Business Automation for Startups: A Quick Guide
In a startup there’s much more work to do behind the main brilliant and unique idea that got you fired up. Understanding and executing lots of the business aspects is extremely critical. Hundreds of emails to be read and sent, processes and tasks to be initialized and tracked down, decisions to be made quickly and constantly, projects to be delegated and supervised. That’s often the root of great tension and stress for fresh minds with business ambitions. And that is when business Automation comes in.
An automated business workflow makes things predictable from the very beginning to completion. It is a highly beneficial solution for startups and businesses, appearing in our era of innovation and optimization. Startups can devote more time to strategic issues while workflow can be automated or outsourced. Business process automation (BPA) is the automation of activities/services to accomplish a specific function or workflow. That may include activities like sales, management, operations, supply chain, human resources. The goal of business automation is to not only to automate, but also to simplify and improve.
With automation, processes are managed as one whole entity aiming to gain better productivity for overall workflow of the organization. It also reduces human error factor by much and clarifies responsibilities accurately. Besides general conception, best reasons to abandon paper work in favor of automating business processes are:
- Streamlined communication – meaning simple and rationalized communication process within single dashboard, where each workflow has its own place to keep track of any activities in the business process.
- Accountability – with automation the responsible person for each step of the process is assigned, thus a high-level accountability is established among everyone in the company, making it clear how the work is handled.
- Minimizing manual errors – with business automation you reduce costs caused by errors and inefficiencies like late payments or sales approvals, as automation reminds about any current issues to avoid mistakes.
- Insight into your business process – tracking every detail and activity of the business process, accumulating all the important data on requests, their number, time it took to process, customers’ preferences, etc. And this is probably the most valuable input for all business management needs.
- Clear approval hierarchy – properly implemented business automation tool will not only have it embodied into itself, but will also ensure hierarchy for each process separately, meaning the company doesn’t have to conduct meetings beforehand to approve every project.
Tools for business automation
Full-stack automation platforms like Hubspot, Act-on, Marketo or Eloqua help to manage the sales funnel. These software tools come with many useful features – email marketing, analytics, lead generation, A/B testing, social media marketing. Some of them are better suited for small business, others for larger companies, depending on specific goals and tasks.
Newsletter tools is the next great option and are the standard practice in email marketing. Mailchimp and many other similar tools sends out email campaigns and comprise campaign analytics, A/B testing and simple interfaces. There are also tools for transaction emails, allowing email sending to a segment of customers or even to a particular customer, which is based on some action. Sendgrid is possibly one of the most popular tools for this, with positive delivery rates, nice integration and permanent support. Similar to it are Mandrill, Mailgun, Postmark.
You’ve also probably heard or read about the thing called CRM (customer relationship management) systems. When you as a startup or larger company are employing sales staff, a CRM tool is of big assistance. Most popular ones today are Salesforce, Pipedrive, Netsuite, Infusionsoft, while there are also plenty of alternatives. Standard CRM systems let companies track information about leads and all communications with them, improve chances of converting them into deals. But there are also tools that have this feature automated. Many of CRMs present data visualized nicely, offer live chat, forms, in-app messages combined with emails, and other helpful options.
Everyone is on social media, you and your startup are too. Everyone is sharing information of good use or just fun with their friends, audience and invites others to do so. Social media are helpful for branding and building the community. It should be a part of any business strategy these days, and social media automation tools may help a lot. Buffer is a scheduling tool for posting on various platforms at once, or more advanced Hootsuite is there for better engagement with the audience, with possibilities of replying to comments, identifying leads, as well as for using key metrics and analytical data.
Google AdWords is also a great automation tool itself but there are many others in addition. PPC automation (pay-per-click) is a type of marketing where advertisers pay for each ad that is clicked by online users. It is another way of attracting visits to a site, in other words. Alternative tools in this space, like Acquisio or Wordstream, allow you to run and optimize campaigns across multiple channels, and mostly are easy to use. Some others like SpyFu may analyze competitors and identify their profitable keywords, as well as may be used for market research and lead generation.
Creating landing pages is the tool for converting traffic into leads and potential customers. A landing page is a page that visitors arrive at first. It is also common to refer to a landing page as a separate web page from a main site, designed for a single goal. Landing page should not have navigation connecting it to a main site, and the reason is to limit the options for visitors guiding them toward intended conversion. Many business automation platforms like Hubspot or Unbounce offer landing pages in their package. With this type of software you can create and optimize pages as well as test them before launch.
Plenty of possibilities
Automation of business processes includes a big number of options that are constantly updated and growing. Literally thousands of tools. You can always pick the best solution for the needs of your startup. There’s no urge to go big immediately, like Hubspot, you might take a look at Zapier – a platform connecting mobile apps in one easy tool that, or KnowledgeTree, that uses data to predict which content is most likely to generate deals.
Content marketing is the next big thing, with good potential of bringing organic traffic, that’s why almost every company has a blog on their site. To help with content creation tools like Buzzsumo or Draft let you find out trending topics or let you improve the writing proof-reading your texts. Yet, even some aspects of PR and branding can be automated. Tools for designing press releases, distribution through media, or submitting news to be viewed by relevant journalists are available too. There are services for brand monitoring allowing you to track keywords in real time and see any mention in the news or social media.
Some experts say that marketing is going to be programmable in the near future. So if you are in a business of startups (mobile app development per say) or expanding the reach of your company you should definitely keep your ears and mind open to newest automation tools.