Those of us who have raised children will be familiar with the haphazard approach they take to building Lego®: smashing pieces together to create structures that definitely wouldn’t pass a health and safety test.
When it comes to automating our business processes, I’d suggest we don’t take inspiration from this approach. Understanding which software fits well together and can be built upon is essential to ensure a seamless experience that will benefit our businesses.
In this blog, we’ll be exploring which areas of your business would benefit from automation, and putting a spotlight on the best tools available.
How automation can help you stand out against your competitors
For most entrepreneurs in business, we learn as we go. Often we’re striving to be recognised as thought leaders in our industry and to offer a better service than our competitors. This can require a substantial amount of trial and error!
We aren’t going to know everything straight away, and a healthy amount of experimentation is beneficial – we learn best from our mistakes, after all. Problems occur when we give in to our natural tendencies to be creatures of habit. We like to stick with what we know, and stay within our comfort zones.
Thankfully, when it comes to automation, we’ve carried out the experimentation so you don’t have to, and you can now live vicariously through us. We’re able to help businesses find the blind spots in their ideal customer journey, and identify where they can best leverage automation tools.
The journey begins
The first step any business should take in their automation journey is reassuringly easy: map it out!
We can’t build a house without a blueprint, and we can’t build an automation flow without a map. Before we even begin our automation journey, it’s crucial that we understand what we need at each stage of our customer experience and who needs to be involved – is it just ourselves, our team members, or the client?
This map doesn’t have to be fancy at this stage, either! To begin with, just writing down on a piece of paper what happens at each stage of our business, both for the client and operationally, will allow us to see what data needs to flow where and when.
But let’s make it more specific – what software is actually available, and what problem does it solve?
What are the key components of excellent automation software
The two stars of the show when it comes to automation software are software that is cloud based, and software that has an open API – in other words, software that will play nicely with other software!
Bear with me while I geek out a little here:
The way in which two different pieces of software communicate with each other is through a data bridge. This data bridge is known as an API (Application Programming Interface), and allows data to pass back and forth.
Often, businesses will outgrow a piece of software that had been previously working well for them. They’ll want to build a more robust infrastructure to support bigger applications, but might find that all of their data is stuck in their old software and can’t be passed through. This is usually because of a closed API or no API at all.
Thankfully, there are tools that help with integration. Zapier (pronounced happier) is a very popular example. It has a user-friendly interface and is great for connecting two pieces of software together. Likewise, a more sophisticated version of this is Make (formerly known as Integromat), which allows you to take information from one piece of software and pass it through another.
We will go into these two softwares in a future blog so make sure you stay up to date!
Getting into specifics
So, we need to first map out our automation journey (starting with the Ideal Customer Journey). For example, consider all of the sales and marketing activities constantly at play in your business. To monitor and make use of all of our data, we’re going to need a piece of software that can capture personal details, areas of interest, psychometric and demographic data, and create sales pipelines and email campaigns.
Luckily, there are great all-in-one sales and marketing CRMs that will handle all of this in one place – such as Keap.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Keap, and for good reason. It’s a great example of a software that has fantastic functionality: it can work for B2B and B2C, has brilliant marketing, sales, and ecommerce tools built in, and offers insightful analytics.
Hopefully, there will be a sale that comes from this sales pipeline, so we’ll be needing a system that can handle the purchase. Keap has that too, however if you have a larger catalogue of products, there are some great ecommerce plugins out there that can be added to websites to capture the purchase and feed it back to a CRM, for example WooCommerce.
Or, rather than a purchase, we might have a contract that needs to be sent out, for which the likes of DocuSign or Dropbox Sign (formerly HelloSign) are great. And we don’t even have to create the proposal itself! PandaDoc®, Better Proposals, or Proposify will do that for us. Even sending invoices can be taken off our plate – there’s Xero and QuickBooks for that.
When it comes to working with clients and managing projects, don’t leave it to chance – with so many moving parts, it can be difficult to keep track of which project needs attention. Asana, ClickUp™, and Monday.com are great project management tools which allow us to use data to create templates and notify team members or clients of project developments.
All of this helps us to measure data that is crucial to our business. But this data isn’t useful if it isn’t able to flow freely back into our reporting software or our CRM, and that’s why it’s so important to be selective about what software we choose and how they work together.
Conquer the chaos
When there’s so much to choose from, how on earth are we supposed to know which one will benefit us the most?
The key is to know our strategy (draw our map!), to understand what we have in the budget, and to really nail down our requirements. Don’t get carried away like a toddler playing with Lego® – we don’t need to use every block available to build our ideal automation.
Once we’ve got an outline in place, we can then search for the software that best meets our needs. It’s important to stress again the benefits of an open API. Closed APIs might mean that the software only tells us information and doesn’t allow us to pass information back.
It also depends on us! The automation we build should be tailored to our unique businesses, use cases and useability. There might be tasks some businesses would rather automate that we actually enjoy doing and adding our personal touch to. The main point of automation is to get rid of those lower value tasks, but remember – just because we can, doesn’t mean we should!
If you’re struggling to identify exactly which software is right for you and how to integrate it into your business, get in touch with the experts. Hop on a 30-minute discovery call with us today and we’d be happy to show you how we can help.