One of the most common questions I get when talking to someone trying to scale their business is "when should I look into automation?" Ask different consultants and you will get different answers each time. For me, it's when your processes are predictable and repeatable.
What does that mean? That means that you can predict your clients' behavior and that your response to that behavior is the same each time. While there might be exceptions to any rule, if you know 75% of behavior will be consistent (yours our your client/potential client) then it is time to automate. This means that maybe 25% of the time, you might have to do a "manual override" but if you can save time on the 75% that follows predictable behavior, then you can absolutely automate at least part of your business.
A great place to start for any business is lead management. If people inquire about working with you and you would like them to follow a specific process to engage your services or buy from you, then that is something you can absolutely automate. Automation doesn't have to be overly complex, but if you can create a lead capture or application form in a software, then you can set up a simple autoresponder once the form is completed.
From the form completion, that autoresponder could tell the person filling out the form what the next steps would be ("hey, I will review your questions and get back to you!") or further them down the path to potentially work with you ("thanks for your inquiry, the next step would be to schedule a discovery/getting to know you/scoping call, here's a link to schedule that!"). If you also have some decisions in your form, meaning they tell you why they are filling in the form, you could customize your response to them.
This could mean that you have a question like "why are you filling out this form?" and the answers could be "I need help with a purchase", "I would like to know your pricing", "I am interested in X, would like to start the process" and so on. Each decision in that question could be connected to a different auto responder email that gives specific information about what they were inquiring on.
The reason why inquiry forms + auto responders are so powerful is that they can create a customized experience for each inquiry AND reduce the amount of human interaction you (or your team) needs to provide before you get to the income producing activities of your business. This means you have an automation running to field "frequently asked questions" and get leads to schedule discovery calls without having to type out an email each time, or jump on responses. If your auto responder merely says "hey, I will respond to you during my business hours of XYZ," that means that you are setting boundaries for availability and can enjoy your Sunday afternoon doing things you want to do in your free time. Bonus if the autoresponder just tells them what your website already says - book a call.
A more powerful version of this is a chatbot. This is an interactive automation that allows you to have leads get more specific answers to their questions based in decisions within the app. Meaning they get real-time answers to their more complex questions without you standing there answering the questions for them in real time. I just created a chat bot that took a few hours to set up, but will completely replace the need for a "live chat" on a website. Because let's face it, most of the questions you get will be already spelled out on your website, but they only seem to hit home when they are answered in real time.
If you already have the basic lead capture automation, or a chatbot, fabulous. If those are in place but you still feel that you are spending too much time on things that don't seem to add value but are necessary to get paid, then you can focus on your booking process. This means that you can package up your offerings into easy to book proposals, streamline your onboarding, or get new clients to give you most of their information without extra conversations. You can use automation tools like Zapier to set new clients up in your project management software, email automations, and event take their answers from intake forms to populate your project schedule. All of this can be done if you have predictable offerings and can also anticipate client needs upon booking.
The pinnacle of automation is automated delivery of offering, not everyone has a business model that can truly automate this, but it can be done with some. But the more that your business is predictable and repeatable, the more you can automate.
If you are asking the question now, chances are, in some way, you are ready to automate. If this is something you would like to explore for your business, let's chat
. As a consultant, I enjoy the problem solving exercise of taking a business and creating a more scalable, streamlined model. I can tell you in a discovery call if your business has the potential to automate. I will also be sharing some case studies in the future, so stay tuned!