Online businesses … some say they are the best of all possible worlds. You can run one from almost anywhere. Costs can often be kept lower, unlocking additional value in your business because you may have no need for impressive offices, equipment or facilities. Even aspects such as inventory can be managed virtually or at a distance these days. You can work around your own schedule, creating the business you want on your own timetable. It all helps you minimize costs, which means more profit for you and your business.
Yes, life can be good if you own and operate an online business. But just because it’s an online business, doesn’t mean you can ignore your business processes. You still need to streamline your end-to-end processes.
You need to keep working to improve the customer experience so that the people coming to your Website and buying your products or services keep coming back, are loyal to your brand, and have fewer complaints.
Fortunately, technology comes to the rescue. Technology tools help you automate administrative tasks, avoid errors that come from orders and information falling through the cracks, handle the logistics of necessary to keep orders flowing, and manage customer service issues — allowing you to focus on increasing revenues.
Here are 15 suggestions from members of the BizSugar community on how to automate your online business with exciting results.
1. Improve follow-up, save money, and generate more business by automating your e-mail list.
Even online business owners sometimes attend face to face networking events. This can be a great way to meet prospective customers whom you can later follow-up with online. But handing out tons of business cards and then hoping these people get in touch so you can add them to your e-mail list is costly and inefficient. Instead, Brankica Underwood reviews an app that lets you add e-mail addresses to your list immediately so you can follow-up later. Online Income Star
2. Get more out of Facebook in less time by automating your posts.
We all know the importance of Facebook for promoting your brand and developing closer relationships with your customers. But updating your Facebook status regularly can take time away from other activities that drive revenue. The best solution, says social marketer Darrah Reneri, is a new feature that lets you schedule your posts. PCG Digital Marketing
3. Improve efficiency and become a YouTube superstar by automating your video content.
Pre-scheduling the publishing of content isn’t limited to your blog or Facebook account. Now it’s possible to automate publication of your YouTube video content, too, says blogger Ileane Smith. Ileane shows us how creating videos and scheduling them to post ahead of time is a great way to free up time for other things in your business. Basic Blogging Tips
4. Automate all or part of your social media campaign without sacrificing engagement.
You don’t need to stop at Facebook and YouTube, of course. There are many apps out there that allow online business owners and entrepreneurs to automate many or all of their social media channels. These tools can be very effective in helping you become more efficient when managing your social media output, while adding more flexibility to work on other aspects of your business. Some argue automating your social media will decrease your real-life engagement with your audience, but blogger Daniel Sharkov believes used correctly, these tools will reduce time spent and improve results. Reviewz ‘n’ Tips
5. Improve content creation without extra time or cost by automating keyword research.
You spend substantial amounts of money hiring a Search Engine Optimization expert to research keywords to help make your content more appealing to search engines or spend considerable time doing all the work yourself. Either way, you will be using time or money better spent in other areas of your online business. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be an issue, thanks to keyword research automation software, writes blogger John Paul Aguiar. The Money Dummy Blog
6. Automate everything from spam control to analytics with plugins for your Website.
WordPress, a favorite publishing and development platform among many online entrepreneurs, supports a slew of helpful plug-ins, but you might not think about how these function as additional automation for your Website. Some of the best plug-ins automate tasks on your Website that might otherwise be very costly or time intensive to perform, writes Shad Connelly. Monsters Unlimited
7. Boost customer experience and efficiency of your e-commerce site with easy shopping cart installation.
The online shopping cart has become a standard in e-commerce and a must for improving customer experience while increasing efficiency by allowing customers to purchase products 24/7, 365 days a year without the need for staffing or regular monitoring. Fortunately, costly programming is no longer necessary to create great shopping carts for your online store, says Danny Pajevic. Creating a Webstore
8. Follow-up your lost sales and turn them into additional revenue without extra time or cost.
Not only can you easily set up automated shopping carts for your online store, you can automate follow-ups on shopping cart abandonment and perhaps capture those lost sales. E-mail marketing expert Chris Hexton explains how to set up your e-mail follow-ups and provides examples of how those follow-ups should be phrased for maximum impact. Capture Commerce
9. Automate your conversions with better Website design.
If you’ve never thought of Web design as a form of automation, think again. How you design your Website (no, we’re not necessarily talking about color choice here) can make a huge difference, writes marketer Eugene Farber. The correct navigation can drive traffic and sales, meaning less time and expense on your part to convert visitors into customers. Content Strategy Hub
10. Automate every bit of your customer relationship management to improve experiences while reducing costs.
Imagine how much time it would take you personally or how much you would pay an outside customer relations specialist to follow-up with prospects, answer their questions, and work to close sales. Fortunately for all online businesses, simple software applications now exist to automate much of this activity day or night, weekends included, writes guest blogger Simon Jackobson. Small Biz Diamonds
11. Set and forget your marketing and sales software to increase revenue with less effort.
Yes, software can also handle your follow-up sales and marketing efforts, even after a prospect has left your site. Online business expert Dave Hubbard explains how the epitome of online sales success is to automate the collection of prospect data as users visit your site, and then handle follow-up to make sure that when that prospect is ready to buy, he or she will remember your name. Marketing Outfield
12. Improve your marketing and sales team’s performance with an automation blueprint.
Of course, for slightly larger organizations that employ their own marketing and sales teams, automation is not about technology doing the marketing and sales for you. Instead, use automation to collect leads and give sales and marketing professionals more time to decide where to focus their energy for optimum sales potential. Marketing Action Blog
13. Get paid faster at lower cost with automated invoicing.
If your business is service oriented and requires billing after projects are completed, then keeping up with your invoicing is the best way to keep the cash flowing. One way to reduce the amount of time you spend on this activity is to take advantage of the many online billing software products that help you automate and streamline the process, says Small Business Administration Community Moderator Caron Beesley. SBA.gov
14. Save time to focus elsewhere by automating your HR functions.
Many small businesses might not be able to justify hiring a full-time human resources manager, meaning many HR tasks may fall to you, the small business owner, instead. But as your business grows, you will find more and more of your time taken up with human resources chores. Business blogger Joseph Baker suggests automating some of your HR tasks instead. True to Business
15. Automate payments to make things simple.
Finally, many online payment options make automating this part of your business a snap. PayPal is perhaps the most famous, but by no means the only solution. Now there’s also Braintree, an option that lets clients and customers pay you without ever leaving your Website, blogs Jeff Yablon. Automating your online payments unlocks additional value in your business by making things easier for you and your customer, and that should be the point of all your online business automation. The Answer Guy
Bonus tip: Easily track shipments and shipping expenses from your online store.
When opening the online store for honoree awards for the recent Small Business Influencer Awards, the Awards Operations Manager, Staci Wood, found that opening a UPS account was invaluable for creating trackable shipment documentation and tracking shipping expenses for proper accounting. That way, nothing falls through the cracks. Influencer Honoree Rewards
What about you? What have you automated to run your online business more effectively? Share in the comments!