Top 3 Automation Trends for Smart Businesses
Marketing Manager of Smith.ai
The transition to automation might seem like a new trend, but it’s not. For example, the printing press developed in the 1400s revolutionized the printing industry by adding automation to the printing process. Digital automation has grown significantly in small businesses as they learn the many benefits they can reap — including increased productivity, improved customer experience, and bottom-line growth — all by investing in the right technology and resources.
But how do businesses identify the right solutions?
We’ll explore some of the top automation trends and how you can adopt them for your business — without breaking the bank!
AI-enabled Business Tools to Improve Productivity
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are continuously being integrated into modern business tools and software that businesses use today. From automating content curation to customer relationship management (CRM) software, AI and ML are helping companies to operate smarter and faster across various business tasks — while providing valuable insights and data.
According to Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, there will be advancements in using AI, including creating short marketing videos and allowing businesses to easily create videos by typing scripts into an online form. In addition, several AI video generator tools are already available, which will only improve over time.
Another common business task that’s been automated over the past few years is social media management. Software like SocialBee, an AI-powered social media management tool and featured SmartSites partner, enables its users to share content across multiple social networks from one central place. SocialBee uses the power of AI to generate social media content and captions for your business. This is beneficial as companies can easily prepare social media posts focused on creating engagement and conversions.
While using tools and software to automate business functions is valuable, balancing it with your staff’s strengths is essential for the most significant and profitable impact.
Software Integrations and Automation Workflows for Faster Results
As businesses look to reduce overhead costs without risking productivity, they’re turning to native software integrations that allow them to automate business workflows and activities. An increasing number of “low-code” software solutions have made it easier to automate even the smallest and most mundane tasks for businesses.
According to Gartner, spending on low-code application platforms is expected to rise 25%, and those tools are increasingly being used by people outside of information technology (IT) roles to build applications that automate business processes. Small business owners can leverage the power of automation without needing to learn to code or hire costly developers.
Some of the most commonly automated workflows include streamlining your lead funnel, lead follow-up, email marketing, appointment booking, and more based on your business.
The first step to streamlining your lead funnel and having a quality lead follow-up process is asking the right questions on your lead capture forms. If your form is a single text box that says, “How can we help you today?”, you’re doing your business a disservice. Someone at your organization must manually read and sort through all of those leads. Use your website’s lead form to your advantage. By asking targeted questions, you let the leads know that you are an expert in your field and build the foundation for automation. For example, rather than asking an open-ended question like, “What services are you interested in?”, you should ask a multi-select question, “Which of these services are you interested in?” This is especially important as your business grows. Businesses can develop different email campaigns and sales enablement tools based on the product or service and route leads to the correct funnel based on answers given in the lead intake form.
Once a business receives the completed form, they may have automation built in that helps perform the following:
- The leads’ contact information and notes are automatically added to the business’ CRM.
- The lead is added to relevant email marketing campaigns. This typically includes an automatic email and a long-term drip campaign.
- The lead receives a prompt outbound call to gauge interest and book a formal meeting to learn more about the business’s product or service.
The above automation workflow can vary based on business size and industry, but most follow a similar process.
Software like Klaviyo and MailChimp can help your business automate email marketing drip campaigns. They also allow you to choose to send emails to your whole database of contacts or segment it based on specified criteria to offer a more personalized experience for your customers.
If your business already uses email marketing solutions, are your leads automatically being added to those campaigns, or are you still manually moving lead data from one source (your PPC campaign or website form) to another? Using native integrations (when they exist) or no-code automation solutions like Zapier (when native integrations don’t exist), allows you to seamlessly move leads through your funnel, no matter where they enter it.
Scheduling software like Calendly simplifies the appointment booking process by eliminating the need for back-and-forth discussion of availability by providing a unique link to schedule conversations directly. Calendly also plays nice and integrates with other software enabling your business to be more efficient. Calendly is taking automated routing to another level with features like Calendly Routing that allow you to ask screening questions and automatically direct visitors to the correct scheduling page based on their responses.
Automating workflows can be especially helpful to businesses with limited staff and time, who need to be even more protective of overhead costs.
Combining Automation with Outsourcing Labor and Routine Tasks for Cost-savings
Businesses with limited resources can pass off business functions through outsourced (and automated) software and services. Outsourcing helps expand the capabilities of internal staff thanks to external support, who can expertly and quickly carry out key functions of businesses that would otherwise be more time-consuming, more costly, or both.
Services traditionally handled in-house by businesses that are seeing a rise in being outsourced include human resources management, business accounting, and sales outreach.
Human resources as a service enable businesses with a limited staff to outsource core responsibilities like payroll and benefits management to highly experienced professionals. Outsourcing human resources is beneficial for entrepreneurs starting a new business that are inexperienced with handling critical tasks such as payroll, talent management, benefits administration, compensation, and employee support.
Accounting as a service can help new businesses make sound economic decisions, budgeting, and vendor management, as it can be time-consuming and pull you away from growing your new company. In addition, outsourced accountants can audit systems, advise on tax and compliance, and build forecasts.
Another common business function that’s often automated through outsourcing today is sales outreach. Many businesses have online web forms readily available for interested prospects to complete. The business gathers important contact information and responds accordingly to continue the sales conversation.
Solo and smaller businesses have more unique challenges.
It’s difficult for many of them to immediately follow up with interested leads as they also have other work to focus on. For example, attorneys can’t always call potential new clients completing online forms as they might be in a courtroom. This is an excellent opportunity for outsourcing sales outreach to an outbound calling service — like Smith.ai — that can quickly contact leads. Improving response times can make a big difference in increasing conversion and close rates.
As your business continues adopting automation throughout this year, knowing what technology and resources are readily available and affordable is vital to help lead to business growth. Think critically about the core functions of your business and what can be done by machines, AI, and outsourced support versus internal manual labor.
Here’s to a prosperous and profitable year!
Samir Sampat is a Marketing Manager with Smith.ai. Smith.ai’s 24/7 virtual receptionists and live chat agents capture and convert leads by phone, website chat, texts, and Facebook. You can follow Smith.ai on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Youtube.