Business process automation has the potential to save your agency loads of time, reduce errors in data and improve relationships with your clients.
That might sound far fetched, but automation is already helping many businesses in these ways and more.
While many agencies implement a marketing automation system, not nearly as many work to streamline their repetitive, automatable processes.
Earlier this year I ran a survey asking people what was holding them back from implementing at least some automation in their business. More than 80% of responses were a variation of not knowing where to start, or not knowing what is possible.
Let’s start fixing that with some ideas of where you can kick-off your automation journey and begin streamlining your business.
As much as you might want to help everyone that comes in, not every lead is a good fit for your business. On the contrary, some leads end up having a serious negative impact on your business - by sapping your time and pulling your focus away.
That’s why it’s important to have a filter on new leads. The idea is to identify any reg flags, before the person becomes a client. You do that by asking the right questions. You can create a questionnaire using a tool like Google Forms.
The questions you should ask depend on your business. An almost universally good question is to ask for a budget - or at least a range so that you quickly know if you are able to help them within their budget. For low budget leads you may refer them to somebody else.
Some other questions for agencies, taken from this web design-specific questionnaire:
- Where did you hear about us?
- Who are your ideal clients?
- Describe what you are looking for
- Do you have any concerns about working with us?
All of these help identify red flags and help you prepare for a sales call.
For the automation side of this process, automatically send new leads to your form. Based on the results, you can decide to continue the sales process or tell them you aren’t a fit.
Finding a time to meet is a huge productivity killer. It often results in several back-and-forth emails trying to find a time and place that work for every party involved.
It’s even worse for video calls across timezones. Often after finally settling on a time, someone will realise they got the timezone wrong and the entire process kicks off again.
Some people hire an assistant to manage booking meetings for them, but this is a waste.
There are so many tools that help find a meeting time that works. Calendly is one of the most simple to use. It, like many of the other tools, automatically detects the participant’s timezone and shows your available times by blocking out times when you already have meetings booked in your calendar.
This is true “low-hanging fruit” in automation & productivity.
Collecting info & content
For many businesses, the process of onboarding clients falls back to email and shared folders. If you need a large amount of information, files and documents from new clients, this devolves into chaos, fast.
A good example is a website project. From your client you’ll need information about the business, images, logos, team bios, etc. The typical process involves some kind of shared folder like Dropbox, email and some Google Documents. That’s 3 different places that clients can send things, and it’s confusing for them.
They tend to default to email, which results in a lot of time in sifting through everything, ensuring it is all there, and that it is in the right format.
The same goes for marketing campaigns, content projects and just about anything an agency undertakes.
To streamline this process and take it out of email, there are a couple of options. If you only need files, a shared folder like Google Drive or Dropbox can help. But for more complex requirements, a tool like Content Snare can help. It will also automatically remind clients to reduce your email workload.
Getting feedback on designs or branding often resorts to email as well. You may notice a common theme throughout this post - that we end up doing everything through email, which kills productivity.
Thankfully, tools like Project Huddle make it simple to get feedback on image designs, and tools like Draftium gather feedback on wireframes & prototypes.
A critical component of these systems is that they make it easy for clients. If a system isn’t simple for a client to use, they’ll avoid using it as much as possible. Both of these tools allow clients to simply click on design elements and type in their feedback.
For some additional listening, David the founder of Draftium was interviewed on Agency Highway about how processes like this can greatly increase your profit margin.
If you have any ongoing clients, especially those on a retainer it’s a great idea to keep in regular contact with them. Check-ins help:
- Improve relationships
- Reduce churn
- Discover issues before the become a significant problem
- Find more opportunities to help your clients
- Find up-sell opportunities
You can check-in with clients in partially or fully automated way.
The simplest method is to send out an automated monthly email that asks your clients how things are going. SaaS tools use NPS scoring, which is a simple 1-10 score from clients, as a ‘barometer’ of how happy their clients are. You can do something similar with an NPS tool or a forms tool.
This is fully automated, but not very personal.
On the other end of the spectrum is sending personal videos to clients each month. Tools like Bonjoro make this very easy to do. Their Zapier integration means you can automatically trigger a video task every month for you or someone on your team to complete. This is a great balance of automation and personalization.
Save your business time and money
As you’ve seen, automation is a great yet simple way to be more productive and make better use of your time.
By investing some time in automation now, you continue to reap the rewards for months to come. One automated task might only save 5 minutes per week, but if you have 50 or even 100 tasks automated, that adds up to 8 hours. That’s 8 hours that can be spent growing your business instead of working on the mundane day-to-day.
For your next steps, choose one thing from this post and try to implement it right away. The sooner you start, the more time you’ll save.
Author Name: James Rose
Bio: James is the co-founder of Content Snare and Aktura Technology. Once a web designer, his new priority is to help web designers and developers regain their lives, work less and get better clients.