When you talk about automation, many people assume that means an impersonal experience. Those pre-recorded phone calls I get about installing cavity wall insulation have a lot to answer for…
But good automation can not only save you time, it can lead to a better experience for clients/potential clients, and ultimately higher revenue for you. With less stress too!
Benefits of automation
Benefits to you
The benefits of automation to you, as an entrepreneur, can be huge. Obviously automation saves you time. You don’t have to do that task (or it takes less time to do) over and over. Of course automations take time to set up, but once they’re in place there is no limit to the number of clients/potential clients that can benefit. What else could you do with that time???
Automation doesn’t just save you time, but it can save you energy too. You don’t need to think about writing that email, for example, because the thinking was done when the automation was set up.
Automation also makes it easier to scale your business. Not just because of the time you save, but also because you can answer so many more client/potential client queries – therefore increasing the number of people you can work with at any one time.
The consistency that automation provides also means that, provided you set up the automation correctly in the first place, there is less room for error. That’s particularly beneficial when you scale and introduce others into the team.
Even if you don’t want to scale, automating your process or parts of it can reduce the stress of work. You don’t have to deal with the repetitive queries which may come all at once (and clog up your inbox) – they’re taken care of – which allows you to focus on the parts of your business which really need your attention.
Benefits to clients/potential clients
As clients (or potential clients) we’ll always say we like to deal with people rather than automated systems if we’re given the choice.
But the practical reality is different.
If I’m looking at something on an evening, I want answers to my questions then. I might want to book then. I may even want to buy then. Automation allows me, as a client, to do that. My husband only ever makes restaurant bookings online. It’s much quicker than calling (and you get an email confirmation).
Sometimes potential clients don’t want to talk to you (how rude I know!). They want to make sure you can help them, and you’re in their budget before they do so. Otherwise you can end up in that awkward position of having a “polite” conversation when you know you’re not suited to working together and you’re a bit embarrassed by the whole thing…
Of course we don’t want to go to the extreme where you can’t speak to a human (hello Facebook and Instagram). It is all about being smart with what you automate.
What is smart to automate?
There are lots of things you can automate as a business owner.
1. Answers to popular questions
If you’re like me people ask you the same questions over and over. What do you do? Who do you help/can you help someone like me? How much do you charge? How long does a website take to build? Can you get me on page 1 of Google, etc.
Face to face (in person or on zoom) I’m very happy to answer these. But I have the answer to all of those on my website too.
When I look at the stats of number of website visitors each day, I’d be exhausted (and not get anything else done) if I had to talk to all those people on the phone answering the same questions…
Having them on my website is just as good. The answers to the questions are organised in a way that makes sense as you go through the website.
So the “what you do” and “who you help” needs to be talked about early on. If you’re looking for a kitchen table you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner looking for a new website then please take a look around…
But questions about price, process and the details of working with me come later. Each time I rewrite the “FAQs” on my services page, the list of questions I address gets longer because I think “what else do I get asked?”.
This doesn’t just save time answering the same questions but improves the quality of leads who get in contact. Those who get in contact are well informed and keen to work with me. They just want confirmation that you’re the right person. That completely changes the tone of the call – it’s more of a “fit” than a “sales” call. And I don’t do hard sell so that is much more my style…
2. Scheduling a Call
Gone are the days when you need to go back and forth to schedule a call, or a personal assistant. There are some great tools that allow you to set your availability and then anyone with the correct link can see your availability and book a call, meeting, appointment etc. If they need to reschedule they can do that online. You just need to turn up!
This has been a game changer for a number of clients of ours. One therapist thinks she has saved 1 – 2 hours every week. She also thinks she previously lost clients because she didn’t get back to them quickly enough with her availability or when they got back the slot had gone and they couldn’t be bothered to go through the whole “availability” process again…
I use Dubsado (I use it for more than just scheduling calls – it helps with contracts, invoicing and other things too). If you want to book a call to talk about a new bespoke website you can do that directly on our website. It syncs with my calendar (so I can’t be double booked, although that does rely upon me manually entering things in my calendar that haven’t come through Dubsado!). Whilst there is a button on this website to book that initial call (and some other calls), you can also set up types of appointments that you only give out once you’re happy to do so, eg a “show me how to edit my website” call.
Calendly and Acuity Scheduling are other popular tools for scheduling meetings (they both have free versions – at least at the time of writing this post!). And there are a number which have been set up for particular industries, especially in the health and fitness space. Many of these can do more than just book appointments.
You can also ask for information as part of the booking a call/appointment process. So I ask for some basic information like contact details, whether you have a website and your current website address if you do. This means I have the information I need to prepare for the call beforehand. Best of all (at least with Dubsado) is it sets up a client profile and saves that basic information so I don’t have to ask for it again.
Depending upon who you use and the type of plan you have, you may also be able to ask for payment on booking (or at least a deposit). All automated so you don’t even need to ask.
3. Making an Enquiry
In a similar way you can automate the way people get in contact with you by using a form.
So when someone gets in touch by email there are some preset questions for them to answer. If you’re really clever, the questions on that form can change depending upon the answer to other questions (so called “conditional logic”). And again these can be linked up to a CRM (Client Relationship Management system), like Dubsado, if you have one. This means the details are saved in an easy to find place so you don’t need to ask for them again.
It means you have automated collecting the information you need, making it easier to respond and ultimately provide a service to your client.
I don’t currently do this for new enquiries (it is on my list of things to do!) but I do have a questionnaire for completion when someone becomes a client. It collects all the information I need (except copy and images) to get going on their website design.
4. Auto-responding to enquiries
You can also set up auto responses to bookings or enquiries.
This is another one on my to do list!
Once someone has booked a call with you you could send them some information that will help them. Similarly if they complete a contact form, depending upon the system you use, you could set up an auto-response. So if someone is enquiring about a particular service they could get one response and if they’re enquiring about a different service they could get a different auto response.
These can be more than just a “thank you for your enquiry I’ll be in touch soon”. You can direct them to resources that will help them (eg specific blog posts, podcast episodes etc) and perhaps also your social media so they stay in touch.
The benefit of this is they know you have received their message and you come across as someone helpful!
Most people are pretty used to making payments online now (one thing the pandemic has taught us!). Automating payments for products or services is one thing that can save time, effort and also potential embarrassment. Chasing payments is never fun!
Obviously if you sell goods you can include a payment mechanism on your website for people to pay rather than manually sending invoices or getting payment on collection.
The same can be done for appointments. When someone books you can automatically take payment for the service. Or a deposit.
You can do it for services on your website too. I take payment for the “off the shelf” website templates, but don’t for bespoke websites (because I want to talk to the potential client first).
For regular payments you can set up a subscription. The time saved on sending out regular invoices and chasing payments can be huge!
6. Lead Magnets
Automations can be set up much earlier in the client process too.
One of the best things you can do is automate the sign up to your email list. Offering some kind of freebie (aka “lead magnet”) in exchange for their email list is more effective than a “sign up to my newsletter” kind of invitation. We have a few freebies on offer (you can find them on our downloads page).
The clever bit is that when someone signs up to your emails they are automatically added to your list and get sent the lead magnet. Without you needing to do anything.
As well as the benefit in time, effort, scale and consistency of message, this helps with GDPR compliance too. You need to use one of the email marketing systems to do this. I use Active Campaign but Mailchimp, Mailerlite and ConvertKit are popular alternatives.
You can then put new subscribers into an automatic sequence of emails that “nurtures” them. Or just add them to your usual mailing list if you prefer.
There are many things you can do to save time and effort and help scale your business by using automations. These automations can benefit your clients or potential clients too.
In this post I’ve talked about 6 different automations. None of these were chat bots (I’m not a fan of these personally!)
You can automate responding to frequently asked questions by including the answers on your website. You can allow clients/potential clients to book appointments with you automatically using scheduling software like Dubsado, Calendly and Acuity Scheduling.
You can collect information from clients/potential clients using pre-set questionnaires or contact forms. And you can set up auto-responders to reply to those.
Payments for products or services that can be priced ahead can also be automated, as can regular payments.
And finally you can automate the process of signing up to your email list.
There are many other things you can automate but this is a useful starter list!
Which are you going to do? And, more importantly, what are you going to do with all that time saved???