Automated processes have become essential for both small and medium sized companies to stay competitive in this age of cutthroat competition. By investing in a system that automatically manages things like marketing, accounting, client management, scheduling, and more, small business owners can ensure better productivity, increased revenue, and countless hours saved.
According to a recent study conducted by Three Deep and Ascend2, nearly two-thirds of businesses that identify as “very successful” use automation software extensively throughout their operation.
Automation is no longer the distant dream it was a few years ago. In fact, many of the modern tools are affordable and simple-to-use, so small businesses can easily leverage and make the most of them.
Here is a list of six automation tools that can help small business owners take their efforts to the next level.
Automated marketing has been a popular buzzword in the industry as of late. The potential it has to present targeted content to relevant audiences has been a game changer for boosting ROI and cutting down on costs.
Infusionsoft is an all-in-one sales and marketing automation tool geared specifically to small businesses. The tool helps businesses build their campaigns to track and record leads’ behavior, then scores each one individually based on the ease of conversion. Once the leads are recognized, the tool sends personalized messages to contacts based on certain triggers.
Infusionsoft helps businesses nurture relationships with their customers and ensures they stay connected with the brand. The platform includes a robust mobile application that is provided with full lead forms, and page and email building capabilities.
Pricing: Starts at $99/month
There is no area of running a business that requires more precision than accounting. As great as your team may be, humans make mistakes. Therefore, leaving the finer details of the job to the automated machines is the best way to avoid mishaps and miscalculations.
FreshBooks is an award-winning software that prides itself on making financial management easy and enjoyable. The platform is designed with small teams in mind and understands both the giant and the minuscule problems each face.
In recent years, it has always been a struggle for non-tech savvy accountants to grasp complex software solutions for their day-to-day operation. FreshBooks takes this into consideration with their exceedingly user-friendly interface that can be understood within minutes. With an emphasis on automated task prioritization, tracking payments in and out is an intuitive process with no hiccups. The invoice to payment feature is a must-have for every small business. The tracking system provides full details in relation to when a customer receives an invoice, when they open it, and of course when it is paid. This can save all sorts of time and headaches when it comes to dealing with clientele who claim they didn’t see the proper documentation.
FreshBooks is designed to settle accounts through Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Google Checkout, and PayPal, along with a multitude of different currencies. The cloud-based system is built to automate billing processes to save time and energy across the board.
Following suit with the way the world is moving, FreshBooks is 100 percent optimized for mobile so you can operate your entire system on the go!
Pricing: Plans start at $15/month.
As a small business owner, you already have so much on your plate that it can be difficult to stay on top of every single project. All the little factors can eat up precious hours in a hurry. Using a project management program to automate and simplify those monotonous processes will save you copious amounts of time and sanity.
WorkflowMax offers a project management and scheduling software that allows you to keep an eye on every project and ensure your team stays on schedule. You can easily enter in objectives and assign team members accordingly, then track your employee’s progress along the way. With email notifications and an interactive scheduling interface, you will never have to worry about missing a deadline again.
You can use the program to create custom invoices with your own company logo and adjust pricing per project as needed. WorkflowMax is integrated to work with invoicing software such as Xero as well, so transferring invoices from one program to the other is effortless. It also offers a timesheet management program that streamlines your payroll system. Employees can make their own invoices per project and easily enter in hours through their phone or computer.
Pricing: WorkflowMax offers a two-week free trial and no long term contracts. Plans start at $15/month per user with no set-up fees.
If your small business is one that requires customers to make bookings for your services, investing in an automated scheduling system is one of the smartest decisions you can make.
ScheduleOnce is an all-inclusive tool that takes the question and margin for error out of scheduling appointments. Using the system, customers can easily schedule their own bookings, which are then automatically added to the calendars of all parties involved.
On your end, you have complete control over the availability and time slots visible to your customers so you can provide your service to fit your exact preferences. Once you accept a booking, the customer is sent a confirmation with all the necessary details. You can even set the program to provide automatic reminders, as well as follow-up messages with your electronic business card.
Perhaps the best aspect of this software is how easily you can integrate it with your business website with widgets, buttons, or a full embed. From here, people can make appointments without ever leaving your platform.
Consumers today value simplicity. This automated software makes booking appointments quick and easy without the need for any back-and-forth with your office.
Pricing: Plans range from $5-$49/month depending on the size of your operation.
Aimed at small businesses on the cusp of becoming mid-sized businesses, BrandsEye is a comprehensive social monitoring tool that goes beyond just scouring the web to bring you all the social mentions related to your business.
It automatically provides you with a number of insights into how your social media strategy is progressing and the changes you should make to improve your campaign. You can create reports to study and understand the performance, as well as the ROI of all your social media efforts. You can even monitor the campaigns of your competitors.
More pertinently, it generates all the mentions of your brand and gauges the user sentiment around it.
BrandsEye is cloud-based and optimized for mobile devices, which helps you to stay in touch with important brand-related information on the go.
Pricing: To know your exact pricing plan, you will have to contact their team. However, reviews suggest their support is excellent.
Business these days is all about data. In fact, some experts say big data is currently the most valuable resource in the world. However, it is only valuable if you know what you’re looking at and how to use it to your advantage.
As much as small businesses stand to gain from big data, it can be extremely difficult to know what to look for, and not get overwhelmed in the process. This is why automated business intelligence software like Sisense is a lifesaver.
There is a big misconception that in order to properly read big data, you need an extensive team of IT experts. This all-in-one cloud-based tool works to give you the full view of your most relevant business analytics by automatically preparing reports of complex data with an interactive dashboard. You are then presented with this information in a variety of visualization models.
Big data no longer needs to be an overly complicated entity. Reading the right information can be the key to bringing your brand to the next level. Small businesses should not shy away from it after the first glance.
An automated solution built to interpret big data is one of the most valuable weapons you can equip yourself with in the modern era.
Pricing: Pricing varies greatly on business needs. You will need to reach out directly for a quote.
By automating certain business processes, teams can free up valuable time and invest it in more strategic tasks that will ensure rapid growth for the company. Some automation tools are extremely affordable, while others come with a high price tag. This means business owners must choose a tool depending on their specific needs and budgets.
Regardless of the tool you choose, know that each one is designed to help businesses have better control and make smarter choices.
Pratik Dholakiya is the co-founder of E2M, a full-service digital marketing agency, and PRmention, a digital PR agency. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, Growth Hacking, Entrepreneurship and Digital PR. Pratik has spoken at NextBigWhat's UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, and other major events across Asia. As a passionate marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge on publications like Search Engine Land, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web and the Huffington Post to name a few. He has been named one of the top content marketing influencers by Onalytica three years in a row.