you handle more customers? Could you raise your rates? Could you handle more work without hiring more employees?
In the past this kind of enterprise power was only reserved for large companies because it was prohibitively expensive. But cloud apps make it accessible to the smallest companies with the smallest budgets.
So how can we actually do this? It sounds complicated, right? It’s not. If you already use cloud apps, then you’re already halfway there! If you don’t, then map out your workflow and think about what repetitive administrative tasks take the most time and replace those first. If you need app suggestions, feel free to ask us for recommendations.
After choosing what apps you want, the next step is to integrate them with your website. Again, this really depends on how your website is built and what apps you’re using.
If you’re with a website provider that specializes in business websites, they should have an affordable way to setup these integrations for you. For example, customers on our Automate plan get unlimited app integrations for free. Our customers just tell us what cloud apps they want to connect to a form on their website and we set it all up for them at no cost.
If your website company charges you for each integration you should go elsewhere. As you learn more and improve your processes you’ll make changes, switch apps, and other things to continuously improve your workflow. Getting charged for every change makes it prohibitively expensive and limits your ability to grow your business.
The small businesses that use tricks like these to work smarter will inevitably pull ahead of the pack to achieve higher margins and increased sales. It’s like horses vs. automobiles all over again. The question is who’ll get left behind?