How to start automating your business yourself
Are you ready to start setting up automation in your business but you don't know where to start?
There are lots of systems experts and online business managers out there who can help with this, but what if you want to do your own DIY setup?
There is a lot that you can do on your own, either with specific software or with tools that you already have. Watch this video to get started!
Listen to the audio:
Where to start automating your business
If you have been thinking about setting up automation in your business and you'd like to do it yourself, at least right now, where do you start? What do you do first? What do you even need to start automating tasks in your business?
When people come to me and don't have any automation set up already and they want to get started, I typically recommend that they start by automating their leads process. This is the first part of your client journey in your business, so it makes sense to start here.
This is also a point in your business where you could be spending a lot of time without directly increasing your revenue, so this is a great way to streamline your processes so you can focus more attention on other areas of your business.
What do you need to get started? If you are serious about wanting to automate your business and you want to get started with the right foundation now, and you're in a point in your business mentally and financially and whatnot to actually start putting proper systems in place, I would recommend getting a client relations management software like 17hats, Honeybook, or Dubsado. All of these allow you to set up multiple automations, so it's the best way to get started automating your business.
Now, if you are not at a point where you want to invest in a CRM software, skip to the section called “How to automate without a CRM”, because we're going to talk about that as well!
Pick your automation starting point
The first thing to figure out when it comes to automating your lead process is where do they start? What is the first thing that you need your leads to do? When I'm talking to service-based business owners, usually their leads are starting with one of three things:
Receiving an email with pricing, packages, FAQs, etc.
Receiving a link to book a consultation or a discovery call
Purchasing a service.
So why does the starting point matter? Well, depending on which of these three things you want your leads to do, you might have something different on your website to start this automation.
For example, let's say that you want to send all of your leads an information package when they reach out to you. You'll probably want to set up a contact form on your website and then use your CRM software to automatically send them an email once they've completed that form. That means that anyone who reaches out to you through that contact form automatically gets that email without you having to do anything.
Let's say that you want these leads to skip that initial email and just go right to booking a call with you. You can still send an initial email and have the link in there to book the call with you if you'd like, or you can have a button directly on your website that just goes straight to a calendar to book that call.
Or if your leads are going right to booking a service with you, then that's a different type of automation as well. You might still be setting up a booking calendar, but also include accepting payments. Or you may need to set up automation that sends an invoice or a contract.
So the first step in setting up the automation is figuring out what you need the automation to do.
If you are setting up a discovery call or a service where you need to use some sort of booking calendar, you can either do that through your CRM software or you can also use something like Calendly or Acuity.
Once you have decided whether you need a contact form or a button, you can put that on your website, you can link to it on your social media, and promote it wherever possible. The hope is that everyone is going to be going through the same process. Rather than going back and forth with leads in your DMs or via email, you can direct them to a specific form or button on your website and then your part is done until they proceed.
Don’t forget to follow up!
The next thing to keep in mind in your automation process is that not everyone is going to jump right in on that first step that you have just set up. But that doesn't mean they're not interested. It's very important to be following up with people in today's environment of constant distractions and notifications.
I don't know about you, but I find that if I'm thinking about something like booking an appointment, if I don't do it right away when I'm thinking about it, it may not happen. That doesn't mean I don't want that appointment, I just didn't act on it right away and now it's gone from my brain.
It's the same thing with your leads. Just because they don't take action right away doesn't mean they don't want to move forward with you. They might have gotten distracted or clicked away. It's very important to follow up with them to stay top of mind and top of their inbox.
When you're creating an automation workflow, I encourage you to have that initial step and then at least one follow up. If you start by sending out your pricing and packages, then maybe a few days later you have a follow up where you reach out and invite them to book a consultation with you, or ask if they have any questions, etc. If they don't book or they don't buy, have those follow ups in place so that you're keeping that connection going. You're staying in their mind and hopefully they move forward.
Studies have shown that people need multiple prompts - they need to see you multiple times before your average person is ready to take action. You may only want one follow up or you may want multiple follow ups - it depends on your business, the type of leads you get, and your own personal balance between reminding people and being pushy. The number of follow ups is totally up to you and what you feel comfortable with, but I definitely recommend at least one reminder, okay? That's not pushy.
When you are setting up automation, unfortunately these follow ups are not something that can be fully automated. Your CRM software doesn't know if people have responded to your initial communication or not, so if you set it to follow up automatically, you could be sending out unnecessary emails.
What you'll likely need to do when you set up this automation is set it up as a to-do item for you. This means that the software will prompt you to send a follow up email and then you can go in and check if the email needs to be sent or not. If this particular lead has not moved forward, then you send the follow up. If the lead has moved on to the next step, then you delete the follow up.
This may not sound like it saves a lot of time. However, it means that you have all of the follow up emails set up in advance, and you don’t need to keep track of when they have to be sent for each individual lead. The software will remind you when it's time to do it, so you don't have that mental load of keeping track of where everyone is in the follow up process. Your CRM won't do the follow ups automatically without you, but it'll take away a lot of that administrative load that you carry when you're doing all of this manually.
The next part of the automation depends on what is happening with this lead. Maybe at this point you are sending them a quote or an invoice and a contract. If they are moving forward with you as a client, then they are likely moving into an onboarding automation.
If the lead is choosing not to continue with you then, depending on what software you're using, you may just want to archive this lead so that they're out of the list of leads that you see on a daily basis in your software. Or if this is someone who is not ready right now but you may want to follow up with them in the future, you can also set up some sort of reminder automation to prompt you to do that. So, again, you don't have to keep track of that either.
How to automate without a CRM
I promised that we would talk about how to automate if you are not ready, willing, or able to invest in a CRM software.
Unfortunately, without a software that will send things for you automatically, it's not possible to really automate this process. However, you can still set up processes that will save you time and take a lot of the mental load off of you.
The first thing that I would recommend is to set up templates in your email provider, if you haven't done this already. Whatever platform you use, whether it's Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc. you can set up templates for the common emails that you send.
Here are some email templates that you might want to set up:
An initial email with packages, pricing, or FAQs
An email with a link or information to book a call with you (there are some free ways to set up a booking link on your calendar if you don’t have a software to do this)
An email with links to book a service with you
Follow up emails for leads who don’t book or move forward right away
Basically, you should have an email template for every step of the process that you would like to automate, you just won’t be able to send these emails automatically. But with templates set up, all you need to do is add the lead’s email address and name and hit send!
It’s also important to come up with some sort of system to keep track of follow ups if you aren’t using a software to automate these reminders. You can use your Apple Calendar or Google Calendar for this by adding follow up reminders for each lead as they come in. There are also to do or reminder apps you can use for this.
You could also set up something like a Trello board where you have different columns for different parts of the process for where a lead is at. For example, one column for the initial email, one for follow up one, one for follow up two, one for sending a quote, etc. Then you create a card for each lead and move them through the process.
A platform like Trello also allows you to add to do items and due dates, so you can keep track of follow ups and other tasks that you have to do for each lead each day. Again, it's work to set this up on the front end for each lead, but then you don't have to think about it. This type of system is still going to save you time, energy, and attention, because you'll have a process for it and you won't have to think about it and keep track of each lead all the time.
I hope that you found all of this helpful. It's very important to set up a consistent lead process and automate what you can, because the more your leads have consistency and the more they are getting responses and action items from you as quickly as possible, the more likely they are to actually continue on and become a paying client. The longer it takes people to get communication and information from you, the more likely they are to have moved on. If you can set up this process, whether it's just templates and systems or whether it is automated, the more likely you are to convert more leads into paying clients.
If you have questions about this, if you would like recommendations on what software would be right for you and your specific business, or if you have questions about how to do a specific thing within one of these softwares, or just questions about automation in general, please let me know down in the comments or feel free to reach out.