It’s a scenario that’s all too familiar to both managers and employees: you arrive at the office first thing, armed with a serious ‘to do’ list and ready to make an impact. But before you’ve even stirred that first cup of coffee, you’re facing a barrage of unexpected issues that promise to swallow up the best part of your day.
Small businesses face a constant challenge to put out the inevitable fires while working to improve and grow. Automating processes will harmonise your day-to-day approach, cutting down on those inefficiencies and errors that take up so much of everybody’s time.
From traditional accounting tasks to more targeted prospect nurturing, software can help transform every part of your business…
Accountancy software has moved on from simple data entry to the more sophisticated sharing of financials. This gives you the ability to perform multiple tasks – such as inputting invoices and payments together so you don’t need to switch between packages. You’ll also experience more control over due dates, be able to include negative lines on sales, and have the ability to drill down into transaction histories for more effective cash flow management.
The automation of payroll allows you to submit your payroll directly to HMRC online, ensuring your business is always in keeping with the latest legislation. Cutting down on manual processes saves time and reduces costly mistakes whilst ensuring data is always available to you – both in and out of the office.
Employee-based matters can take up a disproportionate amount of time – from recruiting the best people for the job and ensuring compliance, to filling in timesheets and holiday planners, tracking absence and updating individual details. Most of these tasks can now be automated – with the advantage that information is centralised and can be used by other applications. For example, timesheets can be linked directly to billing and payroll to cut down on duplicate entries.
Marketing-based packages help convert prospects and reinforce customer relationships via the use of personalised and relevant content. Some key features include the ability to monitor website visits – and the consumption of any material that you post, as well as the generation of analytics. Email campaigns are a particularly effective use of marketing automation, allowing companies to not only target certain customers, but drip-feed emails at the time these leads are likely to buy.
Customer relationship management
This sales-focused software, commonly termed CRM, allows you to track customers, access records and manage relationships. Its overall aim is to provide customers with a stronger experience when they use your company. Automating your sales process gives your team a complete history of the customer relationship at any time (as well as on the road with remote access) – including their buying history preferences and all contact records.
Business planning and forecasting
Automation provides you with an accurate picture of your business whenever you need it – an essential part of business planning and forecasting. You can sift through key reports, such as payments and stock order logs with dashboard views, in a user-friendly format that makes things much easier to interpret.
Remote access to systems allows information to be updated in real-time and gives everyone access to view exactly what they need – wherever they happen to be. This is invaluable when it comes to referencing client details, or if you need to answer a direct query during that all-important meeting. The availability of other key account information, such as billing or cash flow levels, can also help with on-the-go decision-making.
Social media management
Maintaining a presence on social media is now an integral part of doing business, but sifting through the mentions for your company, responding to comments and passing on leads for sales and marketing follow-up can be very time-consuming. Start using social media management software, which is basically a user-friendly tool that monitors all your social media activity. Posts and offers can be scheduled well in advance, leaving you free to interact directly with prospective and existing customers.
Does your website tell potential and existing customers all they need to know? You can cut down substantially on general queries to the office by compiling a comprehensive Q&A section online. To put together a really effective resource, ask your employees for the most common questions they receive, or search your website’s content management system for examples. Search engines will also be able to pick up on this content, so making the effort to put more information online could also help generate new business.