There's only one way that you can increase the revenue that your businesses generates - you have to increase the amount of business you do by scaling your operations.
Unfortunately, you're likely always busy with maintaining your website, running your business, marketing and ensuring that any employees you do have are staying on task. A well-oiled machine still needs someone to put oil in it from time to time.
That leaves you with little capacity to work harder on scaling. You likely don't have the money required to invest in more personnel, which seems to leave you up a creek without a paddle.
The only solution is to forgo working harder by working smarter. Automating certain aspects of your business can increase your bottom line by freeing up you and/or your workers from repetitive tasks to work on more sensitive tasks that require a human eye.
The power of automation lies in the fact that, once it's set up, you can let it run on autopilot to supplement your business. This allows you to take care of more pressing matters that require your full and undivided attention. This may seem like a "duh" to most people, but you'd be surprised how many companies still operate the "old fashioned" way, not realizing how much precious time they're wasting by not introducing automation systems into their company's workflow.
A common problem with automation is that many people believe it's too complicated to implement. This couldn't be farther from the truth. With everything being digital these days, there is a plethora of services, software and other options that can alleviate menial tasks to free up more time in the day.
Let's explore six parts of your business where automation can come into play:
- Repetitive Tasks
- Lead Generation
- Sales & Delivery
- Automating Traffic
- Relationship Building
- Market Research
Automating Repetitive Tasks
Chances are you or someone that works for you does some things throughout the day that can be classified as being repetitive. These are tasks that you may be performing on a day-to-day basis that are time-consuming, boring and uninspiring.
Say for example, you have to constantly scour Craigslist for new opportunities related to your business. Instead of manually sifting through listings all day you could use a service like ifttt to connect the Craigslist RSS feed of your search query to go directly to your email. Take this one step further by using Gmail filters to appropriately label and organize these incoming emails according to your needs.
Another great service is Zapier, which allows you to have different services "talk" to each other to streamline an event or a task. For example, if you wanted to have a form submission on your site be sent straight to a Google spreadsheet, you could do this using Zapier to have the two applications connect to each other. No programming is needed.
If you are constantly repeating tasks in a spreadsheet every day, you should probably learn how to use macros to automate data driven tasks in Excel and other spreadsheet applications.
Automating Lead Generation
Generating new leads means opening new opportunities for your business, the kind which allows you to bring in new customers and to ultimately foster growth.
While there are a number of ways that you can automate this part of your business, one popular method is offering a free guide, report or other valuable piece of information in exchange for their email address. This is a great way to generate leads on auto-pilot as the work needed to create your guide is one-time only, but it will produce leads many times over.
Building a strong email list with prospective leads is a great way to build a community around you, your company and your product. This is incredibly powerful come time for a new product or service launch where you want to have traffic available at the push of a button.
Automating Sales and Product Delivery
The most work-intensive component of many web businesses concerns the delivery of your products and services. The good news is that these repetitive tasks can be partially or completely automated, which means that you can drop the amount of labor required by human hands considerably by automating the back-ends of these processes.
If you have a membership site or recurring product subscription, then that's another point you can automate. So long as everything continues to work properly, you can set and forget this part of your business to focus on other things.
There are many digital e-commerce platforms available that allow the entire buying process to be automated, from your "thank you" page to your product delivery to your customer and order management. E-commerce is an incredibly vast space and you'll have to find the platform that works best for your company, but many of them share the same basic fundamentals of providing your customers a fully-automated shopping experience while tying into your payment gateway and your backend order fulfillment and delivery.
Many businesses believe that the only way to generate new traffic is with costly solutions that require mountains of money or loads of effort and time. The truth is that you don't have to pay for pay-per-click advertising if you don't have the budget.
Although, automating traffic does take some time and may seem like an uphill battle at first, the payoff is worth it. Building a core readership by putting out valuable content on your company's blog will create awareness of your brand. Getting your readers subscribed to your RSS feed and/or email newsletter will help alert them of new posts on your site and keep them in touch with your product launches. This keeps your readers coming back to you instead of them stumbling onto your site once and never hearing from you ever again.
There are also blog aggregators like Alltop that accept quality blogs into their index. These have built in traffic which you can use to funnel to your site.
The key to automating traffic over and over is by publishing content that is actually helpful and useful for your target audience, then promoting that content to others sites and blog owners in your niche who will share and link back to your content. There are many companies out there that blog on a regular basis without even understanding WHY they are blogging. If you are publishing content because that's what you heard you're supposed to do, then you're missing the big picture. No matter how often you blog, if your content is not authentically helpful then you will likely see little success.
To automate your traffic aside from paid solutions you need a solid content marketing strategy, which includes content that helps people coupled with a content promotion strategy that siphons traffic from other sources and gets links to your content.
If done right, your readers and followers will eventually become brand ambassadors for you simply based on the merit that they like you and what you have to say.
Automate Relationship Building
Once you've achieved subscribers on your email list through your free guide or email signup form, you'll want to automate the relationship building process with your leads by using an autoresponder. Use one of the many email services out there to help automate the delivery of your free guide or resource and to build a relationship with your subscribers.
You don't need to physically sit in front of your computer every time you have something to say to your list. Simply setup an email sequence that each subscriber will go through or schedule messages accordingly to go out at a certain time. Of course there is some manual work involved to write the emails, but the delivery will be fully-automated once you have the initial sequence setup. You can pump out a month's worth of emails in one sitting if you like. Your subscriber will feel as if you're emailing them exactly at that time, but really they're just walking through the sequence you setup from the beginning.
Automating Market Research
The last big thing that you should be automating is your market research. You can learn what your audience needs through the simple use of surveys that are delivered via your autoresponder.
You'll find out what they want, how they want it and how you can serve them better. As you learn these valuable pieces of information and integrate them into your business, your products will become laser targeted to your audience. There are various survey services out there that you can use to gather market research in your vertical. Some autoresponder companies even include this functionality by default.
The Limits of Automation
While automation provides a powerful way for you to scale the amount of business you can complete every day, it shouldn't be the end-all objective of your business. Things like content creation and marketing still require your manual interaction, which is why it's important to automate where you can. Leaving the repetitive tasks up to a machine can free up your time and energy for the things that require a human touch.
About the author:
Michael Bonds writes for Ubot Studio Pro, a blog that offers various automation tutorials. He also likes to write about productivity, efficiency and automating workflow for small businesses. He resides in NYC, where he consults with local businesses.