One of the ‘top of mind' items for me when thinking about how can I improve my agency's systems and processes is Automation. I ask myself often, “Can this be automated?”
I have an awesome Virtual Assistant (**waves**) that helps me do a lot of my day-to-day tasks .. and beyond. And I use other strategies to help me stay on top of things and become as efficient as I can, or to focus on the things that matter.
But there are areas where we can use tools and software to save time, capture everything and improve efficiency.. even for my VA. 🙂
There are others, but below are 3 significant examples of areas I use automation to run my agency, Unified Web Design.
1. Automation for Our Websites
For the past 8-9 months, I've had my VA logging into my sites on a regular schedule to update our WordPress website and plugins.
Recently, I've been testing a new automation tool to help keep our WordPress websites up to date. It uses advanced AI and machine learning to help you safely update and ensure that updates don't break anything. Something I'll be talking about at some point AFTER I'm done testing.
It's not perfect (yet), but it's got a ton of potential.
And that's an instance of where a tool can help save my team's time. If we have a tool that does ‘most' of the updating for us, we can redirect resources to other parts of our business.
Right now it updates 90% of our plugins or so? And I have (now) one of my developers going in to update the few that aren't automated and to check on things.
There are others things in WordPress that we can use to automate processes or program into a site to make things simpler – to trigger actions or logic that saves us time.
2. Automation for Task and Project Management
Tools like Trello also include automation – Butler.
I've created ‘completion' buttons that automatically move the card and perform one or more other actions. It's Time-saving and also can help when integrating with other systems.
I have rules to add a particular ‘label' depending on how that card is added.
It's little things like this that can help tremendously if you have a team working on multiple boards and on a range of projects.
Sure, you can tell someone these are the steps you do when you complete something.. drag it over here, click that button, notify this person. But turning that into a single click? I don't think I have to explain the benefit there.
It's not any different than when you build a website. You don't want your visitors to have to go through endless loops to complete something. Humans will make errors, forget.. etc.. so program it or make it simple!
3. Automation for Communications
Very recently I realized it was time to up my game in this department.
For a long time, I thought it was a good idea to try and direct clients and accounts to work within my workflows and systems. For example, I tried to train my clients to send requests to Zendesk (another tool that has a lot of great ways to automate, btw). That could be our intake and we'd be able to pull those things into my other systems using good processes.
But I realized (for the businesses and agencies we were working with, attracting or targeting) I was the one that needed to adapt.
Businesses or other agencies have THEIR systems or ways of doing things; especially larger, more established businesses. One of the values we provide is that flexibility now.
- Email: I have clients that send requests through email. But, worse, I have been added to other companies email accounts as I do private label!
- Trello (our choice.. and we work with others outside our organization in there)
- Some use my Zendesk ..
Here enters the solution..
The biggest issue with the above is losing ‘stuff'. Especially with email, things can get buried.
Monday.com is a solution where you could run your whole business, but my primary purpose (at least at this stage) is to leverage its own automation and create a central place where I can pull in data and notifications from a variety of sources.
And you're able to create dashboards to view just the information you need.
I've currently landed on using it in conjunction with Automate.io (similar to Zapier, but it did things a little better for me when integrating it with Monday.com). I've set up triggers and automations that pull all the above sources into one view.
I'm able to see at a glance if there are any new conversations or comments. Taking it a step further, I'm leveraging statuses to be able to move those things or close them if I've handled them.
For example, if someone sends me an email that requires me to create a Trello project or task, I now will update the status in Monday.com and it'll move to another widget so it's not lost or forgotten. I may not at that moment have the time to do it otherwise – but I can do them in batches later.
Automation is for Everyone.
You don't need to hire a programmer or invest $1000s of dollars to automate things in your business. Yes, a few of these tools cost some money, but for me, it's worth the investment AND is considerably offset by the added efficiency it creates along with the ability to see everything.. not losing track of ‘stuff'.
Automation isn't for those with deep pockets or BIG business only!
So train yourself to ask the question, “Can this be automated?”
I challenge you to block some time this week to think about where in your business you can automate something. Are there bottlenecks or things you do in your business that you could offboard and use a tool to do for you?