Running a business is like an extreme sport. It requires the finely honed skills of a barefoot water skier, melded with the endurance of a solo climber, the tenacity of an abseiler, and the steel nerves of a base jumper.
Did I mention juggling, time travel and the ability to function without sleep are also prerequisites?
Maintaining your sanity as an entrepreneur means continually finding more efficient and effective means of doing the myriad of tasks that come with managing a business.
Even if you’re outsourcing elements of your work, or hiring full-time staff, it’s still essential to ensure all of your systems are running as smoothly as possible for several key reasons:
- Quality Control
- Client Satisfaction
- Minimising Costs
- Streamlining Workflows
- Avoiding Overwhelm And Burnout
Save yourself the stress by automating systems. These are the top 4 business systems to automate for streamlined business success:
#1 Content Marketing
Creating effective, engaging content that converts is a marathon in endurance all of its own. To ensure maximum automation and minimal hassle there are a few key things you should be doing:
Batching your content creation may not technically be automating it, but it’s a vital step to take in order to make your other automation efforts as effective as possible. Rather than writing one blog at a time, recording one video or podcast, or creating one set of social media images, do everything in batches.
Take a morning and write a month’s worth of blog posts, or an afternoon to record a month’s worth of vlogs or podcasts.
You get in the ‘zone’ when you’re creating, but it takes time for the flow to kick in. When you’re doing one piece of content at a time you’re only in the zone at the end of your creative process. When you come back another day and start the next piece, you’re no longer in the zone, you have to work your way back into it.
But if you keep plugging away, and do one after another, by the time you’re on your second post you’re well in the zone and going great guns. The rest of the content you create in that session will flow a lot more easily. You cut your content creation time, and get it out of the way in one go.
I covered how to effectively schedule your content in detail a few weeks ago, so do check that out. To summarise, when you schedule everything in advance, you can easily make sure your content is published consistently, on the date and time that will get you maximum results.
You can batch your scheduling, which (like batching the creation of your content) is far more efficient than scheduling one post at a time. It also prevents you missing steps like adding tags or metadata, because you’re completely focussed on the task at hand and the full scheduling workflow.
Part of scheduling is ensuring your content is reshared whenever possible. The amount of content published online and the insanely busy nature of modern life make it very unlikely that everyone will see your content the first time you share it. So share it more than once!
An effective content schedule will include multiple versions of the same piece of content, and numerous different social media posts promoting every individual piece.
In my post on scheduling your content like a boss I recommend the use of CoSchedule because it offers the most complete content marketing solution currently available. Part of that is an excellent ReQueue function which allows you to do all of the following:
- Set the number of messages you would like to be automatically reshared on each platform, each day.
- Decide how many times a month each message should be reshared (to ensure the same messages don’t go out too often).
- Create a timetable that determines what times of day posts are reshared.
- Group posts into categories that can have individual settings. For example, all your Evergreen Content that is to be reshared indefinitely goes in one, while content that has a shelf-life of a month goes in another, then two, three, four months and so on. If you have content you’d like to be reshared long-term, but not very frequently, you can create separate groups for this. Tutorials, guides, and how-to posts are usually popular enough that it’s worth sharing them frequently, while personal pieces, interviews, book reviews and other content that’s unlikely to be read more than once, or isn’t as popular, are generally better shared less frequently.
- Decide whether to add new content to your resharing que with a quick click of a button.
- Pause any piece of content or an entire category with the click of a button, then restart it again just as easily when you’re ready, or it becomes relevant again.
The key here is for the resharing to take as little effort as humanly possible.
Essential Reading: How To Schedule Your Content Like A Boss
#2 Social Media Marketing
There’s a lot more to social media marketing than just sharing and promoting your content. While you can save a great deal of time, stress, and effort by automating it, be careful.
There are certain elements of social media marketing that simply cannot be automated without completely losing the aspect that makes it so effective: socialising.
Automation is inherently depersonalised, particularly when the majority of scheduling tools indicate they were involved in sharing the post with, for example, a ‘posted by CoSchedule’ or ‘shared by Hootsuite’ at the top of the post.
What To Automate On Social Media
Warnings aside, there are loads of things you can easily automate in your social media marketing and add straight to your resharing que:
- Images and Motivational Memes
- Weekly Threads (i.e. ‘Share Your Latest Blog Post’ or ‘Share Your Instagram’ etc.)
- Blog Post Promotion Messages
- Lead Magnet Promotion Messages
In addition, there are several more things you can schedule in advance but shouldn’t add to your resharing automation. You will usually know this is the case on gut instinct when you’re scheduling them. But, generally speaking, any of the above that include day, date, time or season-specific copy (i.e. ‘this week on the blog…’ or ‘It’s #FreebieFriday!’) aren’t suitable for resharing.
You may also not want to automate Question Posts, although it’s usually fine to have them automated as long as they’re not set to reshare. It will diminish their effectiveness for increasing engagement if people see them more than once. They work because it feels like you are speaking directly to your audience. If it’s obvious you’re not actually there and it’s just an automated thing, people will be less likely to answer.
Sales promotions shouldn’t really be reshared unless they are very generic – if they reference seasonal offers, limited time offers, or anything you’re not going to be promoting long-term they’re best left out. It can be problematic resharing sales posts even when they are generic, as they can easily end up shared more often than you’d like.
What NOT To Automate On Social Media
There are a few things that you really shouldn’t automate under any circumstances.
Selfies and other candid images or posts relating to what you’re doing at a particular moment (i.e. the coffee you’re drinking, TV you’re watching, a book you’re reading etc.) should never be automated. These posts are great for engagement and building the know, like, and trust factor, because they give people a glimpse of the real you. Your life, as it’s happening. Scheduling them completely ruins the illusion, and can easily result in posts accidentally going out at unfortunate times.
For example, a coach I follow recently had a series of funny selfies of her and her dog go out on her Twitter feed with captions indicating she was Live Tweeting a book she was reading. The problem was, there was a clock in all the images that read the wrong time, and it was broad daylight at the time she took the photos, and dark when they went out.
It might not seem like a big deal, but the backlash on social media for gaffs like this is immense and it can very quickly and very easily ruin your credibility.
Any updates relating to immediate news are also best left unautomated, and actually work a lot better as live updates.
Facebook Live and other versions of live video available up on other platforms cannot (it should go without saying) be automated. You can, however, plan them well in advance. If you decide the days and times you will do live video (use your Facebook Insights to determine the best days and times for optimal engagement!), and batch the creation of outlines for each one, you will find it a lot easier to get yourself on Live.
The easiest way to strike the balance between automated and spontaneous social media content is to make sure that you take full advantage of all the time you’re saving by automating, and use some of it to personally interact with people. Reply to comments, get involved in the conversations your posts spark, and take a little time to engage with your followers’ own content. That is something that can neither be scheduled or automated.
If you really can’t stand the thought of doing any of your social media marketing yourself, outsource it!
A digital marketing manager can easily login to your account and post as you. Provided they get your voice right and are very clear on what they can and can’t say, nobody will ever know it’s not actually you!
Essential Reading: Is Automation Ruining Your Customer Experience?
#3 Email Automation
Sending marketing emails can be an incredibly time-consuming business if you don’t automate it. Even with automation it still takes a lot of work.
If you set your email marketing system up properly you can easily ensure subscribers receive content automatically.
On a large scale this can be used for Nurture Sequences – the series of emails that leads your new subscribers to become clients – but on a smaller scale you can automate a lot of elements in your email marketing:
- Delivering opt-ins (e.g. eBooks, guides, worksheets etc.) automatically after people sign up to your list
- Sending weekly newsletters to your list
- Sending timed sequences of emails such as mini-courses or challenges, which deliver content on set days and at set times
- Keep your subscribers updated on offers and promotions
- Remind website visitors about items in their shopping basket and encourage them to complete the checkout process
- Follow up with clients after a purchase to check they’re happy, ask for feedback, or request they leave a review
- Tie your RSS feed into your email provider so subscribers automatically receive an email notification whenever you publish a new blog post (no need to create newsletters!)
Day-to-day, your email automation system will work incredibly hard at generating sales in your business. It’s your second most powerful sales tool (the first being your website!).
For that reason, it’s really important to get the best possible solution. But with so much choice it can be really difficult to know which to go for.
If you don’t already have an email automation system, or you’re not sure if your existing system is best for your business, check out the table below for my top-rated email automation options:
|System||Price For 2,500 Subscribers||Free Trial||Email Templates||Usability|
|Active Campaign||$39 / Month||✓
|GetResponse||$25 / Month||✓
|MailChimp||$35 / Month||✓
Up To 2,000 contacts
|ConvertKit||$49 / Month||✘||Good||Good|
|Constant Contact||$55 / Month||✓
|AWeber||$49 / Month||✓
Up To 500 contacts
Essential Reading: How To Create The Perfect Nurture Sequence
Another essential system to consider when it comes to sales, which can really easily be automated, is your invoicing system. There are six key things to consider when invoicing:
Modern invoicing and accounting solutions are generally cloud-based, which means you essentially rent access to the software. You pay an annual or monthly fee, and as long as you’re subscribed you can use the service.
This means that, rather than making one capital software purchase as a long-term investment you will have ongoing costs. It’s important to properly budget for those, and check they are affordable. The exact fees you pay will vary from a few dollars a month to several hundred dollars per year.
Software as a Service (SaaS) providers not only provide you with the software system, they also store all your data. Make sure you can easily access your data anytime, anywhere, and that backing it up, switching provider, or giving access to your accountant, bookkeeper etc. isn’t going to be an issue.
You also need to be able to keep an easy backup of all your data, as these systems aren’t foolproof!
Your invoicing system isn’t the only SaaS you will use in your business. If you’re not already using others you will likely find you need to add them as you continue to develop your business. It’s likely you will want at least some of the others (such as your website payment system, CRM, accounting software, or email provider) to integrate with your invoicing system. The more your business grows the more you will need to ensure seamless integration between systems.
There’s bound to be a period of adjustment when you first start using a new system, make sure it will be as easy as possible for you to learn how to set up invoices, receipts, create monthly and quarterly reports, and prepare everything needed for your tax return.
Cloud-based systems should be able to automatically connect to your banking service and download your transactions for you. This should happen without any effort on your part, ensuring you get the most out of the system. Make certain any system you get has this function for every account you have (don’t forget about credit card accounts, Stripe, PayPal etc.)
Mobile And Multi-Platform Responsiveness
When you’re running a business on the go you need access anytime, anywhere. Getting a responsive system you can use on mobile devices and multiple platforms is a must.
This is a lot to consider. To help you out I’ve put together an easy reference table for the top five options available:
|System||Free Trial||Fees||Data||Integration||Workflow||Bank Feeds||Responsive|
|Xero||✓||$25-60 / Month||Excellent||Excellent||Excellent||Excellent||Excellent|
|Intuit QuickBooks||✓||From $16.50 / Month||Excellent||Good||Excellent||Excellent||Excellent|
|Reckon One||✓||$5 or $37 / Month||Excellent||Excellent||Good||Good||Okay|
|MYOB Essentials||✓||$25-50 / Month||Okay||Excellent||Good||Good||Good|
|Wave Apps||✓||$0 / Month||Good||Okay||Okay||Good||Good|
Ensuring all your business systems run as smoothly as possible is vital to productivity and growth. It can take a little time to figure out which system is best for you, learn it, and action it in your business, but it’s well worth it.
Any time and money spent now achieving automation will save you a lot more down the line. If you’re looking for help with establishing the perfect system for your Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, or Email Automation book a discovery call now and we can have a chat about what will work best for your business.
Extra Note: If you need assistance with sorting out your business finances, choosing the right bookkeeping platform for your business, or anything else related to business finance, I recommend you have a chat to Laura Elkaslassy over at Adroit Business Solutions.