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10 Applications and Tools to Help Your Business Embrace Automation

Aug 11, 2020 10:40:00 PM

The business scene has changed drastically over the years. Thanks to technological advancements, even small to medium enterprises can now keep up with multinational companies. In fact, it can even be argued that smaller brands have an advantage because they can react and adapt faster to the latest trends.

One particular aspect of modern-day business that has transformed the landscape is the emergence and continuous development of automation tools. From payment solutions to chat support bots, automation applications have changed the way brands do business. Using these tools result in better efficiency, as well and time and cost savings so you can focus on generating more income.

The only “problem” here is that there is a wide range of applications and tools to choose from so it can be a little hard to decide. To help you out, here are some aspects of your business that you can automate either partially or completely. The list also includes a few popular examples of apps and tools so you can check them out if they will suit your needs.

E-Commerce

More and more Filipinos are appreciating the advantages of e-commerce. From clothes and makeup to groceries and medicines, Filipinos are now doing most of their shopping online. Indeed, there’s no better time than now to establish an e-commerce store (after careful research, of course). If you’re planning to open one, the first thing you have to think about is the e-commerce plugin you’re going to use. This applies, whether you’re establishing a purely online business or you have a brick-and-mortar store that you’d like to bring online.

Using an e-commerce plugin can help you start and manage an online store even with limited technical knowledge. You can create your own e-commerce plugin, of course, but this will take a lot of time and money. This is definitely not ideal if you’re running a small or even a medium-sized business.

What’s good about using pre-existing plugins is that you’ll have access to hundreds of features that can help you automate other facets of your business. Companies such as Shopify, Magento, or WooCommerce (which are all PayMaya Enterprise partners) have established relationships with other businesses and apps. This alone can make it easier for you to further automate your own processes.

Social Media Management

The power of social media for businesses is undeniable. With careful planning and well-thought-out posts, not only can you engage your so-called fans but also convert potential customers. What’s great is that you can explore various forms of content such as videos and GIFs to catch your audience’s attention. You can even create a persona that’s completely separate from your brand (think of the ever-popular Wendy’s USA Twitter account). The problem is that managing your social media accounts can be a little tedious, especially if you’re present in multiple platforms.

Thankfully, there are several apps you can use to automate and streamline your social media accounts. The most popular one is perhaps Hootsuite, which allows you to create a single dashboard for your social media channels. This way, you don’t have to open multiple tabs and login to different accounts just to post an update. What’s even better is that they also have their own analytics tools that you can use to analyze your social media data. (Of course, it’s still best if you access the social media account itself and download the data directly.)

Some alternatives to Hootsuite include AgoraPulse, Buffer, and Sendible. There are free versions you can try to see which one you like better, before you fully commit to a subscription.

Online Ads Management

To further improve the reach and conversion of your business, it’s important to have online ads. This is particularly crucial if your business is purely digital. With strategic online ads, you can build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website. The results of your online ads can also give you more insight into your customers’ habits. In turn, this can help you create more focused content that results in better conversion.

If you’re targeting the Google Display Network to launch your materials, you should definitely try Google Ads. Do note that you need to be a little more well-versed in online ad creation and management to make the most of this platform. If you consider yourself a beginner, WordStream is a popular option that lets you familiarize yourself with various kinds of digital ads.

Chat Support

When businesses started using social media for marketing and promotion, social media customer support soon followed. It made simple and perfect sense to customers. If their favorite brands are already present on social media sites, then they should also be able to contact these brands there. The problem is, not all businesses can stay online 24/7. What’s more, there are times when a rush of customer inquiries (or complaints) can overwhelm your customer support staff. For example, if you’ve recently launched a new product or conducted a sale, you can expect more customers to send their questions.

To help address this problem, you can make use of chatbots. The key is to be as specific as you can with the default or preset questions. Don’t forget to use a more conversational tone so that your automated responses don’t sound robotic. Finally and most importantly, include an option to talk to a live agent. There are times when your customers have ultra-specific inquiries that you may not have thought about. In addition, there are also customers who are still more comfortable talking or chatting with a person.

You should also consider incorporating a chatbot on your website and not just use the default options that come with social media sites. This is to give as many channels of communication available to your customers.

Task Management

For small to medium-sized businesses that work with both employees and freelancers, task management is an important part of business operations. You can use email for this, but someone’s inbox can quickly get clogged with hundreds of messages just for task updates. The best solution here is to use a task or workflow management app or tool.

With a workflow management software, it’s easy to keep track of a project from start to finish. It doesn’t matter if your team is working in an office or working remotely; using task management apps can help make your team perform their tasks more efficiently. Delegation, mapping, and project updates also become less prone to mistakes.

Some of the most popular workflow management apps include Asana, Basecamp, Tallyfy, and Trello. There are free versions you can try to see if these apps have the features you need for seamless task management and monitoring. If possible, look for something that has its own mobile app or at least mobile-compatible. This is important in cases when there are urgent items that need to be addressed.

Email Communication

For businesses that regularly send out email newsletters and other communiques, an automated email tool is definitely a must. After finalizing the contents of your email, all you have to do is schedule it in the tool and it will send automatically. Some email tools also have free templates that help you create simple layouts for your newsletters and other content requirements. You can also use automated email tools for internal communications, which makes company announcements and similar messages easier to disseminate.

MailChimp is arguably the most famous email tool for businesses of all sizes, but there are also other great options such as Constant Contact and sendinblue. AWeber, Drip, and MailerLite are also viable options.

CRM

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. If you want them to stay loyal to your brand, then you ought to ensure that you cultivate a healthy relationship with them. This is where CRM or customer relationship management tools come in to save the day. CRM can become a tedious part of your routine, especially when it comes to contact management and lead capture. Having a dedicated tool can greatly simplify the different aspects of CRM to help build loyalty and strengthen customer retention.

Most CRM tools come with schedulers, contact management, lead management, sales force automation, and sales forecasting. You should also look for social media monitoring, reporting, and email tools. Some popular choices include HubSpot, Hatchbuck, SalesForce, Zoho, and Pipedrive. The previously mentioned Constant Contact and sendinblue are also great choices for small businesses.

Invoicing and Accounting

Another repetitive element of business is sending invoices. Thankfully, there are now apps and tools that can help you with digital invoicing. These apps can help you send both recurring and occasional invoices to your clients, even if you don’t have a website (yet). What’s great is that these digital invoice tools can also help you keep track of your expenses.

Speaking of expenses, you should also consider using accounting apps or tools as your business grows. In fact, it’s actually better to already use one right at the very beginning. After all, good accounting will let you know if you’re actually making profits or losing money. Xero is among the most well-known accounting software, which features automated invoices and scheduled payments. Other features you should look for include cash flow management, multi-currency accounting, bills payment, and bank connection capabilities. There are also accounting software that come with their own mobile apps, which is especially helpful for business owners who are always on the go.

Calendar Management

Calendar apps can help businesses ease the tedium of going back-and-forth with clients or team members through emails or phone calls. If you need to arrange a meeting, for example, all you have to do is to check the app if everyone is available on a specific date or time. Then, you can send an invitation, set up automatic reminders, and even send attachments for prior review.

There are many calendar apps that you can use for free, including Google Calendar. Microsoft Outlook also has a native calendar app for businesses. If you’re looking for something more specific, check out Calendly. It’s an online appointment scheduling software that can be integrated with calendar apps.

App Integration

After all is said and done, you’ll end up with quite a few third-party apps on your computer or smartphone (or both). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can also be a little challenging in terms of management. Luckily, there are business automation tools that you can use to connect most if not all of your other apps and tools.

Zapier is perhaps the most popular example for this kind of app. The way it works depends on which apps you have and connect. For example, if you receive an email with an attachment, you can automatically download the file to your cloud storage. Then, you will receive a notification in your messaging or communication app that the file has been successfully downloaded. Other types of apps and tools you can connect using these automation or integration tools include video call software, CRM, and calendar apps. You can also link project management and even note-taking apps for a more seamless experience across all your tools.

Most people think that automation is something that only big, international-level businesses can afford. This idea simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s easier than ever for MSMEs to embrace automation. With the lightning-speed evolution of technology, there will be more and more tools available for businesses of all shapes and sizes in the future.

If you’re not sure how to approach automation yet, the items in this article are perfect starting points. Make a list of your business processes and then see if there are any apps or tools mentioned that can cater to your needs. You also don’t have to start automating everything at once. Indeed, it’s wiser to start with just a few tools first. Go back to your list and rank them based on importance, then prioritize automating those on top of the list. Pretty soon, you’ll be used to the new system. You might even be convinced to fully automate your business.

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