7 Out of the Box Ways to Automate Your Small Business Operations Don Breckenridge Automation in business has become the latest buzz. If you have an automated phone system, have a shopping cart on your website or have an email that can send vacation messages, you are already participating in the business automation buzz. For years, large businesses have been using technology for marketing efforts in a variety of ways, but it has recently become more affordable for smaller businesses to adopt automation. If you own a small business, here are 7 ways you can further automate your small business operations. Automate Lead Collection and Nurturing Automated sales and marketing software is designed to collect leads from online resources like social media, your website, and incoming emails. It can also nurture those leads to eventually become customers. Small businesses have endless options when it comes to automating their lead collection. Many small business owners don’t have the time to dive deep into lead collection, so using a software that automates lead collection and nurturing is often the best solution. Automated CRM and Sales and Marketing An automatic Customer Relations Manager (CRM) will improve your sales and marketing process. It stays connected with prospects and customers, accounting for every connection. It will even let you know when a prospect has reached the buying point. This is key for small business owners. It is hard to keep track of where leads are in the sales funnel. An automated CRM and marketing tool keeps track of this for you, and sends the right material to potential customers. As long as business owners provide the content, CRM and marketing automation will take care of the rest. Recruiting There are plenty of online services and software available that can help you automate your recruiting process. Once you create a particular employment ad, your listing can be immediately posted on multiple platforms. Systems are available that allow you to sort and store online applications, keeping a database for future openings. Automating your recruiting can result in a wider reach, better applicants and is less expensive. Look for Ways to Outsource There are companies who can help you outsource just about any task. Need content for your blog? Outsource a writer. Need advertising help? Outsource it. Outsourcing may not exactly be automation, but as far as your company, it serves the same purpose. The “automation” of outsourcing saves you time and gives an expert eye into difficult tasks. Automatic Bill Pay Just like with your personal bills, many business bills can be paid automatically. Don’t confuse paying bills electronically with automatic bill pay. While paying bills electronically is certainly a form of paying your bills using “automation”, automatic bill pay takes care of the entire process without any further action needed on your part. Of course, it is important you are prepared financially for these automatic bill payments to be withdrawn from your account. Ordering Stock Large companies, especially retailers, have been automating stock orders for years. As an item is sold it is reordered and shipped, so stock remains filled. This is not only for small retailers but for any small company that uses up inventory and supplies like copy paper, ink, paper towels and other office supplies. Most suppliers can easily help you set up a way to automatically order stock. Getting started may be as simple as asking. Organizing Receipts Are you still fumbling with tracking expenses with unwieldy paper receipts? Are you, or is someone else in your company, spending unnecessary time entering data, perhaps multiple times? There are software applications that allow you to scan, sort, and store receipts and track expenses. This is not only beneficial at the office but also when tracking travel expenses on the road. Automation makes tasks in your process easier to manage, not to set and forget. It allows you to spend more time doing what you love and less on the daily minutia. Think about your process and look for areas where automation can improve your business.