7 simple time-saving business automation examples without set up stress
When we think of automation in business it's often marketing automation that we think of first. But not all business automations have to involve lengthy sequences of email marketing. Some of the best time-saving business automation examples can be quick, automated responses to an action your prospect or client has taken, or can involve services that save you time on the administrative or collections side of your business.
This article will cover seven simple business automation examples that do not require extensive copywriting. They save you time. They save money. And some create a great client service experience with your prospects and clients.
Table of Contents
1. Zoom Chrome extension
If you're a Google Calendar user and use Zoom rather than Google Hangouts for your online meetings, then take a look at the Zoom Google Chrome extension. It saves you having to open Zoom and create a meeting every time you want to associate a Zoom meeting with the appointment. The step-by-step method might well be costing you minutes of wasted effort every time you book a meeting.
The Zoom Google Chrome extension adds a simple 'Make it a Zoom meeting' button (see image below). With one click, Zoom creates a unique Zoom video meeting using your Zoom account's default meeting and security settings.
The Zoom meeting join URL replaces Google Calendar's location field (see below). The meeting description box is used to include dial-in details for the meeting. These instructions will include the Zoom link and the telephone dial in instructions if you've enabled access via telephone in your Zoom settings. The 'Make it a Zoom meeting' button is replaced by a 'Join Zoom meeting' button:
Will this transform the way you do business? No, probably not. But you'll save a minute or so every time you book a meeting. Not only that, you'll also have a visual reminder to create the Zoom appointment every time you book a meeting. reducing the likelihood that you'll forget to do so. ??♂️
2. Appointment booking
At Connectably, we call the wasted time spent emailing back and forth for someone to book time with you 'Appointment Tennis'. Playing appointment tennis is inefficient on so many levels. It can feel like you're being bent to be available at times you'd rather devote to other activities that you might otherwise be able to manage in a better flow of energy and activities. It can also make you feel that the time spent sending emails with no other meaning or insight to them back and forth is time that could be better spent and is distracting.
Enter online appointment booking software, one of the most user-beneficial business automation examples. Calendly ($8/user/mo.) and Acuity Scheduling ($14/user/mo.) are two popular paid services that link up with your Google Workspace (Google Calendar) or Office 365 account to combine your calendar's availability slots with rules that you set for meeting durations, time between them, and days and times you want to be available for specific meeting types.
The prospect then visits a secure page online and selects a time slot that works for them (see below). Because the software only shows availability slots that work for you based on availability and rules you've set, when the prospect makes the booking, you know it suits you too, and the appointment booker has presented time slots in a way that puts them, the booker, in control.
The scheduling software then sends out meeting details to both you and the prospect, and if you've configured it to do so, many will also automatically configure an online meeting (e.g. Zoom) to be associated with it.
Using an appointment scheduler saves time, energy and hassle. They've become well-accepted by prospects and clients, and some even incorporate the appointment booker in with a CRM to manage the contact record and all interactions with them afterwards. To see one such integrated service in action, here's a semi-shameless plug for our product, Connectably. You can see the appointment scheduler in action on our demo page.
3. Sending a meeting confirmation
Using an appointment scheduling software to help you create different appointment types for different styles or topics of meetings also gives you the opportunity to send specific information in the booking confirmation email, automatically.
By way of business automation examples, this makes you look prepared and professional and also gives you the opportunity to ask the prospect to do some work of their own before they meet with you. For example:
- Are there some common frequently asked questions (FAQs) about your business or services that they might have in their head and it would save time and energy up front if they knew the answers to them before you speak? These are our own FAQs by way of example.
- Do you work with certain types of customers and 'definitely not' with others? If you have an article that describes this, link to it on your blog.
- Are there certain questions you'll have when you meet the prospect that you'll want them to answer on the call but that might need a little thought or a small amount of prep on their part? If so, you can link to a summary document or page that explains them and why you do so. This can save wasted time on the call, or even help them decide that they're really not the right type of customer for you in advance, saving you both time.
Sending information in advance of a meeting is a great way to keep the conversation and interest going in the prospect's mind, having made that mini-commitment to meet with you. But without you having to do the heavy lifting every time you get a meeting booked. It's re-usable. It's cost-effective. It's time-saving. It's positive for positioning.
4. Sales meeting agenda
In the run up to the meeting - perhaps a day or two days before - consider sending a simple, one-page agenda for the meeting with your new prospect, or existing client. This has four clear benefits:
- It tells your prospect that they're in the correct place for what they are looking to achieve.
- It positions you professionally. Few, if any, of your prospects will be this professional. You don't have to be better than everybody in your industry, just better than the alternative in your prospect's mind.
- It puts you in control of meeting outcomes by defining what they might be. You need two things out of the meeting: (1) for your prospect to feel they're going to have their problems solved by working with you, and (2) for you to know that you can deliver that in a way that suits the way you operate your business.
- It defines a structure for the meeting, so a 30-minute appointment doesn't become a 50-minute one, for example. Time bandits that eat into your day and spin your productivity out of control are one of the most damaging, but nonetheless controllable parts of the challenge of staying on top of your diary management.
What to include in the agenda for the discovery meeting
If it's a B2B meeting, there are 5 things you should include in your meeting agenda.
- Call the meeting agenda something that relates to the outcome you want to get from that meeting, e.g. 'Action Agenda'
- To present the agenda in a balance of them and you, try to include both your client's logo (top left) and your logo (top right). This cannot be easily automated, so if you want to automate fully, then consider removing this, but remove both logos if you do so.
- Agenda Items: (1) Background, (2) Company Diagram (their 'who's who'), (3) Current Situation, (4) Possible Solutions, (5) Cost Implications, (6) Your Questions Answered, (7) The Way Forward, (8) Anything Else. Put the agenda on left hand side of page, and an empty box next to it for them or you to take notes
- Actions Summary - a place where you / they can record actions and notes.
5. Direct debit payments
Instead of being paid late month to month, or being the person in your business that does the chasing of invoice payments, consider the benefits of getting paid automatically via direct debit.
According to Xero's latest Small Business Insights report (Sept 2021), the average time to be paid for UK small businesses is 29.2 days (data as of July 2021). Direct debit solutions, with businesses like GoCardless can get you paid as quickly as the same day using their Instant Bank Transfer service, or at the very least within 5-7 days using their standard service. You can also use them integrated with a CRM product, like we do with Connectably,
Direct debit ticks so many boxes in the business automation examples category:
- It improves cashflow - getting paid in days, rather than weeks dramatically improves your business' cashflow
- Payment failures reduced - direct debit failure rates are less than 1%; card payments fail 3-5% of the time
- It's simple to set up - define your product and your payment cycle, then use GoCardless' own hosted signup pages, or a service like Connectably's that allows you to style them further.
- No more late payments - payments will be on time, every time once authorised. Neither you nor your customer need to do anything else.
- It's time-saving - taking payments automatically each month significantly reduces administrative time.
- Lower cost than card payments - payment card processors can charge upwards of 3-4% of the value of the transaction. Direct Debit is typically much cheaper. GoCardless, for example, only charges 1% per payment +20p, up to a maximum of £4 for domestic transactions.
6. Online payment forms
Nobody likes receiving invoices. They're the biggest cliff-drop in the 'expectations vs. reality' dynamic of a client-supplier relationship. You open an invoice and are immediately focused on the cost versus the value received.
Online payment forms, by contrast, are different. They're one of the most effective and valuable business automation examples. An online payment form is a secure place where your prospect can commit, using their credit / debit card, or direct debit facility, to buy a set of services from you. They're like your own mini e-commerce offering without having to be an online retailing expert, and for specific services you've quoted for or positioned.
Online payment forms put you in that space of inviting a customer to 'buy'. The prospect's taking that step of being in control to place their order. Granted, working with you might not have the buzz of receiving something next day from Amazon Prime, but there's something a little different about buying, rather than being charged.
There are two very compelling benefits of using online payment forms to get paid:
- You position your customer as being in control as the buyer, and;
- Payments taken with card or direct debit payments will process into your account more quickly than most invoice-settlements.
If you want to take a look at a worked example, see our own online payment forms demo video here.
7. Expense receipt processing
Processing receipts and expenses are not the most obvious or sexy of business automation examples you'd consider for your own business. But the improvements that have been made in scan recognition and rules-based processing in expense apps that you might pay just £10-15/mo for can save hundreds of pounds per month - thousands per year - on manual bookkeeping services.
This market has emerged and improved rapidly with the growth of AI (artificial intelligence) technology. Without the need for labour-intensive review and bookkeeping, smart OCR (optical character recognition) and AI pre-processing allow services like Dext (formerly ReceiptBank) or Expensify to process smartphone-taken photographs of your receipts or email-forwarded service receipts.
Dext and Expensify both do similar things at a high-level, and both integrate with accounting software like Xero and Quickbooks. So don't overthink the decision. Take a free trial, or ask your accountant which service they recommend to assess which service might best suit your business and ease of usability.
To benefit even more from the software:
- Set up auto-forwarding rules in your email inbox (for Gmail / for Outlook) to automatically forward receipts you receive monthly from online services. This saves time sifting through emails manually as they come in, or going back over old emails to find missing receipts.
- Get into the habit of immediately scanning paper receipts for things you buy physically - coffees, public transport tickets etc into these providers' online apps. This is a great way of avoiding scrabbling in your bag or your pockets for old receipts.
Over to you: what are your simple business automation examples?
When you think about your business and the above business automation examples, have we missed any biggies? Give it some thought. And if you'd like to book an appointment with me to explore some of these or other workflow automation topics in your business, then please use this appointment booking form (casually crow-barring in the tip from item 2!).