Automation has evolved from a luxury to an affordable, essential business function - which we have technological advancements to thank for. 

Now, even small businesses can reliably automate repetitive, mundane tasks, streamlining efficiency and empowering employees. 

So, are you considering small business automation? If you’re not quite sure where to start - or can’t decide which processes are ideal for automation - we can help you out. 

We’ll cover the different types of small business automation and how you can kickstart your automation journey.

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Why you need small business automation

The most apparent benefits that small business automation offers are time and cost savings, which are great, but automation has much more to offer.

Since automation frees your employees from mundane, repetitive tasks, they can focus on more specialized operations. This empowers your team to add value and gives them the satisfaction of adding value to work that matters.

Moreover, automation can also reduce inaccuracies that occur from human error. This advantage alone can substantially increase your cost savings. 

These distinct advantages help small businesses scale their operations sustainably, empowering them to compete with larger ones.

What are the types of small business automation?

Small businesses have more opportunities for automation than you might expect. Here are some of the different options that you can use to scale your business.

Project management processes (workflow automation)

Workflow automation is precisely what it sounds like - automating processes in your workflow to increase efficiency and save time. Implementing this type of automation starts with identifying standardized, repetitive processes within your project management workflow.

For example, do you have to repeatedly give approval for the same task? Are you frequently sending similar emails to customers (e.g., follow-up emails)? 

Automating such processes can save you time and help you focus on high-impact work.

Recurring tasks and projects

Your typical schedule might entail recurring tasks, like frequently updating a spreadsheet, requesting updates from your team members, or delivering an employee onboarding experience. 

The recurring tasks you face may vary depending on your role, but automation can help you out all the same. If you find yourself frequently performing specific repetitive tasks, take a step back to assess whether automation can alleviate the burden. 

You might be surprised to discover how much time you can save.

Automated reporting

Reporting is another repetitive, resource-intensive task that you might want to consider automating. When preparing reports, humans have to consult, analyze, and migrate information from different documents and spreadsheets. 

Not only is this process time-consuming, but it’s also prone to human error - which can have fatal repercussions. So, automated reporting doesn’t just save time - it can increase the accuracy of reports, too. 

Sales and marketing automation

Sales and marketing automation has evolved to a point where it couldn’t be simpler to use. For example, every serious social media management tool now has some form of automation - from scheduling posts to automatically responding to comments. 

And if you’re looking for more advanced, diverse automation options, most CRMs now include native sales and marketing automation. 

Customer support automation

If you’ve ever interacted with a chatbot, then you’ve had a taste of just how advanced customer support automation has become. Rule-based and conversational chatbots can reduce your support costs and provide 24/7 service, helping you compete with larger businesses. 

Moreover, simpler tasks in the customer support journey - such as call forwarding and ticket assignments - can also be automated to improve efficiency. 

Integration automation

Integrated automation refers to automation that exists between different software platforms. These platforms are often linked, e.g., via API, and you can automate your workflow across the different platforms. A simple example of integrated automation is data migration across two integrated platforms. There are also tools that can help you integrate unconnected systems in an easy way with no need of programming. 

15 Tasks you can (and should) automate for your small business

Looking to supercharge your small business with automation? Equip yourself to scale sustainably with some of these popular automation opportunities. 

Automate your workflow

1.   Automated delegation

If you’re working on a project with multiple stages, different team members have responsibilities at each stage. For example, in a content development workflow, you might have members in charge of market research, writers to write the article, and editors to finalize each piece. 

So, you might use project management boards to track the project’s lifecycle. In such workflows, automated delegation keeps the transition at each stage consistent. When the writer moves the article to “editing”, the editor is alerted automatically. 

2.   Automated sequences after signing new contracts

First impressions count, so after you seal the deal with a new client or customer, show them you care with a personalized experience. You can set up a series of automations to:

  • Welcome your client and thank them for joining
  • Send them a gift (e.g., a discount code) or tailored insights to help them get started
  • Follow up with your client after a few days or weeks to see how they’re getting along
  • Notify your customer support team to check in and see how the client is doing

You can get pretty creative with your onboarding experience, but it’s important to deliver value and show you care. 

Automate repetitive tasks

We mentioned how automating repetitive tasks could save your employees time and help them focus on high-impact work. Now, here are some examples of repetitive tasks that are rampant in small businesses. 

3.   Project status changes

Is a project delayed? Managers will need to assess the bottleneck. Cue an automation that alerts them via notification.

Was a project completed ahead of schedule? Looks like you need to reward the team. Cue an automation that alerts you of their success.

Moreover, as your project transitions along its lifecycle, different teams may need to get involved. You can make sure each workflow is seamless by setting up automations to notify people at the right time.

4.   Invoice generation

Not much to say here except for this - your team members shouldn’t need to manually create lengthy invoices. Automating their generation is easy, especially if you’re using a business process management system

5.   Ticket assignment

Nowadays, customer support is delivered through various channels, including phone, email, and even social media. By automating ticket assignment, support tickets are sent to the concerned customer service representative - saving your employees from having to sift through various 

Automated reporting

In the previous section, we discussed how automated reporting increases accuracy and saves valuable time. Here are some reporting tasks that you might want to consider automating.

6.   Late tasks

Late tasks can lead to delayed projects and unhappy customers. Set up automated alerts to notify managers about late tasks, so they can quickly investigate and intervene. 

7.   Overdue invoices

Are some of your clients late with their payments? Set up automated email reminders for when invoices are overdue. 

8.   Projects over budget

If a project exceeds its budget, you’ll need to investigate the cause and possibly take action. For example, you might need to reallocate the budget from another source. 

To make sure you get ahead of this problem early, set up automated alerts to notify you about projects over budget. 

Social media automation

Social media automation has become standard practice in marketing; it helps small businesses compete with larger ones by empowering your publishing and providing actionable insights. 

Here are some of the most popular automations that can help your small business scale your social media marketing. 

9.   Schedule posts in advance

Consistency is key when you’re growing your social media presence, but maintaining a regular posting schedule isn’t easy. That’s why post scheduling has become so popular - marketing teams can prepare posts in advance and schedule them for distribution across the week. 

While many social media platforms - like Twitter and Facebook - have their own scheduling features, third-party scheduling tools let you schedule posts across all channels. This feature streamlines content organization and the approval process.

10.   Automated responses

If your marketing team is small, keeping post engagement up can be difficult at scale. And while you should never fully automate your responses, setting up automation triggers to reply to specific comments can be helpful. Moreover, you can also schedule comments to be published after your post passes a defined engagement threshold. 

11.   Social listening

Knowing how customers feel about your brand and what they’re saying about competitors is important. And you can regularly monitor your audience’s sentiments with automated social listening tools that send you alerts based on keywords (e.g., when your brand name is used).

Email marketing automation

Email marketing automation can help you deliver personalized experiences at scale and better connect with your customers. Here are some of the easiest, most effective use cases to consider.

12.   Automate content delivery

Email automation is a great option for instantly delivering gated content. Many B2B businesses gate valuable content, such as whitepapers and ebooks, to collect emails from potential leads. And when someone expresses interest in your content, it’s important to not keep them waiting.

You can set up a simple email automation that is triggered when a customer requests 

13.   Welcome new subscribers

Personalizing customer experiences is about more than just using a {first name} tag. When someone joins your email list, sending them a welcome email can help them become acquainted with your brand. 

Moreover, welcome emails have particularly high open rates and engagement rates (source), providing you with a great opportunity to deliver value to potential customers. 

14.   Respond to contact requests

If your support team isn’t available 24/7, you can still ease customers’ nerves by sending an automated response to their contact request. Let them know that their email has been received and when they can expect to hear back. 

15.   Personalized experiences (e.g., birthday wishes)

Birthday wishes are one of the best examples of easy-to-implement automations for delivering personalized experiences. All you need to do is:

  • Create a birthday wish email template with the {First Name} tag incorporated
  • Include the {First Name} tag in the subject line, e.g., “It’s your special day, {First Name}!”
  • Set your automation up to deliver the email based on customers’ date of birth (which you’ll need to collect)

Should you choose an integrated automation system?

Integrated solutions, like customer relationship management (CRM) software and business process management (BPM) tools, come with integrated automations. 

For example, BPM software like CAFLOU lets you create custom automated workflows, automate tasks and invoice generation, create custom automation rules, and set up automated alerts. Similarly, CRMs include automation capabilities like email automation, ticket assignments, and more. 

However, these systems won’t necessarily cover all your automation needs, so you might also need to use external automation tools. For example, you might need a specialized social media management tool (like Buffer or Hootsuite) for social media automation.

Moreover, to make sure you’re covered for more advanced workflow automation, CAFLOU offers integrations with Make. And if you need some specific recommendations for automation tools, check out our article on the top automation tools for small businesses.

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