Small business owners launch their ventures with a specific goal in mind: To help people, to provide necessary services, or to offer great products.
However, many small business owners find themselves bogged down in the minutiae of doing business — things like lead generation or crunching shipping data — instead of focusing on their core goals.
When small businesses put automation to work, they free up time to turn their goals into realities.
CentricsIT provides third-party IT maintenance and support. Headquartered in Atlanta, CentricsIT’s small team provides services for clients worldwide.
As CentricsIT relies on a small staff, team members can often find their plates full. Serving clients can compete with tasks like finding qualified leads, which was something the company decided to automate.
Pre-automation, the company had no structured system for tracking or nurturing leads. When leads did appear, they were forwarded to the staff member responsible for email marketing, who would manually examine and forward each lead to sales, reports Allison Banko, who at the time was writing for MarketingSherpa and now manages recruitment marketing at Hilton.
And while the occasional email campaign was sent to everyone on their marketing list, these emails didn’t typically generate much business.
Automating lead generation changed the game for CentricsIT by directing leads from landing pages to sales reps automatically. With the new automation software, CentricsIT’s team was able to track granular data, like which pages were visited by each potential lead online. This gave the company a clearer insight into each visitor’s interests — like whether they looking at general IT maintenance, data migration, or data center relocation — and offered a potential starting point for a marketing conversation.
CentricsIT saw its lead generation increase by 59 percent as a result. The company estimates that $1.5 million in additional revenue came from that increase in warm leads.
Pre-automation, CentricsIT saw perhaps one new lead per week. Post-automation, the company began to see more than 100 new leads each month, Mandy Hauck, the founding member of CentricsIT’s marketing team, tells Banko.
Marketing automation allows small businesses to appeal to customers by providing the personalization that customers expect, says Jennifer Adams, Senior Forecast Analyst at Forrester.
There are a few things you can do to help onboard a marketing automation system:
Located in Hampton, New Hampshire, Smuttynose Brewing Company not only brews a range of beers but also historicall has served as a venue for performers, hands-on cooking classes, and other community events. As a result, its staff stays busy — and benefits from the time-saving assistance of automation.
Smuttynose employs a number of people throughout the Northeast. Prior to automating payroll, the company faced a number of inefficiencies in its HR processes overall. For instance, the company had difficulty tracking hours worked by location and it couldn’t always verify compliance with wage and hour laws on demand.
Managers struggled to hire new talent, as well. Their methods included the time-consuming work of posting job openings to multiple sites and of updating each candidate individually with separate emails or phone calls.
To keep better track of employees’ hours worked and comply with applicable payroll tax laws, the brewery turned to Paycor’s automated services. Paycor’s tools allow Smuttynose to track hours in a single system, automatically generating reports on hours worked, and verifying compliance on demand. Hiring improved as well with the system’s tools for applicant tracking and customizable onboarding.
“I am extremely satisfied that I made the switch to Paycor and believe that satisfaction will only grow stronger as our partnership has a chance to mature,” says Mia Jennings, Director of HR at Smuttynose Brewing.
One of the biggest benefits for small businesses that automate payroll and time tracking is error reduction. About one in every three employers nationwide makes at least one payroll error annually. The total cost of these errors nationwide is in the billions of dollars, says Eyal Katz, Head of Marketing Operations at Connecteam.
Approximately 40 percent of small businesses incur IRS penalties annually due to time tracking and payroll errors, which can often be traced to problems with paper time cards. On average, these mistakes cost a business $845 a year, Katz says.
Manual time tracking and payroll methods are fraught with inefficiencies. Duplicate data entry and manual processes like having to review each time card burn time, and they increase the risk of inserting mistakes into the process as well.
“Failing to streamline payroll processes or to adopt the many new and emerging technologies can add up to hundreds of hours in lost productivity, not to mention unnecessary headaches when it comes to tax reporting year-end,” says Vivian Maza, Chief People Officer at Ultimate Software.
When payroll is automated, it can help a small business grow more efficiently, as well, says Maza. An automated payroll system can scale with the addition of more employees and expansion into new territory, including expansion across state or national borders.
Taylor & Hart designs, crafts, and ships custom-made engagement rings to customers around the world. It’s a straightforward business model that could thrive in any era, but the digital-native company (founded in 2013) has leveraged automation and made bespoke engagement rings much more accessible to consumers.
For any company that sells bespoke goods, there must be an intense focus on customer consultations and relationships. The value such companies provide is in their ability to understand and work with precise customer requests.
Joey Blanco, Customer Storyteller at Zapier, has an excellent breakdown of what platforms Taylor & Hart rely on to manage inbound consultation requests and ongoing customer relationships.
When the customer is satisfied with the ring’s design, they’re automatically emailed a quote, and the design team gets brought into the fold to begin work.
The keyword here is “scalability.”
Imagine how Taylor & Hart’s business model would work if the company operated like traditional bespoke tailors: The tailor receives a request for a fitting, then travels to the customer to take measurements and consult on the garment’s design. The tailor then travels back to the workshop to begin buying cloth and assembling the garment. The tailor delivers the garment to the client in perhaps six weeks, often longer, and the tailor makes final adjustments.
That’s an expensive, non-scalable way of doing business. Taylor & Hart’s model, by contrast, can have a bespoke ring completed in as few as 18 days, and prices can be as low as $1,700. That’s not inexpensive, but it’s competitive with pre-made engagement rings you could buy from a jeweler.
Automation will continue to change the way we work. A 2017 McKinsey study estimated that among 60 percent of jobs that currently exist, one-third or more of the job’s daily duties could be automated, say James Manyika and the research team at McKinsey. This automation frees up workers to focus on deep thought, creativity, and other endeavors that computers can’t match.
By embracing various forms of automation, small businesses shift busywork off their desks, allowing them to focus on service, innovation, and quality — standards that attract customers and set these businesses apart from the competition.