Picture a T-shirt business that makes an average of 70 sales per day. This company has two employees whose main day-to-day job is to stay in the warehouse, sort out the right T-shirts, wrap them up, tag the right customer, and put each package in a dispatch bus to be delivered. Once they’re done, these employees have to write down every item that was sold, so they’ll know which designs are selling, which ones are doing poorly, and what to restock.
Yes, but if they don’t do these things, the T-shirt business won’t run smoothly. Now, what if there was a tool that can handle these repetitive and tiresome tasks with little to no errors, leaving the employees to do more meaningful work?
That’s what business process automation is all about.
Read on to find out how business process automation works, the different ways to automate your business processes, and some tips to help you implement business process automation successfully.
Business Process Automation (BPA): How Does It Work?
Business process automation (BPA) is the use of technology to perform manual, repetitive business tasks, which frees up time for employees to do more important work. The main goal of BPA is to lower the need for human input in simple, everyday tasks. In an ideal setting, business automation tools work in tandem with human resources to streamline workflows and executive complex business processes.
For example, if a business starts running a social media advertising campaign to reach a wider audience, it can use a marketing automation tool like Google Analytics (GA) to track the effectiveness of the campaign. Human social media marketers will use the insights that GA collects to craft compelling ad copy and visuals that’ll prompt the business’s target audience to take action.
In this example, human social media marketers and Google Analytics work together to create the perfect ad campaign. The marketers made the assets, while the automation tool optimized and streamlined the entire process, making it faster and more effective.
The Different Types Of Business Process Automation
About a decade ago, business process automation required large mainframes and a professional team to maintain them. Fast forward to today’s more advanced technological landscape, companies of all sizes can use different tools to automate their processes. Here are the types of business automation:
- Basic business automation
Basic business automation involves using no-code tools to digitize various stages of a complex business project. Not only does this prevent errors and increase the pace at which work is done, but it also makes the process more efficient while gathering data-driven insights. A great example of basic business automation is using a lead-scoring tool to rank your prospects based on how interested they are in your product or service.
- Robotic process automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) refers to the use of bots to execute manual, repetitive tasks, like extracting data, filling forms, and moving files at a large scale. Basically, it executes the same tasks thousands of times. A great example of RPA is using web crawlers to extract, filter, and analyze data from thousands of websites in real time.
- Intelligent automation
Intelligent automation is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to analyze large datasets (such as millions of hypothetical situations) to learn the rules of a process. These tools use their knowledge to provide autoresponses to new situations. For example, companies can install an AI-based chatbot, which will analyze a customer’s request and provide an automatic response, which aids the customer in finding the right resource and getting the help they need.
Use cases of business process automation
Below are some processes that businesses can benefit from automating:
- Email marketing: With email marketing automation tools, companies can send out pre-written emails to their subscribers on a predefined schedule, which significantly reduces the time and effort to do so manually.
- Human resources (HR): HR management tools can automate a wide range of tasks, including job application processes, resumé analysis, interview scheduling, employee onboarding, payroll management, and benefits administration. These tools can also gather information about employee productivity and satisfaction.
- Sales processes: Sales automation tools can automate several repetitive tasks in the sales process, including following up on leads, qualifying leads according to their buyer journey, assigning prospects to the right sales reps, and creating sales forecasts. This allows sales teams to spend less time doing mundane tasks and more time closing deals on sales calls.
- Customer experience: Bad customer experience often leads to customer churn, which lowers the profitability and stability of a business. To improve customer experience (and retention), organizations can automate certain customer-facing processes, such as answering customer inquiries and sending support tickets to customer support reps.
- Social media: Social media automation tools help marketers automate certain repetitive tasks, such as scheduling posts at predefined times, setting up autoresponses for audience inquiries, and analyzing audience engagement. This frees up time for marketers to create marketing assets and write ad copy for campaigns.
- Employee onboarding: Employee onboarding tools can take care of the multiple tasks involved in hiring employees, including taking employee information, collecting relevant documents, arranging onboarding sessions, and setting up bank accounts, to mention a few. This automation will prevent the HR team from missing out on important tasks and handling a bottomless pile of paperwork; they’ll also ensure increased employee satisfaction and maximum productivity.
Business Automation: 12 Ways To Automate Your Business & Examples
While some may wish there was an all-around BPA tool that can automate every part of a business, there isn’t. There are, however, different tools for automating various parts of a business—which is great because not every business is the same. Below are 13 ways to automate your business.
- Set up automated email campaigns
If email marketing is part of how you reach customers and get sales for your business, you should consider automating your email marketing campaigns. This involves using email automation tools like MailerLite and ConvertKit to:
- Set up drip email workflows that send emails at preset intervals
- Segment your subscribers based on their interests and automatically send the appropriate email to each segment
- Trigger emails based on subscribers’ actions, such as abandoned carts and webinar sign-ups
- Run A/B tests on emails and automatically send the best-performing email to your subscribers
- Use a social media scheduling tool
If you use several social media platforms to promote your business, then you (or your social media manager) know how time-consuming and stressful it is to manually create content for each platform, write copy for each piece of content, and post them all at the right time.
If this is where you’re at, a social media scheduling tool can take a huge load off your shoulders. With a tool like this, your team can create social media content weeks—or even months—in advance and schedule them to automatically go live on each platform.
- Use chatbots to deliver better customer service
As a business, you’re likely no stranger to prospective and existing customers reaching out to your customer service team to make inquiries. You might’ve noticed that some of their questions have easy answers and that customer reps answering questions in person doesn’t give them enough time to attend to people who actually need specialized help.
To fix this, you can install a chatbot and an AI-based knowledge base on your business website. The chatbot will answer customers’ simple questions and point them to the knowledge base to get more help. When the chatbot realizes that the customer needs specialized help that the knowledge base doesn’t provide, it’ll route the customer to an actual customer service rep who can assist.
Automating this part of customer service frees up time for your customer support team to provide a better experience for customers overall.
- Automate repetitive tasks
If there are any tasks on your team that are repetitive, you can use task automation tools like Zapier to take on that load for you. For example, if your content marketing team wants to publish a Facebook post with a link to an article every time a new one goes live on your business blog, a task automation tool can take care of that for you.
You can also use these tools to sync data across all the tools in your tech stack to reduce redundancy. Along with this, having GRC software helps to achieve automation in compliance with privacy norms and the security of the data.
- Automate your employee onboarding process
Employee onboarding is a perfect candidate for automation because most—if not all—new hires in an organization will go through similar training.
Employee onboarding automation tools can help you:
- Generate training courses and manuals to educate new hires about your company culture and history, their job responsibilities, and safety guidelines
- Automatically create accounts and gain access to important systems and tools
- Automatically generate and send electronic compliance, legal, and payment forms to new hires to sign
- Sync employee data across different tools to reduce manual entry
- Use a CRM tool to build relationships with your customers
When you start your business, you might only have a handful of customers or clients that you can manually send emails to and keep up with. But as your business scales and your customer (and prospect) base grows, you’ll need a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to help you manage your external interactions and relationships.
CRM tools help you:
- Store your customers’ and prospects’ contact information
- Segment your contacts and track their interactions with your business
- Identify viable sales opportunities and automate some sales processes, including assigning leads to sales reps, moving leads through pipelines, and reporting results
- Automate and manage marketing campaigns, including email marketing, social media marketing, and lead nurturing
- Optimize your accounting and finance processes
Whether you’re managing your business’s finances yourself or you have a dedicated finance team, consider setting up an accounting and expense system with automation features and work with a financial marketing agency.
Accounting automation tools like Wave and Xero can help you:
- Track your business financials
- Automatically categorize receipts to the corresponding charges on your financial statements
- Automatically create and send invoices to your retainer clients
- Track late payments and send reminders to clients to ensure your books are up to date
- Make it easier to schedule meetings
If your business requires you to get on multiple sales calls each month, then you know how frustrating it is to send several emails to a prospective client trying to decide on a meeting time, only for it to clash with a different prospect’s meeting time.
Thankfully, scheduling tools like Calendly and SavvyCal automatically sync with your calendar and allow prospects to schedule an available time to meet with you. This eliminates the need for a time-wasting back-and-forth email chain.
Once someone schedules a meeting at a certain time with you, no one else will be able to schedule at that particular time—so there won’t be any clashes.
Meeting scheduling tools can also integrate directly with your CRM tool so your contacts will always be aware of your recent interactions.
- Implement a task management system
If you use an old notebook or random post-its to make a list of everything you (and your team) have to accomplish in a day, it’s time to switch to a task management system with automation features, like Asana, Basecamp, and ClickUp.
With a task management tool, you can make a to-do list, outline the process for getting things done, and share it with your team members. This keeps your workflow organized and your team accountable as everyone knows what to do and when to do it. You’ll also be able to track their progress, follow up on tasks, and offer support whenever they need it.
Instead of looking through post-its and hunting down email chains, an automated task management system will give you and your team time to complete tasks before they’re due.
- Plan and manage your inventory
If you run an eCommerce store or warehouse and you stock inventory, you’ll need to automate inventory management as you scale to keep track of your expenses, correctly identify which items are available and which are sold out, and maintain accuracy as you fulfill orders.
Inventory management tools like Fishbowl and Cin7 can:
- Track your inventory in real time, showing you where it’s located, and how it moves
- Streamline your reordering process to ensure you don’t run out of important or oft-requested goods
- Track sales on major sales channels like brick-and-mortar storefronts, eCommerce websites, and online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay
- Give you detailed insights into your sales history, showing you which items performed well and which ones undersold
- Use a lead scoring tool to determine which leads to pursue
Not everyone who interacts with your business is a viable lead. Hard pill to swallow, but it’s even harder to spend time and resources trying to convert a “lead” that wasn’t really interested in your product/service in the first place.
That’s why lead scoring tools (or CRMs with lead scoring features) are a necessity. They assign scores to your leads based on how much they engage with your business. These scores show you exactly which leads are viable and which aren’t, so you’ll focus on people who are most ready to convert. Not only do lead scoring tools distinguish real leads from mere visitors, but they give you deep insights into your lead quality, increase your conversions, and lower customer churn.
- Create more content with AI-based content automation tools
Content marketing involves a lot more than just writing blog posts. It entails keyword research, brief creation, outlining each piece of content, writing and editing content (including blog posts, guides, checklists, eBooks, etc.), uploading the content into a content management system (CMS), publishing it, and promoting it through other channels. Doing all this manually is a slow, tedious process.
Thankfully, AI-based content tools like Frase, MarketMuse, and Jasper can streamline this process. These tools can:
- Generate content briefs and outlines
- Suggest appropriate keywords and optimize content for search engines
- Create comprehensive topic clusters in minutes that help you gain authority and own your topic
- Reveal gaps in the SERPs that you can fill to gain an edge over your competitors
The Benefits Of Business Automation
No matter how small (or big) your business is, automation is a great way to streamline operations so you can scale. If you’re not sure why you should automate your business processes, here are a few reasons:
- Streamlined processes
Automating clerical tasks and complex processes helps a business operate faster and more efficiently. Since automated workflows require minimal human intervention, there’ll be faster turnaround times, clear accountability, and more accuracy.
- Better decision-making
Many BPA tools have analytics features that help them gather valuable insights that professionals can use to make more well-informed decisions concerning their marketing strategies. They’ll be able to see the state of the market and the trends their target audience is hopping on, test their marketing campaigns before implementing them, and make data-driven adjustments to increase the efficacy of their campaigns.
- Improved data accuracy
Humans make mistakes. Business automation tools don’t. These tools are highly intelligent and have been programmed to collect and analyze large volumes of business data with little to no error. So when you use them, you’ll likely get precise, high-quality insights and results that you can trust.
- Increased customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction is a core determinant of the profitability and longevity of a business. Using automation tools to increase the quality of your operations will help you serve customers faster and more accurately. When you’re able to meet their expectations with ease, customers will want to do business with you.
- Save resources
Business automation tools reduce the time, labor, money, and other resources you’d likely spend on clerical tasks and repetitive processes. They also eliminate the costs associated with human errors and provide the data you need to make better decisions.
- Better workplace experience
When employees don’t have to spend the majority of their work hours doing mundane tasks, they’ll be able to communicate and collaborate with colleagues effectively and expend their energy on things that move the needle toward business growth.
When Should You Automate Your Business?
If you’re not sure if it’s the right time to automate your business, here are some signs you should look out for:
- You’re repeatedly doing the same things
When you—or your employees—find yourself doing the same tasks repeatedly, you should consider automating some of these processes. Doing so will not only save time and resources, but it will free up time for you to do more high-value work, and reduce the risk of burnout, errors, and inefficiencies.
- You find it hard to scale your business
As your business grows, your processes will likely evolve to meet new demands. When those processes are manual, you’ll invest more time and resources to execute them. This can limit the amount of work you do in a day, which is detrimental to your business if it’s growing at a fast rate. Automating manual, time-consuming tasks can improve efficiency and productivity, allowing you to scale your business with ease. By implementing detailed proposal outlining in your business, you will not only streamline processes and increase efficiency but also open up opportunities for automation and scaling. This approach allows for better organization, clear communication, and a strategic roadmap for success.
- Human errors take a long time to fix
Doing repetitive tasks day-in-day-out comes with the risk of making mistakes. For example, sending off an invoice with the wrong amount on it or spending time on a call with a lead who isn’t interested in your product/service.
These errors take time and money to fix—you can avoid this when you use automation tools. Since BPA tools rarely make mistakes, you can redirect available time and resources into doing tasks that create a better experience for employees and customers alike.
- High data volumes take too long to analyze
The bigger your business gets, the more data you’ll have to collect. But manually analyzing and processing these large volumes of data is time-consuming, strenuous, and error-prone. Businesses can use Excel alternatives to store and manage big sets of datasets.
By using automation tools, however, you can speed up the process and guarantee a standardized output, as these tools process data with precision. Automation tools also detect inaccuracies and inconsistencies in your processes, so you can quickly correct them before they cause any serious problems or losses.
- You’re missing out on opportunities
When a business finds it hard to keep up with the amount of manual work required to keep its operations running smoothly, it will miss out on opportunities to grow. For example, if you spend a lot of time manually preparing data spreadsheets, you may miss out on the opportunity to assess the data and make informed decisions.
Automating these manual tasks will free up time and resources, so you can focus on identifying market gaps you can fill, developing new products or services, and increasing brand awareness.
How To Implement Business Process Automation
Implementing business process automation goes beyond simply signing up for an automation tool. Instead, you’ll need to take a practical approach to this. Here are some best practices that can help you make automation a success for your business.
- Identify the processes you want to automate
Before signing up for any BPA tool, identify the processes you want to automate and arrange them in order of significance. Also identify who is responsible for each task you want to automate, and when these tasks should be executed. This helps you set up your automation tool to perform the task at the right time.
- Define your goals
Once you’ve identified the repetitive tasks you want to automate, clearly define your goals for automating them. Not only do these goals give you an idea of the kind of automation tool features you’ll need, but they also save you the time you’ll use to course-correct if you make a mistake setting up the tool.
- Start small
If you have little to no experience using automation tools, you shouldn’t jump head-first into automating entire business processes. Instead, start by automating simple clerical tasks, like collecting data and sending out invoices. This gives you a feel of automation and makes it easier to automate more complex processes.
- Choose the right tools
There are hundreds of business automation tools that work for different teams in an organization. Before you choose a tool, consider factors like the processes you want to automate, the features, and the pricing to pick the best choice.
Pro tip: When you’re choosing a BPA tool, plan for scalability. It’s challenging and costly to switch automation tools as your business scales, so ensure that you choose a dynamic tool that can accommodate larger volumes of data (or tasks) as your business grows.
- Train your employees
After choosing automation tool(s) for your business, have your employees and new hires go through an onboarding process, where they learn how to set up and use the tools in an efficient manner.
- Measure your results and use them to make business decisions
Most automation tools gather data on the processes they automate and their results. It’s your job to analyze this data and use them to identify your business’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth. This information will inform the decisions you make for your business. Crafting a comprehensive growth marketing playbook can be instrumental in leveraging these insights to develop and execute effective growth strategies that propel your business forward.
Save time with business process automation
Automating your business processes isn’t about removing the human element; it’s about taking care of repetitive, menial tasks to free up time for your human resources to perform more critical and valuable tasks.
Not only does automation save time and resources, but it also improves data accuracy, helps you make better decisions, enhances employee experience, and increases customer satisfaction—all of which are key to expanding and retaining your customer base, and increasing business profitability.
In light of this, if you need a full-service marketing resource for your business, InterCool Studio is your best bet. InterCool Studio has a team of experienced SEO professionals, researchers, and writers who can help you optimize your content for search engines, promote your existing content to generate leads and conversions, and run your social media marketing campaigns.