Imagine all the time you could save if quoting and invoicing managed themselves, payments and reminder notices went out automatically, social media content self–posted and eDMs went out like clockwork. That’s the promise of an automated business management platform, otherwise known as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
More and more businesses are using this technology to streamline and automate manual tasks, boosting accuracy, saving money and reclaiming valuable work time. In fact, McKinsey estimates that in Australia, 25–46% of work activities could be automated by 2030.
While bigger businesses have been leveraging automation for years, small to medium businesses have been slower to get on the technology train. Smaller businesses may be put off by the cost, the belief that they don’t need a new solution, or the perception that automation removes that ‘personal touch’ small businesses are known for.
In fact, SMBs can reap major benefits from automation. Because they have fewer admin staff and smaller budgets, SMBs spend a higher proportion of time on repetitive manual tasks. A recent survey found that small Australian businesses spend, on average, $79,000 a year on admin tasks. The more of these tasks you can eliminate, minimise, or streamline through automation, the better the outcome for your bottom line.
Here’s how automation could change the way you work:
Cut quoting and invoicing costs.
Think about all the steps involved in sending an invoice. Generating the document, printing or emailing, reminding and following up if a customer doesn’t respond — it all adds up. That’s why, according to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), it costs over $30 to process a single paper invoice. And a surprising number of Australian businesses still rely on paper invoicing or other manual systems. Even PDF invoices, which seem more efficient, cost an estimated $28 each. In contrast, the ATO estimates, e-Invoices cost just $10 each. Even if you only send ten or twenty invoices a week, that quickly adds up.
Quoting can also be expensive. Estimating and generating quotes, sending them to customers, and — again — following up takes time and often ends without a sale. It’s another crucial admin task that takes longer than it should.
With an integrated CRM or other business management system, all your business data, including quoting and invoicing details, is accessible through a single platform. Instead of transferring numbers from one system to another — for example, from your sales software to your invoicing app — you get an auto–generated invoice or quote with all the relevant customer and sale details included. Rather than sending an email or PDF to your client, invoices are shared directly from your software.
Similarly, automated quoting saves significant time and energy for your team. Instead of preparing and sending each quote to prospects, you can quickly generate quotes using customer data and information about past projects. Send them through your business management platform, customers accept with a click, and you’re off.
Of course, automation isn’t just about saving time and money — it also means fewer errors and quicker responses from your clients. If you can reduce the number of steps between the client and payment, they’re more likely to pay promptly.
Simplify payments and reminders.
Business owners would love it if a prompt, straightforward payment followed all invoices, but that’s not always the case. In fact, the 2022 numbers show that the average invoice is paid in 38 days. A late payment means more work for you, with reminder notices, email follow-ups and finally, the debt collection process.
Not only do late payments cost you in time, but they also affect your cash flow. Every day a payment isn’t in your bank account, you’re losing out on interest and access to ready cash.
Again, automation can be a lifesaver. Invoicing becomes more straightforward, which in turn, makes payments simpler and quicker. Many business management platforms include an instant online payment option with invoicing — customers can click to pay (by card or online banking). Removing the barriers to payment is likely going to improve payment times.
Finally, automation can also help with chasing up overdue payments. Set up automated reminder emails at one, three and six weeks, for example, instead of manually combing through unpaid invoices and writing manual reminders. Your platform should also be able to automatically flag any that are very overdue, so you can follow up in person or push them through to debt collection.
Make digital marketing run smoothly.
You know you need to post on social media, send regular newsletters or eDMs and follow up with customers promptly — but it can be challenging to keep up when you’re running a small business with a small team. And if you’re managing all your marketing manually, it’s easy to see how email follow-ups get forgotten, newsletters rarely go out and social media posting becomes patchy. If you’re not keeping up with these customer touch-points, you can end up missing out on sales while giving customers an inconsistent or disappointing experience with your brand.
Marketing automation can help you create a consistently positive customer experience without hours of manual work. This can look like setting up a social media schedule to keep social posts flowing even when you’re busy. Or you can use a specific action to generate an email. For example, set an email — asking for a review or nudging your customer about items left in their online cart — to auto send a week after a purchase.
Some businesses create a ‘nurture journey’ — a series of emails triggered by a customer action, such as email signup or content download. These journeys are designed to deliver a cascade of information about your business and your product or services, eventually guiding the customer to a conversion.
Automation is the only way to efficiently manage that complex email journey and ensure every customer has the same experience with your brand. That’s probably why 63% of marketers use automation to manage their email marketing.
Does automation equal de-personalisation?
Many small business owners pride themselves on their personal service and relationships with customers. After all, that’s what sets you apart from larger corporates. For some SMB owners, automation doesn’t seem to fit with the idea of this personal touch. If you’ve always made a point of making personal connections, it can seem counterintuitive to hand over control to an automated system.
The good news? Automation doesn’t mean ceding control — and it doesn’t mean your customers will have a dry, corporate experience. Because automation platforms are so flexible, you can choose the elements you want to automate and those you want to manage on your own. For example, you might choose to automate invoicing, quoting, review requests and email follow–ups, but continue to contact new leads personally.
You can also use your automation platform to create those personalised moments for your customers. Using customer data, you can personalise email contact with customer names and other details — for example, recommending complementary products with a purchase. It’s about weaving personal touches in with time-saving automation.
Automation: key benefits for SMBs.
In a world where 68% of employees suffer from work overload, the majority of business owners want to take at least some of that pressure off. The smaller your team, the more important it is to eliminate and streamline the manual tasks that can eat into productivity and lead to burnout.
This is where automation can deliver tangible benefits:
- Time savings are the most obvious – one report found that employees could save up to three hours a day by automating manual tasks.
- Reduced stress for employees, fewer missed deadlines and more time available for business–building activities.
- Time translates into money, so those hours equate to financial benefits for your business as well.
- This could mean that you need to hire fewer employees, or help you get more value from the employees you already have.
- Less frustration and fewer unhappy customers – because customer and transaction information flows from one integrated system, you’ll have fewer errors.
- Improve your relationship with your customers by creating a consistent, streamlined customer experience through email and social media automation.
- Some business owners fear de-personalisation as a result of automation, but it can actually help you deliver more positive experiences and consistently excellent service.
Your automation toolkit.
Ready to reap the benefits of automation in your small business? It’s all in the platform. With hundreds of business management and CRM platforms on the market, it can be hard to find the one that will suit you best. If you’re running an SMB, you may not need a hyper-complex — or expensive — system. But you do need something that can deliver the time-savings, integration and efficient workflows that will help your business grow.
That’s where Thryv comes in. Based in Australia, it’s an all-in-one business management platform created for SMBs. Manage everything — from invoicing and payments, to reviews and social media, to marketing and scheduling — through a simple, user-friendly dashboard. Thryv is designed to automate the busywork, leaving you with more time to focus on the things that will really make a difference to your small business
Reap the benefits of business automation with Thryv – Get your free demo here.