Have you ever lost a sale because you didn’t follow-up on time?
Or maybe you’ve struggled to keep up with invoicing and payments.
I’ve been there, and it’s a fucking nightmare.
Fortunately, I’ve moved on from that and I’ve implemented a solid system that allows us to run and scale our business way more efficiently.
Business automation has revolutionized the way companies operate.
Automation tools allow business owners to do more with less and scale their companies a hell of a lot faster. However, even today there are many businesses that don’t use – or don’t even know – about automation tools.
So, why should you give a damn about business automation?
It’s simple – automation tools can save you a fuckton of money. Instead of spending time, effort, and money on manual labor, you can replace those tasks with automation tools. This way, you’ll be getting the tasks done even more efficiently – and without spending gobs of money.
Automation tools can also give your brand a more professional look, build credibility and help you secure a position for your business as an industry leader.
In this article, we’ll go over 11 basic tools that any serious business should utilize. Let’s dive right in
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Why the hell are businesses still using old-fashioned spreadsheets to get organized? Spreadsheets quickly turn into a hot mess, especially when people forget to set their calendar, set reminders and enable notifications – which happens more often than not.
Every startup needs to deal with customers in an organized and methodical way. This is where CRM comes into play.
Using CRM is important for your sales team and business processes. You can set follow-up reminders, track metrics, and trace where your leads come from – be it Facebook, website visitors, phone calls, Google Adwords, etc.
There are many companies out there that offer great CRM software such as Sales Force, Pipedrive, Zoho, and Hubspot.
We recommend using Hubspot when starting out, since it offers very affordable plans for sales and email tracking. As you grow, Hubspot can get incredibly expensive you use it as the only system for all your sales and marketing activities.
These are decisions you’ll need to make down the road.
The great thing about CRMs is that you are able to integrate them with many apps such as Google Workspace and Mailshake, or use Zapier to sync ones that aren’t available directly within the CRM.
CRMs also gather accurate data that you can evaluate, holds your sales force accountable and allows you to set different properties and manipulate your pipeline to be exactly how you like it.
Moreover, you can find out where your leads come from, where you should sink your marketing funds, and where you can cut back on spending.
For instance, say you invested $10,000 into Facebook ads and $20,000 into Google ads. By using your CRM, you realize that Facebook brings five times more ROI, so then you can divert more funds into Facebook ads, scale your campaign and reduce your Google ad spend.
Remember, the CRM is the lifeblood of your sales force and will continually provide you with insight into where to focus your sales efforts and when to hold your salespeople accountable.
2. Accounting Software and Point of Sale
Many of our clients want to know what the best accounting software and point of sale is.
There are loads of options out there, but we prefer Xero over Quickbooks.
The software you choose will give you clear and easy-to-understand balance sheets, income statements and a general overview of your accounting and financial situation.
Of course, it’s important to have a qualified accountant to do your books and keep them up to date.
Don’t just use any old accounting company, look for a firm that’s passionate about what they do, has a deep understanding of accounting, and actually gives a damn about the welfare of your business.
Stick with a reputable accounting company like http://bluestarbookkeeping.com/ and avoid companies like 1-800 Accountant.
Not only will it give you a clear view of your finances, but having clean and transparent financials, it makes it easier to raise investment and get loans. (i.e. SBA, PPP or Bank).
I can’t tell you the insane number of times I’ve seen people get their loans denied or get fucked over because their books were a living nightmare.
You should also consider the different points of payment that you’ll implement for your products or services, especially if you have an online business. Take a look at different software options such as Stripe, Square, and PayPal. Most accounting software allows you to implement any of these POS. Stripe is what we choose to use when it comes to POS.
3. Online Booking Software
Efficiently managing your business’ appointments is crucial to keep you up and running.
Having an automatic system in place that helps you provide top-notch customer service to your and allows you to channel your energy and wits into growing your business.
There are different softwares such as Housecall Pro, Markate, Customer Factor and Service Monster, which are ideal for service businesses that provide “tangible services” such as carpet cleaners, plumbers, electricians and landscapers.
On the other hand, if you provide online services and offer online consulting, you’ll benefit from services such as Calendly, which makes it easy to schedule an appointment.
When you install a booking software, make sure that it has the ability to connect to your selected accounting software.
For example, Xero doesn’t integrate with Housecall Pro, but Quickbooks does. Before committing to a specific software, you better make sure to analyze all these angles to ensure that everything will work flawlessly.
4. Communication Software
You should always make sure that all your team’s communication is centralized right from the get-go. It’s a good idea to choose a specific software and stick with it because getting people to switch over from a certain way of working to a new platform is hard and messy.
A good practice is to use WhatsApp to communicate with clients, but we actually recommend a much more robust system to keep your team’s communication integrated.
Slack is what we use, and we absolutely love it. The only downside is that you cannot easily send memes/gifs or voice notes from the mobile app. However, the ability to create different channels for specific departments and purposes in the business is beneficial.
You can also upload files and it will keep them archived for all time on the paid version. Don’t forget about the free version they offer, it’s the best way to try out slack.
5. Email Marketing Software
Email marketing is 101 in today’s business world.
You want to have software that can send out emails to your subscriber list or cold lists without you having to drearily copy, paste, hit send – and rinse and repeat endlessly.
There are a lot of software options out there for email marketing – all with their own set of pros and cons. You’ve probably heard of MailChimp, Constant Contact and Send In Blue, but we prefer a more advanced automation mailer that allows for an intricate workflow.
We always recommend Active Campaign if you’re a service business and Kalviyo if you’re an E-commerce company. They have more advanced options in terms of setting up email workflows, SMS blasts, and collecting data when you run a landing page advertising campaign or when people visit your website and fill out a form.
A lot of people overlook cold emailing, but if you have an incredible offer and keep it simple and to the point, then doing cold email campaigns with specifically mined, targeted lists can yield incredible results.
Check out mailshake.com. This can still drive people to visit your website or check out your landing page. You might not see as many conversions as with a paid advertising campaign on Facebook or Google ads, but you’re branding and getting in front of thousands of people a month.
When you begin to do email marketing with your new automation software, make sure that all the content you provide is valuable, relevant and educational.
6. Professional Email
A common error that we see people do all the time is not using a professional email address. What people don’t understand is that if you own a domain, you already have what you need to set up your professional email account.
We recommend that you use a subscription to Google Workplace or any other email client service that helps you set up your professional email.
Stop using that @gmail.com or @outlook.com! Google Workspace is very affordable, and it gives you access to the Google Drive with lots of space.
In the grand scheme of things this may be a minor detail, but it plays an important role in your branding and consistency as a legitimate company.
7. Social Media Automation Software
Getting social media automation software such as Hootsuite or Tailwind will make your life much easier.
The key to success is to plan your content ahead of time. We recommend that you plan the content you’ll be publishing at least 30 days before posting. You don’t need to post 5 days a week for this to be useful. Even if you’re posting 1-2 days a week, set that a whole month in advance.
Create all your marketing messages, hashtags, images and content first, then program it into your chosen software and you’ll be all set. Make sure you have a good grasp of the ideal times and days to post content. When first starting off, choose a maximum of 3 platforms plus Google My Business to post content.
This is guaranteed to save you lots of time, which you can then use to focus on other important tasks to help grow your business.
8. Professional Phone Systems
Professional phone systems show professionalism and improves the overall customer service.
There are different services that can help you create a professional redirecting menu such as RingCentral, Nextiva and Grasshopper. They offer different monthly subscription plans and many of these allow you to text and use a mobile app when you’re on the go.
Dashboards are extremely important for any businesses. Shit, if you don’t have a dashboard – GET ONE NOW.
They allow you to see an overview of the general health of your business across different departments. Dashboards enable you to keep everyone on the team up to date and allow you to reference something quickly when in a meeting.
You can mix and match and pull data from many different systems, but it’s best to focus on a few key metrics that give you a clear picture of how your business is doing.
A great site to build out connectors is from grow.com or klipfolio.com.
Nav.com is a fantastic tool to start building credit scores for your business.
By using Nav, you’ll be able to eventually obtain lines of credit and apply for business loans.
You’ll need to open accounts with at least 3 different vendors and spend at least $50 to $75 per month to gradually build your business credit.
A good business credit score will facilitate better access to long-term loans, finance options and investment capital.
This is not so relevant to you if you are currently a start-up, but as your cash flow improves and you can afford to build credit with vendors, you should definitely include this in your plan for accelerated business growth.
If you have an online shop, keep in mind that your website is a representation of what clients would experience if you had a brick-and-mortar store.
You need to make sure that your customers’ purchasing process is smooth, automated, and seamless. Any snags or unnecessary friction will only serve to deter potential customers.
We recommend using WooCommerce – an open platform that allows for better design capabilities and integration for automations. Automating your shipping process with UPS or FEDEX is something that needs be at the top of the list before you even think about launching your store.
The Bottom Line
Business automation tools make everything easier, faster, and BETTER.
If you want to see your business explode without enduring a soul-crushing burnout – this is the way to go. Not only will you be saving a fuck-ton of money, but you will save yourself a shitload of time – and time is money.
Automation is the future of business. Use automation tools to jumpstart your business and optimize your business processes.
It’s still unbelievable that so many smart businesspeople haven’t implemented automation into their companies. Those who don’t grab automation by the horns and use it to amp up their businesses will be left in the dust when they are steamrolled by the competition.
What is your favorite business automation tool?
Let me know in the comments!