10 Easy Ways to Streamline Your Small Business

Automate simple business processes

1. Use email autoresponders. Email auto-responders are an invaluable way to consistently communicate with customers or prospects, and to ensure you’re not wasting staff time with trivial followups. Autoresponders are emails/replies that can be pre-formulated to be sent out whenever an email is received or a desired action is taken on your site. A handful of common ways that autoresponders are used:

  1. Automatically reply to a support inquiry with information on solving common problems
  2. Send a reply to incoming emails asking the sender to double check to make sure they’ve sent you all the information you need to help them.
  3. Respond to sales inquiries immediately, letting the prospect know you’ve received their message, when you’ll be replying, and how they can get more information immediately if desired.

Not only do autoresponders help save time, but they allow you to connect with your clients immediately, even if you’re otherwise unavailable.

2. Send invoices electronically and allow customers to pay online by credit card. This not only helps you get paid sooner, but saves on printing and mailing costs.  Electronic billing systems will send account statements and late payment notices automatically, reducing overhead required in dealing with delinquent accounts.

3. Add a knowledge base to your website to let customers perform self-service support. Offer quality, easy-to-use, self-service search tool to your customers and avoid wasting time unnecessarily answering simple questions over the phone.  In addition, some of your clients might prefer to find information they are looking for online. You also don’t need to spend hours making sure you provide your customers with a full knowledge base, as simple easy to implement system could come in the form of a Frequently Asked Questions section to your site which provides answers to the most common of inquiries.

Take advantage of online marketing

4. Hold webinars and make the replays available afterwards. Webinars are a simple, effective way for small businesses to gain valuable publicity, loyal customers/listeners, as well as, continuous and growing traffic to one’s website.  What is so great about this service is that unlike with traditional seminars, webinar speakers do not have to travel far to meet their participants, do not have to pay for a venue, and can have the flexibility to choose to conduct their webinar at their own desired time and place. This can benefit a small business in that it serves the company budget. Additionally, making materials, handouts, and powerpoint available online afterwords also adds to your reputation, consumer base, and devoted followers.

5. Set up predefined email campaigns which are sent to prospects and customers. This strategy takes the idea of autoresponders to the next level, by defining email marketing campaigns that are automatically triggered by certain events. For example, a campaign could be set up to be set up to send an email once a week for four weeks after someone who purchases your product, each one containing a different tip on how to best use your product, an offer for advanced training, etc. Another campaign could be defined for when someone submits a request for information about one of your services. An automated campaign can send a followup with an interesting case study attached, asking if they’d like any more information, or even offering a promotion to try and get them to buy. Not only do predefined email campaigns save time, but they’re an invaluable tool for ensuring that best practices for client communications are consistently being followed.

6. Add areas to your website where users can contribute content (e.g. reviews, discussion forums). If you know you are providing unique services and products that most of your customers will be happy with, then you should have no worries in adding a component like this to your website. A forum can also help to generate word-of-mouth for your business, by creating a avenue where people can come to and read reviews (sent by existing clients), and get motivated to purchase. If you provide any kind of end-user support, discussion forums can also be an invaluable tool. Not only will they implicitly serve as a knowledge base for customers to look through, but in many cases you’ll find that another customer has answered someone’s question before your own support staff are able to get to it.

Use software & online tools

7. Use CRM software to send reminders of important dates and track correspondence.  All too often we tend to try to keep track of things in our heads, or through some other non-centralized method.  Not only is this prone to human error, but it puts you personally at the center of your company’s processes. By centralizing this information it makes it much easier for someone else to take over a task for you, or for a particular job to be split between multiple people. The sooner you begin doing this, the less change required as you scale your business down the road.

8. Use Google Alerts to monitor what people are saying about your company online. This is a great test to see how your company is doing and whether or not your customers are truly pleased with your products and services. Besides, having the ability to listen to what others have to say about you, gives you the opportunity and the power to do and needed damage control, if there are any harmful rumors or statements floating around.

9. Find alternatives for any software that doesn’t integrate with your other applications. Just because you’re currently using a particular application or service doesn’t mean you have to keep using it. If you’re finding yourself manually keeping data in sync between multiple applications or services, see if you can replace one of them with an alternative which will keep things in sync automatically. For example, if your CRM system doesn’t integrate automatically with your bulk email marketing software, see if you can find an alternatively email marketing service that does.  If so at a minimum you’ll no longer have to deal with manually updating contact information, but chances are there will be other capabilities opened up by connecting the two that simply weren’t possible with separate systems. You may even be pleasantly surprised to discover that your existing software can be integrated, and you just didn’t realize it.

Go green

10. Scan and store electronic versions of important documents such as contracts so they can easily be retrieved.  This not only provides an important layer of protection for your most-significant data, but it is also a great strategy to reduce your paper consumption and reliance. By converting paper-based documents to PDF files, you could gain tremendous convenience. For instance, due to its virtual and fluid nature you, could easily share, create, edit, store, and access any file at any time from anywhere. On the other hand, paper documents are only stored in one location and must be recreated, reprinted and restored, if even the slightest changes are made to it.