Startups don’t generally flop from terrible ideas. In most cases, it’s due to a lack of planning, resources, or execution.
This is because startups usually lack the capabilities, in terms of human and financial capital, that other larger companies have. The answer, as thousands of other startups have discovered over the past few years, is automation.
Automation: Your Helping Hand
As the founder of a startup, you know just how difficult it can be to scale. You have a great idea, and perhaps even a few customers, but you just can’t seem to get things to the next level. It’s like the old saying that goes, “It takes money to make money.” In order to become a bigger business, you need access to big business resources. The problem is that you lack the money, people, etc. to obtain them.
This is where automation enters the picture. Automation technology lets you do more with less by allowing you to streamline certain tasks and continue scaling without requiring additional resources. Specifically, automation affords your startup the following benefits:
- Saves time. The first benefit most people think about is the time savings. When you’re able to automate processes that you’ve otherwise been performing by hand, you suddenly have the ability to use your time and energy elsewhere. Theoretically, you should be able to double your output in some areas.
- Centralizes communication. “When information is scattered across multiple systems or isn’t up to date, it’s difficult to find the correct information you need,” ConnectWise explains. For example, when a client calls and needs information on a specific project, they experience poor customer service when they have to wait for 15 or 20 minutes to get answers. “Automation streamlines the communications between different departments.” So, in this case, the client would be served in a much more efficient manner.
- Establishes standard processes. With automation technology, standardization across the board is a much more realistic goal. You’re removing people from the equation, which prevents most inconsistencies from occurring. As a result, you don’t have to deal with as many errors and issues that startups typically have to work through in the beginning stages of growth.
- Provides enhanced visibility. Another major benefit is multi-departmental visibility. As ConnectWise explains, “Automation tools increase visibility into your business’s operations by centralizing data in a way that makes it easy to figure out holistically how your company performs, in addition to the performance of each individual team member. You can even isolate the performance of one department.”
- Better utilization of human capital. You’ll often hear people complain about how they believe automation technology does nothing more than lay people off and keep them out of jobs. Not true. What automation actually does is allow companies to better utilize human capital and give employees more engaging responsibilities. Instead of getting stuck doing mindless, repetitive tasks over and over again, your employees can do things that get them excited to come to work every morning.
- Superior data and insights. Finally, automation technology gives your startup access to superior data and insights that don’t always exist when you’re doing something manually. As a result, you’re able to better understand efficiencies, recognize areas of improvement, and get to know your customers more.
If you aren’t investing in automation, you’re missing out on a lot more than convenience. You’re missing out on a chance to push your business forward and improve your bottom line. While it will require some effort on your part to get started, this isn’t something you can afford to overlook.
Primary Areas Where Your Startup Can Leverage Automation
There’s clearly value in utilizing automation technology in your startup. However, most entrepreneurs don’t know where to start. Where does it make the most sense to integrate automation? Where do you get the most bang for your buck, so to speak? In most cases, these are the four primary areas to evaluate.
Let’s begin with the area that offers the most potential for budding startups: marketing. Marketing automation, or marketing personalization as JumpLead likes to call it, is the process of streamlining marketing activities without compromising on warmth.
In the past, marketing automation was something only big businesses with ample resources could use. But things have changed. Technology has become more affordable and startups are actually using automation to level the playing field.
Your startup needs marketing automation if you’re experiencing rapid growth and no longer have the time to manually reach out to every lead; you need to simplify complex marketing processes – or you need to create a marketing and sales process that’s more measurable.
As JumpLead explains, marketing automation involves two integral parts. The first is a contact activity trigger and the second is a marketing action. When the trigger is activated, the marketing automation is then automatically executed. An example of this would be a website visitor filling out a subscription form and opting into your email list. Once the user clicks the opt-in button (trigger), a welcome email (marketing action) is automatically sent to their inbox.
There are probably hundreds of different ways marketing automation can be used in your startup. Familiarize yourself with these opportunities and look for ways to ease the burdens you face on a regular basis.
- Human Resources
If you think about it, your startup’s HR department heavily relies on documents, forms, and processes. It’s impossible to have a functioning HR department without them. But the problem is that these require substantial preparation and involvement. Thankfully, automation can help in this area.
When it comes to importing documents, filling out forms and applications, and reviewing job applications and resumes, HR automation tools can do the heavy lifting for you. They’ll deal with all of the things you don’t want to handle – all without compromising quality or accuracy.
Then, there’s the added benefit of security. “When automating human resources you can choose to back up your data to online servers, ensuring that in a fire or computer failure you won't lose years of important information,” explains Unicorn HRO, a leader in the industry. “And you'll also get security for your company, since human resources errors can lead to tax issues, legal troubles, and unnecessary expenses.”
- Supply Chain Logistics
Trying to manage your supply chain can feel like a full-time job. You’re having to change orders and processes from month to month, which removes some of the consistency that typically accompanies predictability.
By integrating some sort of supply chain automation into your business, you can perform better demand and inventory forecasting, increase operational and labor efficiency, streamline the delivery of goods through things like automated order entry, and respond faster to customer and supply chain partner requests.
- Competitive Analysis
What few startups realize is that automation technology will also allow you to conduct better competitive analyses, so that you can understand the marketplace and what’s going on. Considering how important it is for young companies to be hyperaware of their surroundings, automating your competitive analysis responsibilities is a huge bonus.
One thing savvy businesses do is implement automated price comparisons. “Automated price comparisons are a great way to benchmark against your competitors and incorporate business intelligence into your pricing strategy,” entrepreneur Angelica Valentine explains, using ecommerce as an example. “Online retail doesn’t exist in a vacuum and treating your online space and competitors as though they aren’t there is an easy way to lose customers.”
With automated price comparison tools like WisePricer, startups can understand the competition’s pricing strategies and create their own strategies that deliver greater value to the customer. It’s not a foolproof method for success, but it’s far better than manually checking prices, which can eat up valuable hours of the day.
Put Automation to Work for You
“Regardless of whether it's as basic as pre-scheduling a couple of social media messages, or as intricate as constructing an email marketing funnel – automation is setting down deep roots and everybody is doing it,” entrepreneur Gaurav Sangwani says. While you certainly don’t want to do something just because everyone else is, it’s usually a pretty good sign that something is worth a second look.
The term “automation technology” is quite broad. It can be used to refer to any number of tools or platforms. But, in the most basic sense, automation technology is about making life easier on you and your startup. It streamlines mundane tasks, consolidates resources, and gives you the ability to focus your time, energy, and money on high-returning tasks that allow you to scale in an efficient manner.
If you’ve yet to invest in automation technology, now’s the time. Start slow and take things step by step. As you become familiar with one tool, consider adding another. Before you know it, you’ll have an automated network of systems that gives you hands-free control over your business.
From there, you’ll discover that the proverbial sky is the limit.