Big business speeds with small business charm: how to automate your small business

Sometimes running a business can seem like a chore. Between tasks like bookkeeping, invoicing, customer service, marketing and advertising, owners and managers can spend most of their time on administrative duties.

These administrative duties eat up a lot of time and money for business owners. This time could be spent serving clients or on business development initiatives.

One solution to these problems is integrating automation into business operations. Automation simplifies tasks by using tools to accomplish them automatically rather than manually. Read ahead to learn about some of the strategies, benefits and considerations of automating a business.

Accelerate accounting duties

While bookkeepers can help reduce errors and streamline operations, they can be expensive. Hiring a part-time self-employed bookkeeper can cost as much as $20-50  per hour. Depending on the business size, the operational budget may not support this expense.

One solution is to take the DIY approach using a small level of automation. One option is to utilize free financial statement spreadsheets available online. This can work for new small businesses, especially for ventures with little cash flow.

Investing $20-40 per month for accounting software could be worth it for businesses looking for something requiring less labour. The features vary depending on the software, but most include invoicing, expense tracking, payment processing and other common low-level accounting tasks.

For businesses that have employees and wish to automate payroll, there are payroll add-on plans for most accounting software choices. Alternatively, separate payroll software options can range in price from C$30-200.

Streamline social media management

Social media is an essential tool for modern businesses. According to an article published by Sprout Social,  55 per cent of consumers discover new brands through social media. Additionally, it was reported that eight per cent of consumers are more willing to buy from a company after a positive social media experience with them.

However, social media can also be a time sink. HubSpot reported that 43 per cent of small businesses spend more than six hours per week on social media marketing. Additionally, one third of CEOs, owners and proprietors reportedly want to spend less effort on social media-related tasks.

Some top challenges of social media management include finding time for social media, creating meaningful content and tracking the progress of social media management. Businesses can run a more efficient platform by automating some social media tasks.

Though social media is hard to automate completely, some time-intensive tasks can be automated or assisted by automation. These tasks include scheduling social posts, consolidating platforms into a single webpage, automatically curating content and providing analytics. Businesses can expect to pay between $0-250 for these services.

Social media can be fully automated by using chatbots. However, there might be better branding choices for many businesses than integrating these tools with social media. Depending on the business owners’ technical skills, it may also not be feasible. This is because creating chatbots requires know-how of computer programming, which are skills that may be out of reach for some.

Snappy and speedy customer service

HubSpot reported that 90  per cent of consumers rate receiving an immediate response when asking a customer service question as important or very important.   

A fast turn-around time for customer service is important. However, most small businesses don’t have a 24/7 customer service department capable of handling every support ticket.    

Automating customer service responses is one solution to increase response turn-around times for small businesses. One option for automation includes chatbots, computer software that automatically generates a response to human inputs. According to Forbes, premium options range in price from free to thousands of dollars.

For a DIY approach, it is possible to build a chatbot from scratch and integrate it into websites, social media platforms and chatroom software. There are more accessible paid options available starting at $52 per year. For the tech-savvy, building a chatbot without using paid software is also possible.

Automated email responses and phone messaging services are two other ways to incorporate automation into a business’s customer service approach.

Although automation can help support a business in many ways, it won’t be able to take away all job tasks completely. Running a business is a lot of work and always will be. However, with automation, it is possible to redirect that energy into doing what you love rather than spending time on administrative duties.

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