Without automation software and business systems for onboarding, invoicing, and other routine activities, you are likely to waste a big chunk of your time on recurring and repetitive, multi-step manual tasks. As you grow your online business, these tools are no longer an option but a must. They not only free up your time but also reduce errors and headaches dramatically.
Getting started with these tools, however, is a whole different story, meaning it’s not as easy as it may sound. You must first decide which ones you need, how much you’re willing to spend on them, and how many of these you want to master yourself or outsource to the experts. For example, if you’re in constant contact with clients and prospects, then a CRM software would be better than an invoicing tool plus an email marketing platform. If you have regular tasks like social media posts or meetings, then investing in a scheduling app like Calendly, for meetings, or Later, for social media content, would be the way to go.
But even once you’ve set your priorities, budget, and have allocated the time to set it all up, you’re still not out of the woods yet. Here are some more points you need to consider and/or look out for:
By now you should know what it takes to gain new leads, work with current customers, and handle the backend aspects of your business (e.g. payments, accounting, team management, tech, etc.). But are they just haphazardly floating in your mind without a clear workflow? If so, it’s time for you to sit down and create a mind map.
Whether you use a pen and paper, a whiteboard, or a software like Coggle, you have to start by creating a detailed timeline of everything that happens in your business. Only then can you decide on the right apps and tools to get, which ones you need to pay for, which ones you can use their free versions, and how soon you’ll need to incorporate each of those. This can even help you find redundancies and areas of improvement in your operations.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the features you’ll be able to get on different online systems overlap. Some will be more encompassing than others, which may or may not be something you want in your business. For example, if you’re already using a list builder like Mailchimp, but have a CRM software that has an email feature built-in, such as Pipedrive or Dubsado, then you likely don’t need both. So make sure you research and read through all the features and options you get with each tool.
But don’t look only on the main pages. Read through their policies, terms, and fine print as well. While some laws have started to watch out for user data privacy, such as GDPR in Europe or the 2020 California Consumer Privacy Act in the US, they can’t protect everyone from everything. Not only that, but also payment terms, cancellation terms, and even allowed interactions with your customers can be highly regulated on some of these cloud-based tools. So you need to familiarize yourself with them properly.
Linking and Syncing
It’s no use to invest in a system that automates one part of your business, only to then manually update other areas of your business every time there’s a change. For example, say you automate invoicing and receiving payments but then you have to manually enter each of these in your accounting Excel sheets or Quickbooks.
This is why you should make sure these systems talk to each other. Many of them will sync with popular tools, like Calendly with your Google Calendar or Zoom. For those that don’t, you can use a separate tool called Zapier, which is used as an intermediary to connect most online systems out on the market.
Templates and Defaults
Every single online system has some basic functions that they will ask you to configure right from the get-go. Whether it’s setting up email templates, event types, scheduled tasks, teams, reminders, forms, etc, these are the building blocks of effective workflows; so don’t overlook or rush through them. Yes, they may take some time but they’re a one-time deal; once finalized, you won’t have to touch them for a while.
One point to keep in mind while doing this is customization. The apps will suggest their own default setting and wording, but they may not apply to your business. Not only that, but they may not sound like your brand at all. So make sure you customize the language, look, and as many items as possible so that your brand image stays consistent across all channels of communication (external and internal).
If this is your first encounter with an app, it’s safe to give yourself some room to learn first. So scheduling appointments a bit farther apart for those unforeseen technical difficulties, setting earlier payment deadlines, or giving some leeway on those invoice due dates, are all wise ideas.
Also, be proactive about it. Double-check that everything went according to plan. Monitor operations, train your team members, and get feedback from clients on how the process went for them. Slow and steady is the way to start with online systems, especially if you wouldn’t call yourself the most tech-savvy business owner (don’t worry, you don’t need to be – that’s what these systems are for).
Following these tips will ensure you have a smooth transition into the world of online tools and business systems. Of course, some of them will be more cumbersome than others. Those are the ones you should outsource, and this is where we can step in. We’ve been helping business owners with setting up and managing hundreds of online tools. We’re able to guide you through all the steps involved and even advise you on the best ones to pick/ switch to based on your company’s needs. So reach out to us if you think you could use some help.