If you’ve been following the 2020 presidential campaign trail, you’ve heard candidates mention automation. While most politicians speak of “combating” automation, the brunt of research shows that machines and artificial intelligence will create 58 million more jobs than they displace by 2022.
Automation isn’t an evil that we need to resist. In fact, it’s essential to economic growth. That point goes double for startups, which need to remain lean and fiscally prudent, especially in the early stages.
No, we’re not talking about loading your office with coffee-brewing robots. Enterprise software provides automated solutions to an enormous variety of common business problems. Every time you take a task off a human employee’s plate, you give them more time to handle more important, higher-touch items. Then they’ll have more opportunities to think of and execute innovative solutions for your business.
How do you automate business tasks? Here are just a few of the many solutions automated software can offer your business.
HR and Internal Affairs
Reimbursing employees for their receipts on business trips or for lunches with potential clients is standard practice. However, when you ask an HR professional or accountant to process all of these physical receipts, as well as all other business expenses, it can be extremely burdensome—both for those processing payments and those waiting to be reimbursed.
Expensify is a tool that streamlines the expensing and reimbursement process. It digitizes everything, so employees can submit digital copies of their receipts to the organization’s Expensify account, while the platform automates expense approval with your accounting and payment providers. With Expensify, employees can submit for reimbursement from anywhere— and get approved automatically.
Even for certified, experienced accountants, accounting processes are complicated. If you’re a small, growing business, you’re juggling payroll, invoices, inventory, budgets, taxes, and much more. That’s too much for any one person to handle effectively, let alone a whole team. That’s where automation comes in.
QuickBooks has long been the gold standard of accounting software for businesses of all sizes. With QuickBooks’ extensive range of automation tools and integrations, you can streamline all of your accounting needs. You can automate invoicing according to a preset schedule, run payroll, link to many payment services to import transactions, and much more. It’s the kind of comprehensive tool that can make a huge difference in a small business’s bottom line.
Running a business involves signing a lot of contracts. That could mean inking deals with new vendors, closing custom contracts with new partners, onboarding new employees or contractors, or ironing out legal documents.
Keeping track of paper contracts and getting the necessary parties to sign used to be difficult. With DocuSign, it’s digital and hassle-free. This platform allows you to send e-contracts to multiple parties, demarcate where everyone needs to sign and lets them sign and return contracts with just a few clicks. Yes, these contracts are still legally binding. While we’ve included DocuSign in the HR section, this platform is a revelation for any team that works with contracts.
Sales and Marketing
Although digital marketing is innovating and evolving every day, email marketing is still king. The average ROI for promotional emails is $32 on every $1 you spend. That means you still need a robust, efficient email marketing strategy to reach customers and keep audiences engaged.
There are many email marketing providers out there that can automate your email marketing strategy but two of the best are Mailchimp and Klaviyo. Both platforms give you custom, simple tools to optimize every part of the email sales funnel. From opt-in forms to build your subscriber list, to customizable templates for virtually every type of email, to personalized messaging and CTA buttons, these platforms make it easy to reach millions of people with a voice that’s unique to your brand. With automation tools like these, you don’t have to sacrifice a personal touch to massively scale your email outreach efforts.
Sales Lead Generation
Gone are the days of cold-calling or copy/pasting outreach messages to thousands upon thousands of leads. Well, they should be, at least. While your sales staff can still schedule lunch meetings or phone calls with important potential clients, a successful sales strategy still depends on a lot of outreach. Generating leads is essential but, with automation, it doesn’t have to be a pain.
Tools like Salesforce Pardot make B2B marketing and sales lead generation as efficient as ever. Leveraging the power of the world’s leading CRM, Salesforce (which also has many cool automation tools!), Pardot integrates with your contact lists to automate outreach, lead nurturing, and lead scoring while notifying everyone on the team where each lead stands. It simplifies the way sales teams work together to generate and qualify sales leads, thereby shortening sales cycles, and helping teams scale.
Not only can paid advertising be expensive, it can also be manual and frustrating. Rather than asking your in-house Growth Marketer to buy ad space and create dozens of custom ads for a litany of demographics and across different platforms, tools like Google Ads Editor makes it easy to diversify your ads without excessive labor.
Google Ads Editor is designed to work with large campaigns or campaigns across multiple accounts, allowing you to make bulk edits and optimizations on the fly. Forgot to add a CTA? The Google Ads Editor lets you retroactively update ads with custom messaging to ensure your spend doesn’t go to waste.
Every business should have cloud storage, but you should also regularly back up your files. Trusting everyone on your team to do this often is probably an unrealistic ask. And yet, businesses are data, and you can’t afford to lose files to unexpected crashes or viruses. Imagine you’re a law firm that suddenly lost all of your client’s digital contract records. Think of the chaos if a server crash eliminated your marketing agency’s email list. Lost data can be devastating.
Seafile is a tool that automatically and securely backs up all of your corporate data to the cloud. Its syncing tool works in the background on your servers to support all of your information, regardless of how it’s siloed, or who owns it. Seafile backs up all data in real-time, and it creates library snapshots and histories that allow you to easily recover anything that somehow does manage to get lost.
It’s okay to be a grammar snob. When you’re operating a startup, professionalism is key, and that starts with how your employees represent themselves in emails and external communication. The use of the wrong “but” in an email to a potentially huge client could be an embarrassing and costly mistake.
You’re not going to hire somebody to peruse and edit every email sent outside of the company but you can get a subscription to Grammarly. This clever browser extension works on most every text box you use. Its algorithm scans your writing for spelling, grammar and syntax errors, and even offers suggestions on how to express the same ideas more clearly or concisely.
The Bottom Line on Automated Software
The business world is only going to become more reliant on automated software solutions, not less. Small businesses that want to remain competitive need to start thinking about what tasks they can offload to software like the solutions above, so they can focus on what’s important: innovation, imagination, and execution.