Cool, calm, collected: Seven steps to using workflow automation tools to sooth your SME stress points

By Andrew Stevens, below, Head of UK Small & Medium Business, Vodafone

I talk to a lot of small business owners who often feel that workflow automation technologies are for large corporates or robot filled factories – this could not be further from the truth. If you’re a SME who is looking to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace then you should be using workflow automation tools to help manage repetitive processes such as capturing leads, serving customers, closing sales, or checking off routine office tasks. With the help of technology, owners and valuable staff can spend more time to focus on adding value and growing their business.

Changing your business from the bottom up can seem like a daunting task, however advances in technology are now making it possible for businesses of any size to affordably leverage workflow automation processes. To help get you started, I’ve highlighted several ways you should be using automated digital tools to ease processes, and boost productivity and efficiency in your business.

  1. Lead generation

Whilst identifying a potential lead is essential for any business, it can be a time-consuming process. By implementing automated lead generation tools, you can quickly figure out whether a lead has real interest in acquiring your product or service using surveys, quizzes, calculators, and payment pages. Automated lead generation tools allow businesses to create in minutes, without the need for coding or design experience, what could normally take hours. If salespeople don’t have to focus on lead generation or research, they can spend their time ticking off other more pressing priorities like generating income for the business.

  1. Enhancing your sales journey

Getting customers through the sales pipeline can often be an arduous task. It can also be difficult to juggle multiple prospects at different stages of the pipeline, which is why it’s important to automate what you can.

Automated sales processes use technology to streamline this process. Businesses can use engaging content to help customers select the right products for their requirements. This content can be personalised for each customer, ensuring that they are getting the best advice. Automated sales processes also make it easier to collect payments, using tools such as Stripe and PayPal.

HubSpot, Pipedrive and monday sales CRM are just a few of the leading CRM sales platforms available on the market.

  1. Using chatbots

Chatbots essentially save small businesses money by engaging with customers directly on websites and social media platforms. Should a query be too complicated for the chatbot to handle, the software is sophisticated enough to escalate it to a customer service agent. What’s more, chatbots work 24/7, even on holidays, and can also schedule appointments with a human customer service representative during non-business hours.

  1. Are email campaigns still effective in 2022?

When it comes to small businesses, automation probably has the most significant impact on marketing. Automated email processes enable businesses to send personalised emails to directly to the customer base. This helps businesses to stay in touch with customers regularly without having to manually manage every single customer.

Mail Chimp and Keap are just some of the leading automation marketing platforms available. Mail Chimp even offers a free subscription, while Keap offers a free 14 day trial.

  1. Social media planning needn’t feel so taxing

Creating, posting, and analyzing content across so many social media channels can take an overwhelming amount of time. Social media automation is the process of reducing the manual labour required to manage social media accounts. By using this type of software, you can:

  • Increase brand awareness and engagement
  • Greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to create and publish social media posts
  • Reduce customer service response times
  • Increase data collection for analytical reporting and decision making

Leading social media automation platforms include Hootsuite and Brandwatch.

  1. Onboard customers easier

Onboarding new customers can be time-consuming, including collecting customer information, setting up accounts and providing access to services/products. Automating the on-boarding process for customers can be beneficial as it eliminates the need for them to get in touch with customer services for assistance. It also ensures that they are set up with the correct accounts and have access to services as soon as possible, even outside traditional working hours.

  1. Understanding the role of big data in the automation process

The term big data is used to describe significant amount of information collected by an organization. Automated processes are only as good as the data which feeds them. Firstly, it has to be the right kind of information, and secondly, there will have to be enough to allow automated process to self-correct and improve the accuracy of performance.

Remember, the core objective of automation tools is to improve the efficiency of a business. This can mean different things to different people, from reducing overspend, through to removing the need for staff to spend time on repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

If we can automate simple functions within the business, we can ensure staff are focused on the tasks that add the greatest value to an organization. Ultimately, these tools ensure businesses can be more efficient, profitable and sustainable.

If you’re a small business looking for additional tips on how to take your business to the next level, head over to V-Hub by Vodafone and check out the resources, best practice guidance and free one-to-one support available from a dedicated team of expert advisers.

Andrew Stevens is Head of UK Small & Medium Business at Vodafone, and leads a team providing insight, expertise, and SME-focused tech solutions for the UK’s.