Business automation has become more ubiquitous, and new tech like ChatGPT and self-driving cars and trucks are promising even more opportunities to automate tasks, services, and possibly even entire industries.
As a small business owner, you might not think that automating business processes is an opportunity for you. Your coffee shop or retail store doesn’t have a big factory assembly line, after all. But there are actually several examples of automation that small businesses can and should consider implementing. By learning how to automate your business, you can save both time and money that you can then pour back into business development, other tasks at hand, or even just to earn back a little free time for yourself.
Here are five easy small business automation ideas that you can try implementing today.
The value of social media for a small business cannot be overstated. It’s one of the best ways to interact with your customer base, find new customers, and field customer service questions. It’s also the backbone of modern digital marketing. Your social media presence is one of the best ways to grow brand recognition and loyalty.
However, it can also take up a ton of time. If your business is not able to hire a dedicated social media manager, posting on social media might come down to you, the business owner, and the last thing you need to do is take time out of a busy customer rush to make sure that your new product announcement goes up on Instagram at the exact right time. Enter: Automation!
There are lots of tools available to help automate the social media process. Using software like Hootsuite or Sprout Social allows you to pre-schedule posts, and also sync up posts across all of your channels. That’s a huge time saver, especially if you have a big multi-post announcement coming down the pike. You can also set up automatic responses to some basic customer service queries. More and more consumers are taking to social media for their customer service needs, and automated “bot” responses can help reduce the number of these queries that you end up having to deal with directly.
A healthy small business is tracking everything and using all that data to grow, prioritize, and streamline. Sales numbers, inventory management, revenue, expenses, employee compensation — it’s a swirl of numbers, spreadsheets, and data reports that your business will need to keep careful track of in order to optimize and grow.
And guess what? You can automate pretty much all of it. Getting set up with a POS system that automatically tracks revenue and can generate sales reports, for example, is another huge time saver. Plus, it helps reduce the possibility of human error in a vital sector of your business.
Every business has bills to pay — to suppliers, clients, property lenders, and more. Sifting through all your accounts payable and getting those business bill payments made can be a huge time suck, but it’s also crucial to the survival of your business.
Setting up AP automation can save you a huge amount of time. Plus, automating your accounts payable helps minimize the risk of late or missed payments, which can help grow and improve your relationships with suppliers over time. Automated accounts payable solutions are easy to set up, and come with the added bonus of being highly accurate and tracking all your payments. That way, when it comes time to review your financial relationship with a supplier, you have a more accurate record to work with.
A good email marketing campaign can bear a lot of fruit for your business. Maintaining your relationships with established customers, obtaining new customers, rolling out a big product or service announcement — all of this can be accomplished in the inbox.
Naturally, the real time and effort here is going to go into writing and formatting the content of your email campaign. Once you have that, you can easily set it up so that the emails go out automatically at whatever time and cadence you prefer.
There are also smaller things that you can do with automated emails. For example, many businesses send out celebratory emails to customers, suppliers, and clients on their birthdays. It might sound silly, but it can go a long way toward growing relationships and helping to ensure that your brand is showing up in people’s lives in a positive way. If you have access to the necessary underlying data, emails like this are pretty easy to set-and-forget.
Hiring has changed dramatically in recent years. Long gone are the days of a simple handshake and paper resume. These days, job-seekers apply to positions by the dozens, meaning companies end up having to sift through resumes and applications, which could be hundreds or even thousands.
You can’t automate the entire hiring process, but you can automate the front-end of it and save yourself a whole lot of time. Setting up pre-screening algorithms with hiring apps integrated with your POS system can help you whittle down the applicants to only the most qualified based on your set parameters. That way, when it comes time to conduct in-person interviews, you can rest assured knowing you’re speaking to the best possible set of candidates for your business.
In short, there are numerous opportunities for even the smallest business to automate parts of their day-to-day operations. From social media and email communications, to financial records and accounts payable, to finding qualified talent and more — small business automation is a tool that your business can lean on to save time and money. No single piece of tech can run your business for you, but you can become a more efficient leader with a more optimized business by embracing business automation ideas where you can.