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7 Ways to Automate Your Entire Business Using Online Tools

7 Ways to Automate Your Entire Business Using Online Tools

Running a business can become hectic because of all the aspects that go into it. It can be time consuming; and time is money. And if you don’t want to become overwhelmed with the extra responsibilities, you would have to hire extra in-house employees, which will cost even more money.

You can alleviate some of that extra stress by automating your company so that you can focus on the most important task—revenue. Listed below are some ways that can help guide you into making your business more effective and efficient.

1. Setting Up Your Business

When automating your business, you should look at ways to make business functions more efficient. What practices would you like to improve on? What tasks are repetitive, and can be sped up by automating? Document how much time and money it actually takes to do these tasks without automating, versus with automating, in order to see how efficient your results are.

You can utilize batch processing—grouping activities together to do them all at once—which can save you time instead of having it spread out throughout the day. You can batch process emails, bill payments, social media interaction, and stock ordering.

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Having a positive mindset can also improve your business by working to see where improvements can be made instead of just settling for your current processes. You should always be trying to find ways to improve your company and ensure optimal efficiency.

2. Online Marketing

In this age, where technology and social media rules, you should find ways to utilize this in your company’s favor. You know that getting your company known is important, but also very time-consuming.

To do this efficiently, you can utilize batch processing along with other online tools. Popular email marketing tools include AWeber, Vision6, and Mail Chimp. Email marketing can keep people aware of your business activities, which you can automate by creating auto responders—a scheduled sequence of emails sent out automatically—this will keep your customers engaged for as long as you have set up.

Many businesses also use blogging and social media to engage customers and keep people aware of their activities. You are able to link both blog and social media profiles, and schedule posts to the exact dates and times that you want them published. You can link the accounts using Jetpack, and then use tools—such as Hootsuite—to automate your social media presence. With Hootsuite, you are able to access all social media accounts from one place.

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3. Admin and Office

A lot of tedious work can go into the administration and office, and this can really slow a company down. However, there are many online tools that can help automate these tasks. Evernote is a popular program that can help your business keep notes, task management, accounts, contact logs, etc., organized. There are also tools that can connect hundreds of web apps into one place—such as Herolocity; which can handle appointments, online orders, invoicing, phone systems, and everything that holds you back from driving revenue—for free. You can even automate data entry for your receipts.

With companies like Shoebox, you are able to send all of your receipts to them. Shoebox will scan all of the receipts and then send it to Evernote, and you won’t have to worry about having to do in-house data entry. There are also tools to help with file storage which allows you to back up, and even share files. Box and Dropbox can be used for free, but you can opt for more advanced features when your company needs expanding.

4. Customers and Contacts

Utilize tools like Contact Form 7 to allow people to contact your company through your website 24/7. You can even funnel responses so that they reach the appropriate person. You should also include a FAQ on your website to reduce the need for customers to contact you directly.

Assess the questions and problems that are frequently asked, and then have the answer posted onto your website, to reduce the number of queries sent. Along with a FAQ, a ticket system—such as Zen Desk—can be utilized which will allow you to organize and manage problems that your customer is having.

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You can also use software tools that can help with your customer relationship management. As your company expands, you will have more customers that need to be tended to. With CRMS, like Salesforce, you can provide your customers the attention they need, automate your sales funnel, and label hot leads automatically.

5. Tasks and Projects

Another helpful way to automate your business is by using task and project tools. There are websites—such as Trello—that can allow you to assign different users certain tasks, while also allowing you to label, attach files, and set deadlines.

Each task can be broken down into a checklist. You can also use management tools like Asana and Do, which will allow you to oversee your business projects.

6. Sales, Inventory, & Accounts

You can alleviate yourself from your in-house accounting tasks, by automating your business. Xero is a popular tool that allows you to easily log in and take care of invoicing and payroll, while allowing your accountant to log in to fix any errors you have made.

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The software is constantly being updated, and since it is on the cloud, you can access it from anywhere. Along with accounting tasks, you can also automate the money-making aspects of your company by having a shopping cart and online ordering. With websites—like woo commerce—customers can order whenever they want, and you can make money 24/7.

With all the money that will be going in and out of your company, you can also budget online as well. Softwares—such as You Need A Budget—lets you know exactly where your money is going so that you don’t mistakenly overspend, which can be a huge problem with small businesses.

7. Staff

Your employees add so much value to your business, but the hiring process can become time-consuming. To help with this, you can use software—like Recruiterbox—which can help track and respond to applicants, manage job openings, and allow you to assign users to different parts of the recruiting process.

After hiring new employees, you need to have them go through training. This takes extra time and money, but with today’s technology, you can provide training online—videos, audios, how-to guides—with password protection to ensure that only your employees have access to it.

Through your website, you can organize different training sections according to different types of staff. After hiring and training, you need to roster to keep track of all of your employees and the different shifts worked. A software that can help you manage this is FindMyShift which allows you to manage things like lunch breaks, holidays, and much more. This will lessen your stress and make managing your employees much easier.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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