We’re in a race against it, pressed for it, short on it, running out of it. If we could, we’d save it in a bottle.
Whatever your idiom of choice, we never have enough time. That’s especially true if you’re a small business owner. In "Defining and Achieving Small Business Success," a report from Infusionsoft and Emergent Research, small business owners identified “time to get everything done” as one of their top three challenges.
Time may never be on our side, but at least technology can be. Automation software like Infusionsoft can save you from hours of manual tasks, like responding to repetitive emails, keeping track of leads and customers, and sending and collecting routine information. It does what you’d do if there were 10 of you.
Here’s how to 10X yourself by automating tasks and processes in your business.
1. Respond to contact requests
In a world of instant gratification, prospective customers who complete the “contact us” directions on your website want a response after a matter of minutes, not days or even hours. But you can’t afford to drop everything else you’re doing every time a new email hits your inbox. Automation can step in until you’re ready to respond in detail, triggering an email when a form is completed.
The message doesn’t have to be an impersonal “autoresponder;” it can look like you wrote it yourself, especially if you use a timer to delay it by 15 minutes or so: “Hi [Prospect Name], thanks for contacting us! I’m heading into some meetings, but I’ll be sure to get back to you later today.”
For more tips on how to make automation feel less automated, check out our e-book, This Time, It’s Personal: 20 Tips for Sending Automated Emails Without Sounding Like a Robot.
2. Send content and information
How many times each day do you send customers routine information like your price list, policies or schedule? Even if you’re only spending a couple minutes emailing links or attachments, those minutes turn into hours that you could save through automation.
Emails can be triggered via the completion of webform, as in the example above, or as a real-time response to an email in your inbox. With Infusionsoft, if you apply a note to the customer’s contact record, a prewritten email will be deployed (while the action is recorded in your database).
3. Follow up with leads
It doesn’t take long for a list of leads to become confusing. If you often dig through your inbox searching for email chains, trying to remember when you last checked in with a lead, you’re wasting time. Automation can do that for you.
With software, you can create an automated sequence in which emails are sent over the days, weeks, and potentially months you’re working to nurture a lead into a sale. Whether you’re sending content or the occasional “just checking in” note, automation ensures you don’t give up on a lead too soon.
If the automation software integrates with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, as is the case with Infusionsoft, that email history is posted to the prospect’s contact record so you can see which emails you sent—as well as which ones the prospect opened or clicked.
4. Continue the phone tag
Robocalls aside, you still have to pick up the phone, dial, and talk. But automation can handle the annoying part that often comes next: having to remember to call back again (and again and again) because you reached voicemail. You can create an automated sequence in which software picks up the phone tag. Leaving a note in the system triggers an automated “Sorry I missed you” email, while the software reminds you when it’s time to get on the phone again.
5. Identify the best leads
Your list of leads is long enough (hopefully) that you don’t have time to contact each one in the same day. And you also don’t have time to call prospects at random, only to reach the ones who aren’t interested—while the leads that are ready to buy may be slipping away.
Enter lead scoring, a feature in which software automatically identifies the most sales-ready leads based on criteria they meet. You set the rules for the scoring, which can be based on actions like content downloads and link clicks. The software then gives you a hot-or-not view of your leads, allowing you to prioritize the ones who are ready to hear from you.
To learn more about lead scoring, download the e-book, Score Like a Rock Star: Take Your Business to the Big Time with a Kick-Butt Lead Scoring Strategy.
6. Send quotes
If you’re in a business that involves quotes, you can use automation to reduce the back-and-forth process of sending a quote, waiting for the client to look at it (and perhaps reminding her to do so), and then repeating the process after the quote turns into an order. In Infusionsoft, you can trigger automation—like reminders or other follow up—when a quote is sent, viewed, accepted, declined, or paid.
7. Collect customer information
Offices used to dedicate entire teams to collecting and transcribing customer information. That manual data entry becomes a relic of the past if your automation software syncs with your CRM. When you collect customer information via a web form, a new contact record is created in your CRM, with each field automatically transferred to the record.
Bonus: Automating data collection also allows you to immediately send relevant information to your new contact. If the contact checks a box on a form indicating that she’s interested in boxing classes, for example, the software will tag her so she gets emails only about boxing, not about yoga.
8. Send appointment and event reminders
Automation removes the need for someone to manually remind customers about each upcoming appointment or event—and reduces the possibility of no-shows, too. With software, you can trigger automated reminder emails to be sent at a predetermined time, whether it’s five days before a consultation or 15 minutes before a webinar. The same is true for following up with a thank you, next steps, or a satisfaction survey after an event.
9. Collect paperwork
If you send a customer an important form to complete, the chances are fair that he won’t remember to do it—at least not the first time you ask. And you have more important things to do than chase paperwork. Automation can handle the reminders for you. Software can track whether the customer clicks a link to download or visit the form. Based on that behavior, the software can send automated email reminders until the form is finally back in your inbox.
10. Ask for referrals
Referred customers are more loyal and offer a higher lifetime value than customers acquired through other marketing efforts, according to a study in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing. Plus, it doesn’t cost anything to acquire them.
But there’s a catch: Many customers won’t give referrals unless you ask for them, and many business owners don’t have the time—or the comfort level—to do the asking.
Automating the referral request process ensures that you ask for referrals regularly and consistently. A purchase can trigger a later email to the customer in which you ask for a referral (and, potentially, offer a discount or gift as a thank you).
The customer may not realize the email is automated if you use tricks like merge fields, with which “Hi [First Name], I hope you’ve been happy with our [Product or Service Purchased]” becomes “Hi Mark, I hope you’ve been happy with our web design services”—personalized for each customer. With automated referral requests, you’ll be helping to grow your business, without even thinking about it.