5 Ways to Automate Your Business

11-Dec 2013
Tech for Business

When you started your business, you thought it would give you more control and freedom. Unfortunately though, you've probably discovered a few harsh realities that might have been news to you: 

  • Billing and administrative work is a massive pain, laborious and takes up more time than it should.
  • Managing client work and projects is tricky enough, but having to manage the team at the same time is a nightmare.
  • You work your ass off and everyone is busy, but at the end of the month, you don’t have nearly as much to show for it as you’d think.

Most business owners don’t realize how time-consuming it is to run the business side of things. The good news is that with a few changes, you can dramatically cut down on time wasted on admin and trying to hold things together-- leaving enough room to grow a successful business.

The secret is to automate the mundane so that you can be freed up to work on much more valuable things, like providing faster and more accurate services to your clients.

Here are five ways you can automate your business to give you more clients, less stress and a better work/life balance:

1. Automate your sales process

Got leads and prospects? How can you measure their level of interest and get to proposals quicker? In order to make the most out of your time, you can automate most of the sale and proposal process so that the only manual work you have to do is a phone call.

Step 1

Organize client communications: Instead of having client emails, call notes and meeting appointments scattered in different inboxes across 10 people-- you need to get them all in one place. By automatically tracking emails, you can have important client information at your fingertips without having to manually update an otherwise empty sales. Capturing important information about your company and clients in one, central place gives you a complete picture of the business whenever you want it.

Step 2

Qualify leads with a phone call: Although automation can reduce time spent on unnecessary phone calls, the initial call cannot be replaced. Gleaning a prospect’s level of interest helps to separate the tire-kickers from real buyers.

Step 3

Segment your sales prospects: with the right platform, you can segment your leads into a variety of custom statuses. With your contacts organized this way, you can easily follow-up by segmented groups. Each group can inherit a templated email or specific method of communication. Getting through your prospects in this manner improves your team’s efficiency and how much your prospects are engaged.

2. Automate the administrative parts of your business

Managing clients, work and a team can be a bit like spinning plates. When you’re focused on making sure the plates don’t fall, you end up expending valuable time you could have used to provide high quality service and support.

Queue support requests: support issues should not be handled by owners and much of the time, you’ll receive emails that need to be forwarded on to the right person. You can circumvent this process by adding email aliases for your company, such as support@example.com or contact@example.com. Another way to streamline efficiency would be to pass them through a support request queue, where the emails can easily be routed to the right person or department or even converted into issues or sales opportunities.

Synchronize your team’s schedules: Duplicating efforts is one of the ways businesses lose time and money. Make sure that your team or staff are on the same calendar system so that clients are managed seamlessly.

3. Track tasks, projects and their files

The anatomy of a project is comprised of budgets, deadlines, milestones, contributors, contractors, email communication, meetings, tasks and files. With all of the moving parts, you’ll improve efficiency and productivity by implementing a project management tool.

Plan better with a real-time workflow: creating a project plan starts with choosing milestones you’ll want to complete over a predefined period of time. With a live Gantt-chart, for example, you can plan and forecast budget and time usage over an entire project.

Reuse project templates: if your service offerings don’t vary much between clients, you can easily template a project with defined milestones and tasks already assigned to the appropriate staff members. With the right project management tool, you can save time and build service consistency across your team.

4. Let billing and support calculate itself

Doing work for clients is the core of your business, while billing is more of an afterthought-- an afterthought that can unfortunately last for hours. You’ve got to log hours, approve time, make sure that budget usage is correct and chase down clients for days after sending an invoice. This whole process can eat up many Saturday’s, which should be spent doing better things.

Integrate everything: this is one of the most important pieces to billing automation. When work is logged in real-time and recorded against budgets, the actual invoicing process is much easier. Approvals take seconds to round up or down and invoice creation can happen painlessly.

5. Downsize account management emails and calls with a portal

In a professional services business, almost everything is conducted over a series of phone calls and emails. Although these methods of communicating are irreplaceable, there are many benefits to having an online portal. An online portal is a place your clients can access to get information about their account, projects and more. Here are a few of the benefits to having a portal:

  • Up-to-date account information for your clients: they can log-in anytime to see an overall snapshot of their account and don’t have to make phone calls to find out what’s going on.
  • Enhances collaboration and transparency: your clients will appreciate how clear-cut you are about your services.
  • 24/7 communication: you won’t need to clear your calendar to talk about business when your clients can access a portal.
  • “Sticky” factor: you’ll drive clients to a portal where they interact with your brand, instead of a series of emails.
  • Makes approvals easier and faster: get approved for your work and give your clients a place to make comments against attachments and work descriptions.
  • Secure documents: the portal lets clients know that their data is protected when they send sensitive documents.
  • Client service brownie points: the portal shows your clients that you go above and beyond when it comes to providing quality service.

Accelo can help

If all of this information sounds a bit overwhelming, Accelo can help answer any questions on how to get started with automation. Contact us to find out how you can use Accelo to run your service business online.

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