Dear Small Business Owner, Business Automation Is Not What You Think It Is

The last couple of years have seen a lot of brouhaha over automation taking over jobs and disrupting industries. While a lot of it is true, the tales of automation taking over the world have been greatly exaggerated. Today I want to give you an overview of where automation is at and what it can do for your small business. What I don’t want to do is sell you a Ted talk or a vision of robot overlords doing all our work for us.

As small business owners, there are two things that we focus on in our work on a day to day basis:

  1. Value creation
  2. Value maintenance

We’ll talk about small business automation in these terms so that it can be applied today to day decision making on what to automate and how to do it.

Automating value creation at your small business

“This week, Hewlett-Packard (where I am on the board) announced that it is exploring jettisoning its struggling PC business in favor of investing more heavily in software, where it sees a better potential for growth. Meanwhile, Google plans to buy up the cellphone handset maker Motorola Mobility. Both moves surprised the tech world. But both moves are also in line with a trend I’ve observed, one that makes me optimistic about the future growth of the American and world economies, despite the recent turmoil in the stock market.

In short, software is eating the world.”

– Marc Andreessen, Spring 2011

 

In the earlier days, the software world was separated from the brick and mortar world. All the earlier, big software products existed in a world of their own – Facebook, Twitter, even e-commerce behemoth Amazon was not eating into brick and mortar sales until the last couple of years.

Things have changed massively in the 6 years since Marc Andreessen wrote about software eating the world. Amazon has been growing so fast that it now it owns twice as much square footage than it did in 2012. Restaurants that don’t have a physical store and deliver food through Uber eats and Postmates are becoming increasingly popular, a gym in 2019 is not just competing against other gyms, it’s competing against Netflix, Strava and Nike run. In short, software is everywhere.

But what has also changed is that it is now quite easy to create your own software.

Once upon a time, creating good software was limited to a species that small business owners did not understand that they called “coders”. The last couple of years have seen a lot of tools pop up that help you create your own software without writing any code at all. This is a type of business automation that did not exist even 3-4 years back.  You no longer have to hire a full-fledged agency to build you a website or hire 3 developers just to make and maintain a small internal tool.

Here is a list of no-code tools and what you can use them for.

Creating a CMS driven website

A good CMS driven website has been essential for a small business for a while now, but it is surprising how few small businesses have this. These are a few tools you could use to make a CMS driven website.

  • Webflow – Simple SMS, good design
  • Wordpress – Always reliable with extra customization
  • Wix –  Build a website like building a Lego

CMS Driven Website

While not necessary, it would help you to know the basics of HTML, CSS, and Javascript when making a CMS. Think of it like owning a $20 toolkit from Homedepot so that you don’t have to call maintenance every time something breaks in your house. The basics of web development, which would take you 10-15 hours to learn will go a long way in helping you run things smoothly, with poise. Here are a few free classes I can recommend.

Creating a simple landing page

If you want to create a simple landing page for marketing your business, running Facebook ads or to promote seasonal offers, these are some of the tools that you can use.

Creating Landing Page

  • Carrd – Simple single page websites if you want to make something quick
  • Instapage – More number of features, more customization

Creating apps

Now we are getting to the true magic of what automation can do for you. Imagine making a web app or mobile app by yourself 2-3 years back? You would probably have to quit working on your business for sometimes and spent all your time pulling your hair out as you make your way through the nuance of software and code. No more. Use these tools instead:

Resources for helping you with creating apps without code

Automating value maintenance at your small business

So you have a business that is running smoothly. Now all you want to do is either run it sustainably with as little overhead as possible or focus on growing your business without being bogged down by the mundane day to day repetitive tasks.  These are a few tools that will help you do just that

Automating repetitive small tasks

Things such as organizing all your Facebook leads/comments in a Google sheet so that you can reach out or respond to them, capturing more data in Dropbox or your favorite note-taking apps. These are the most popular tools you can use for that

  • Zapier – Connecting apps that you use for businesses so that you can avoid mundane and repetitive tasks
  • IFTT  – The same use case as Zapier but more for personal and home tasks
  • Airtable – Not a big fan of Excel or Google Sheets? This is an app that gives you all that functionality without any of the headaches.

Automating your marketing and sales

Marketing and sales productivity can take a hit if you spend a lot of time doing things that can be automated with ease. A lot of salespeople say that finding and qualifying prospects take up a lot of their time. In fact data entry has been the chief complaint of salespeople for a long time.

A few tools you can use to automate marketing  

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator/Mattermark+ Hunter.io – Find emails and details of the people you want to prospect
  • MailChimp/Klaviyo – Create aesthetic emails to send out to prospects or customers
  • Hubspot – All in one tool to automate marketing and sales
  • Wordstream – Struggling with Google Adwords? Let the marketing experts at Wordstream help you

Automating Customer Engagement

So you’ve got customers and you are running a good sustainable business. But, have you tapped into your existing list of customers to make them loyal users who use your business again and again? You have all the data you need and instead of painstakingly going through your database to reach out to random users with the hope of winning them back, you can use automation to make a process for it.

customer engagement strategy

This is what we help you do at Gleantap.  Automate your reach outs to existing customers via text, email, and mobile push notifications.

Customer engagement is becoming even more important in 2019 because unlike 10 or even 5 years ago, a lot of products are competing for the attention of your customers. Attention, as you know, is the new currency and you don’t want to be left behind, especially when you can do it with less effort than ever before.

I know, I know. Of course, there are other tools that help you do this, I’ll do a review and a list of the other tools in another blog 🙂

Automation has a lot of promise, especially for small businesses that want to keep overheads light and reduce the number of mundane tasks that you have to do every day. You can use these tools to automate parts of your value creation and value maintenance and this will help you focus on the things that are more important – be it spending time with your kids or on focussing on growing your business.


Text Message Marketing - Still A Reliable Marketing Channel In 2019?

5 years ago, most marketers decided that text message marketing and email marketing are dead. Social media was the new twinkle in every marketer’s eye and we put all the effort into growing our Facebook audience and building followers on Pinterest and Instagram.  In the years that passed by a couple of things have happened that has changed the online marketing landscape.

  1. Organic reach on Facebook has consistently gone down. Gone are the days when you could build a million followers and reach them through quirky FB posts
  2. People are slowly getting tired of online ads. Scams, potential election interference and the sheer creepiness of targeted ads have made people wary of them. 
  3. And most importantly, your customers and potential users don’t have the option to opt out of this barrage of online targeting. Its inescapable and does not provide a good experience for the customer.

Text Message Marketing  – Opt-in and Opt-out anytime

Text message marketing software gives people the power to opt in and opt out of the messages that they get from advertising. The same goes for email marketing. The unsubscribe button is the most powerful tool for the customer right now.

Text message marketing - sms opt-in

The last couple of years have seen the fast growth of email newsletters like Skimm for this reason. People can choose what they want to see and it is easy to opt out of the messages they don’t want to see.

The same thing is happening in Text message marketing. By the law of the land, you are required to ask permission from users before sending them opt-in marketing messages, and you also give users an easy option to opt out of text message marketing. 

With the power of text message marketing comes….

Responsibility of-course.

If you spam users with too many messages, they would unsubscribe. If your messages are not interesting, they would probably unsubscribe. So it’s on you to make sure that you define the right moments to reach out to the user and it is critical that you reach out with the right kind of text messaging. 

These are a couple of things to keep in mind when you invest in text message marketing:

  • Become mindful of the customer journey

All businesses have a different customer journey, For a gym, this would basically entail

The customer joining → the number of times he visits the gym in a week → the customer cancelling / the customer renewing membership.

Text Message Marketing

These are some of the touch points around which you could do text message marketing for small business. Most gyms would do 1 and 3 quite well but miss out on two. Asking the customer for feedback or nudging him to visit the gym if he has missed it for a couple of days are things that may help you avoid cancellation and increase customer retention.

What are the different stages of the customer journey in your business? What are some stages for which most people in your industry don’t do any marketing? Find it and use it to increase growth and retention of your customers

  • Push limited offers for a limited time

Most businesses make the mistake of pushing too many offers or pushing too few offers. If you push too many text message marketing offers, chances are that the customer will get fatigued and stop paying attention to the messages.

The right strategy would be to run limited-time offers 2-3 times in a year or depending on the customer journey in your industry.

For a gym, this would be – Beginning and end of the year where people are motivated to stick to their goals, summertime when customers who have kids have some time for themselves etc. Again, identifying different points in your customer journey becomes the core.Text message marketing has been around for a long time and it feels like it is a getting a new resurgence with better technology that helps you do it faster, cheaper and more efficiently.