Imagine sitting back while your business runs for you.
You’re sipping a pina colada on the beach and never have to do anything ever again.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit too far fetched, but, this is why automation and outsourcing is so valuable. It saves you time, money, and allows you to be more productive.
It’s estimated that by 2021, spending on business automation will reach $12.7 billion globally.
Businesses of any size can benefit from automation, and there’s a lot of free tools so you don’t have to invest any money right away.
Well, ahead are 11 different processes within your business you could be automating or outsourcing for better results.
53% of marketers say that blogging is their top inbound priority. Why? Because it drives traffic and sales. Plain and simple.
But if you already blog on a regular basis, you know that creating content is very time consuming.
You need to perform research first, develop the content, and edit it. This can take several hours or more depending on the individual project.
Wouldn’t it be nice to save that time and delegate it towards other operations? Well, that’s why outsourcing content creation to paid writers is a great idea.
I suggest using freelance websites and job boards such as ProBlogger to find writers. Creating a single listing can result in dozens or more of applications.
You have to pay $70 for a listing, but this is to weed out people that aren’t serious.
Some of the biggest websites use Problogger for find writers, so you’re guaranteed to get professionals applying that meet your standards.
To see if they are a good fit, ask for a resume, portfolio, and samples. You could even ask them to write a test article.
Once you do have writers, create a template, and checklist for them to follow. You want the process to be streamlined for both you and the writer. For example, it may include:
How many images to include
What length each article should be
Keywords to add
Tone and audience
This will keep them on track and as productive as possible.
Do you find yourself making social media graphics and reports as well? I know I do.
Websites like Canva have been priceless for these things. You can create professional and beautiful graphics from scratch or with the help of templates.
Nothing is out of reach either. Headers, book covers, infographics and more can be pieced together within a few minutes.
Sign up for a free account and choose from any category you like.
I’ll choose to make a graphic for social media.
You can choose a template, add text, images, and more from the sidebar.
Use this to streamline your content creation by making templates of your own.
Search engine optimization is a needed practice for any online business. It helps bring in a steady stream of users which can convert to sales or leads.
Marketingprofs found that marketers are experiencing a significant increase in effectiveness of SEO.
Big companies are quickly realizing the power of inbound marketing and SEO combined.
Not too long ago, I was listening to a podcast that featured an executive from Hubspot. He spoke about how Hubspot posts hundreds of blog posts per month!
Imagine the results they are getting from that and solid SEO.
But, both on-page and off-site SEO can take a lot of work. Typically it involves building high quality links while optimizing web pages and continually researching, all consuming lots of energy.
To make life easier for you, consider hiring an SEO agency or even an SEO consultant to streamline the process.
The first will offer services including content creation, outreach, backlink building and optimization. With enough time, it can be a very worthwhile investment.
Be careful though.
There are a lot of shady agencies that have blackhat practices which will do more harm than good. If they can find guest post opportunities for you and perform legitimate activities, then go for it.
SEO consultants on the other hand, will guide you personally through the steps you need to take. They will recommend based on their experience what would be best for your business type.
For keyword research, studying competition, and alike, SEMrush will be your best friend.
Enter any domain name and you will be given indepth data on their SEO performance. Traffic levels, top keywords and backlinks are all on the table.
This is a great tool for understanding your own website or learning from competitors. You get a few free searches every day if you want to use it casually, otherwise you’ll need to upgrade.
Do you have social media accounts for your business? Of course you do.
More than a quarter of the worlds population are active social media users. This means that your target demographic is ready to be marketed to.
They are needed to engage with your customers, share content, and drive traffic. Social media requires constant attention to make it worthwhile, though.
A free tool that will greatly help your social media marketing needs is Hootsuite. While there is a premium version, the free one is more than enough to begin.
You can attach up to 3 accounts to schedule posts, collect analytics and create reports. It will save time by automating content while giving you valuable insight into your progress.
IFTTT is another you’d be missing out on if you didn’t use.
You can connect practically an apps imaginable to do whatever you like. Want to automatically post your Tweets to your Facebook page? Done. How about instantly sharing your latest posts to Linkedin? No problem.
Email marketing automation
Collecting emails to send out newsletters and promotions is fantastic for staying in touch with your users. It also creates opportunities to earn extra revenue.
Did you know that for every $1 you spend on email marketing, the average return is $44? Not bad.
Email marketing just so happens to be an easy area of your business to automate.
Mailchimp is a great tool to help you do so. You can sign up for free to create email lists, signup forms, campaigns and more. It integrates with major platforms you might already be using too, like Shopify, WordPress, and Magento.
Sign up for an account and create a new subscriber list from the top menu.
Then, click the “Create List” button on the right side.
Fill out all of the needed information the next page. This includes the subscriber list name, the default email address, and some other options.
Save it and you’re ready to start email marketing!
I personally use the Mailmunch plugin for WordPress, it allows you to create forms, landing pages, and more to connect right to your lists.
Once you’re setup with the email marketing solution of your choice, try launching a drip campaign. These are emails that slowly get released to your subscribers over a set period of time.
It will save you from manually sending them and opens up the opportunity for easier split testing.
If you are an e-commerce store owner, you could be generating a lot more sales with email marketing. Look at what Unbounce found about customer behavior.
Inventory management automation
If you sell physical products, you know firsthand how much work goes into managing inventory. Barcodes, variations, and stock are just a few things you probably worry about. I’ve been there too.
When I sold physical products in the past, inventory was always a pain point. Having customers place orders for products that were out of stock would cause a headache.
They organize your products in categories, collections and with common traits. If you sell items with colour or size variants, those are organized as well. It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders.
Holding inventory is only half the battle though. Shipping is the rest. Luckily, services like ShipStation exist to automate this for us.
They will handle all of your fulfillment, labels and tracking so you don’t have to worry about a thing. Use this as an opportunity to expand into other marketplaces or create more products.
The marketing manager at Writey had this to say about their services.
Automating your customer service
Nurturing relationships with leads, customers and clients can be done in many ways. From phone calls to followups and emails, it plays a role in every business.
Customers can have questions, concerns or may need help at any given time. You can’t leave them hanging.
55% of customers would pay for a better customer service experience. Never forget that it’s a huge part of your brand and product.
They allow you to offer ticket systems, create lead scores, organize contact information, use live chat and more.
They are proven improve your productivity and customer satisfaction. The State of Tennessee even saw a 20% increase through using Zendesk specifically.
No one likes accounting. Well, maybe except for accountants.
For the rest of us, automation and outsourcing will do wonders. One of the easiest ways to begin is by hiring a bookkeeper to track all of your business expenses, revenue and finances.
Come tax season, you’ll be happy you have all of this organized.
Upwork is a good place to look for an affordable bookkeeper.
You can conduct a Skype interview, browse through their portfolio, and ensure that they are a good candidate.
- Track your spending.
- Create customization invoices for clients.
- Bill in multiple currencies.
- Keep your teams hours and pay organized.
- Project conversations and file sharing.
Google stated that from 2015 to 2016, there was a 32% increase in hacked websites. When it comes to web security, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The last thing we want as business owners is our website compromised when it could’ve been prevented.
I recommend that every website owner look into using Cloudflare. Their free plan offers attack protection and a secure socket layer certificate. Both of these are priceless to webmasters in the case of emergencies.
There are also many platform specific plugins and apps to take advantage of. For example, WordPress has WordFence which blocks malicious login attempts and attacks.
Automated backups should also be high on your priorities. They are featured for free on numerous web hosting services. If you need to pay for backups, it’s still well worth the safety and peace of mind.
Automating the hiring process
Cover letters, resumes, interviews, scheduling, the list goes on. The hiring process can be tedious. Why not make it easier for everyone? Automating the hiring process is a lot simpler than you may think.
Zip Recruiter is a popular service for finding new employees. You can create a job opening and they will send it to over 100 other job boards.
Think about how many potential prospects you could be reaching in a small amount of time. Instead of manually creating accounts and posting, it will all be done for you.
Some of us look forward to them. Some of us don’t. Either way, emails are a part of our life.
If you’re like the average business owner, you probably check them quite frequently.
Carleton Universtiy concluded that we spend up to 17 hours per week doing emails. This can quickly absorb time that is better off put into other tasks. The solution? Virtual assistants.
Having someone handle and organize all of your emails will make you a heck of a lot more productive. If that sounds appealing, look into freelancer platforms for virtual assistants.
Upwork like we mentioned in the content section is a great place to check. Freelancer and Guru are other websites that can be just as effective.
Collecting payments, sending invoices, and creating quotes is the norm for many business owners. While not necessarily difficult, it can be repetitive.
Having a PayPal business account is an effective way to handle all of these tasks. You will be able to send invoices to your clients, track revenue, and use it as a payment gateway.
This will be especially useful for business owners that sell products or services through a website.
Automation saves time, money, and energy.
If that isn’t motivating enough, I don’t know what is!
Business owners can automate and outsource any component of their business. You should audit what takes up most of your time or expenses.
Content is the first place many entrepreneurs could benefit from automating. From blog posts to infographics and videos, having professionals handle it for you makes it better for your audience and yourself.
Problogger is a great platform to find writers if you’re looking to have blog posts or similar content written.
And, what goes hand in hand with content? SEO.
Consider hiring an agency or consultant to aid in streamlining your SEO strategies. Tools like SEMrush and Google’s Keyword Planner also are valuable resources.
Social media marketing can be automated with Hootsuite, the free account is more than enough for a while. You can schedule posts, collect analytics, and I’ve found it saves tons of time.
Similarly, consider looking into Mailchimp for your email marketing needs. For every day emails, a virtual assistant from Upwork is the go-to for many busy business owners.
I remember how much of a pain inventory was when I ran e-commerce businesses, which is why you should look into tools like Shipstation. It takes the weight off of your shoulders so you can get back to other tasks.
Customer service is a big part of your business, whether you realize it or not. Services like Zendesk will empower you with chat bots, ticket systems, and more to ensure that your customers are always happy.
Do you like getting paid? Obviously, but accounting and invoicing is repetitive. I suggest using tools like PayPal and Zoho to manage payments, invoicing, and business finances.
Since you’ll probably need some employees as you scale your business, the hiring process can be intimidating. Get to your shortlist faster by using Ziprecruiter and find the best team members ASAP.
Lastly, prevent your website from getting compromised by using Cloudflare or other security tools. These will stop DDoS attacks, provide an SSL, and more to keep you safe.
What do you like automating within your business?