How to 10X Yourself Through Automation

We’re in a race against it, pressed for it, short on it, running out of it. If we could, we’d save it in a bottle.

Whatever your idiom of choice, we never have enough time. That’s especially true if you’re a small business owner. In “Defining and Achieving Small Business Success,” a report from Infusionsoft and Emergent Research, small business owners identified “time to get everything done” as one of their top three challenges.

Time may never be on our side, but at least technology can be. Automation software like Infusionsoft can save you from hours of manual tasks, like responding to repetitive emails, keeping track of leads and customers, and sending and collecting routine information. It does what you’d do if there were 10 of you.

Here’s how to 10X yourself by automating tasks and processes in your business.

1. Respond to contact requests

In a world of instant gratification, prospective customers who complete the “contact us” directions on your website want a response after a matter of minutes, not days or even hours. But you can’t afford to drop everything else you’re doing every time a new email hits your inbox. Automation can step in until you’re ready to respond in detail, triggering an email when a form is completed.

The message doesn’t have to be an impersonal “autoresponder;” it can look like you wrote it yourself, especially if you use a timer to delay it by 15 minutes or so: “Hi [Prospect Name], thanks for contacting us! I’m heading into some meetings, but I’ll be sure to get back to you later today.”

For more tips on how to make automation feel less automated, check out our e-book, This Time, It’s Personal: 20 Tips for Sending Automated Emails Without Sounding Like a Robot.

2. Send content and information

How many times each day do you send customers routine information like your price list, policies or schedule? Even if you’re only spending a couple minutes emailing links or attachments, those minutes turn into hours that you could save through automation.

Emails can be triggered via the completion of webform, as in the example above, or as a real-time response to an email in your inbox. With Infusionsoft, if you apply a note to the customer’s contact record, a prewritten email will be deployed (while the action is recorded in your database).

3. Follow up with leads

It doesn’t take long for a list of leads to become confusing. If you often dig through your inbox searching for email chains, trying to remember when you last checked in with a lead, you’re wasting time. Automation can do that for you.

With software, you can create an automated sequence in which emails are sent over the days, weeks, and potentially months you’re working to nurture a lead into a sale. Whether you’re sending content or the occasional “just checking in” note, automation ensures you don’t give up on a lead too soon.

If the automation software integrates with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, as is the case with Infusionsoft, that email history is posted to the prospect’s contact record so you can see which emails you sent—as well as which ones the prospect opened or clicked.

4. Continue the phone tag

Robocalls aside, you still have to pick up the phone, dial, and talk. But automation can handle the annoying part that often comes next: having to remember to call back again (and again and again) because you reached voicemail. You can create an automated sequence in which software picks up the phone tag. Leaving a note in the system triggers an automated “Sorry I missed you” email, while the software reminds you when it’s time to get on the phone again.

5. Identify the best leads

Your list of leads is long enough (hopefully) that you don’t have time to contact each one in the same day. And you also don’t have time to call prospects at random, only to reach the ones who aren’t interested—while the leads that are ready to buy may be slipping away.

Enter lead scoring, a feature in which software automatically identifies the most sales-ready leads based on criteria they meet. You set the rules for the scoring, which can be based on actions like content downloads and link clicks. The software then gives you a hot-or-not view of your leads, allowing you to prioritize the ones who are ready to hear from you.

To learn more about lead scoring, download the e-book, Score Like a Rock Star: Take Your Business to the Big Time with a Kick-Butt Lead Scoring Strategy.

6. Send quotes

If you’re in a business that involves quotes, you can use automation to reduce the back-and-forth process of sending a quote, waiting for the client to look at it (and perhaps reminding her to do so), and then repeating the process after the quote turns into an order. In Infusionsoft, you can trigger automation—like reminders or other follow up—when a quote is sent, viewed, accepted, declined, or paid.

7. Collect customer information

Offices used to dedicate entire teams to collecting and transcribing customer information. That manual data entry becomes a relic of the past if your automation software syncs with your CRM. When you collect customer information via a web form, a new contact record is created in your CRM, with each field automatically transferred to the record.

Bonus: Automating data collection also allows you to immediately send relevant information to your new contact. If the contact checks a box on a form indicating that she’s interested in boxing classes, for example, the software will tag her so she gets emails only about boxing, not about yoga.

8. Send appointment and event reminders

Automation removes the need for someone to manually remind customers about each upcoming appointment or event—and reduces the possibility of no-shows, too. With software, you can trigger automated reminder emails to be sent at a predetermined time, whether it’s five days before a consultation or 15 minutes before a webinar. The same is true for following up with a thank you, next steps, or a satisfaction survey after an event.

9. Collect paperwork

If you send a customer an important form to complete, the chances are fair that he won’t remember to do it—at least not the first time you ask. And you have more important things to do than chase paperwork. Automation can handle the reminders for you. Software can track whether the customer clicks a link to download or visit the form. Based on that behavior, the software can send automated email reminders until the form is finally back in your inbox.

10. Ask for referrals

Referred customers are more loyal and offer a higher lifetime value than customers acquired through other marketing efforts, according to a study in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing. Plus, it doesn’t cost anything to acquire them.

But there’s a catch: Many customers won’t give referrals unless you ask for them, and many business owners don’t have the time—or the comfort level—to do the asking.

Automating the referral request process ensures that you ask for referrals regularly and consistently. A purchase can trigger a later email to the customer in which you ask for a referral (and, potentially, offer a discount or gift as a thank you).

The customer may not realize the email is automated if you use tricks like merge fields, with which “Hi [First Name], I hope you’ve been happy with our [Product or Service Purchased]” becomes “Hi Mark, I hope you’ve been happy with our web design services”—personalized for each customer. With automated referral requests, you’ll be helping to grow your business, without even thinking about it.

Written by Amy Saunders

Amy Saunders is a content creator at Infusionsoft, where she helps small business owners learn about automation. Writing about business brings Amy’s work full circle: She began her career as a business reporter at The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio before becoming a features writer. After more than six years there, she moved to Phoenix, where she was an editor at a content marketing agency before joining Infusionsoft. As a lifelong Midwesterner, Amy promises to never take Arizona weather for granted and spends her free time riding horses, playing tennis and hiking in the sun. Follow her on Twitter @amyksaunders.

How to Create a Customer Experience that Increases Retention and Loyalty

Written by Jenny Beightol

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re operating in, competition is fiercer than ever. The Internet has made our world smaller and so connected that even small businesses must compete on a global scale if they want to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Because of this, one of the most important assets you can leverage has nothing to do with the services you provide or the products you offer.

It comes down to the type of experience you can create for your customers.

This, above all else, is truly the thing that’s most unique to your business. Customer experience affects everything within your organization, from how successful your outreach programs are to increases in retention and loyalty and more.

In one recent study, it was revealed that an incredible 86 percent of buyers said that they were willing to pay more for a better customer experience. And by 2020, customer experience will be more important than price and even product when it comes to differentiating one brand from the next.

Furthermore, 66 percent of customers surveyed said that they’ve switched brands primarily due to a poor customer experience—not a poor product or service.

If you truly want to create an unparalleled customer experience that increases retention, encourages loyalty, and increases revenue, you’ll want to ask yourself a few core questions.

Do you fully understand the customer’s intent?

If you want to create a true customer experience that will define your brand and drive your efforts, you need to first understand where your customer is coming from—whether that’s the devices they’re using, to the channels they’re on, and even to why they’re interested in your brand in the first place.

Take this for example: According to the 2016 Index, 95 percent of all customers use at least three or more channels and devices to resolve a single issue related to customer service. A further 95 percent use up to five.

If they’re sending an email on their smartphone, you need to be ready. If they’re sending you a tweet or a Facebook message, you need to be ready. No matter what platform your customers use, you need to be there when they reach out to you.

Home Depot discovered that DIY fanatics were turning to their phones to learn about how to build furniture. Furthermore, they were looking to YouTube for their content. So they built a content marketing strategy on the platform, creating valuable how-to videos:

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Customer relationship management (CRM) tools can be a great way to create a smart, connected experience across these channels. Not only does it allow for all information about a customer and their issues to be funnelled through a single source that everyone can access, but it also allows you to view historical data as well.

This will allow you to anticipate not just what the consumer wants now, but also the needs and concerns that will arise during and even after their purchase.

Do you know where the buyer is in their journey?

Where a customer is in their journey will affect everything—from the way that you should talk to them to the type of care that they need at essential moments.

The discovery phase is about education, whereas the awareness phase is about showing what you can do for your customer that nobody else can. Consideration and decision phases make the sale, but the language you use here will vary wildly from that which you will use in the discovery phase.

Content that aligns with the awareness phase can come in the form of blog posts, infographics, and videos that educate. Ebooks, whitepapers, and webinars are typically used during the consideration and decision phases.

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Image courtesy of Ahrefs

You don’t just need to know how to properly communicate with customers in general, you need to know how to pivot based on where they are at this precise moment. The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Are you tracking the right retention metrics?

Retention metrics are fantastic resources to tell you not only what you’re doing right, but more importantly what you could be doing better.

Focus on where customers are located. Are your efforts using local techniques to their full potential? Do you know which devices your consumers are using? How you interact with users on desktop will be significantly different from your interactions with someone on a smartphone.

Are you aware of the customer’s purchase frequency? This will provide you with the type of valuable insight you need to optimize not just the customer experience but also the customer journey, guaranteeing that you’re always contacting the right people at the right time, no exceptions.

Is your entire organization aligned around the customer experience?

An old saying tells us that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If every department in your organization is not aligned around optimizing the customer experience, all of your other efforts will ultimately mean nothing.

Structure your marketing team around nurturing your consumers as they enter the sales funnel, making their way towards that important purchase. Foster an environment where your customer service and sales teams aren’t considered separate at all, but are instead individual parts of a much larger whole.

Your teams must know when a customer should pass from one to the other. In that regard, communication is key. When a customer needs to move from the marketing team to the sales team, they need to do so at the right moment for the best results.

Omnichannel support software will not only help you in these efforts, but will also increase the reliability of your structure as well. Interactions across all channels like email, phone, social media, and live chat will all become one, allowing your customer to receive a single experience regardless of how they choose to make contact at a given moment.

Are you using the right tools to create a personalized experience?

People don’t like to feel like they’re just “one of many”. They like to be treated like the unique individuals they truly are.

Therefore creating personalized customer experiences will go a long way towards increasing both loyalty and retention. Even something as simple as using email automation to send out targeted emails tied back to specific customer actions or at essential moments in the customer journey will let that customer know you don’t just care about the sale—you care about them.

Again, omnichannel support software will become essential to meet this goal. Infusionsoft and BLUE are just a few options that will help you centralize your customer communications, streamlining the customer experience, and allow all of your departments to offer personalized interactions, no exceptions.

In the end

These are just a few of the major questions to consider if you want to create amazing customer experiences at your business. Make no mistake: customer experience is the new battleground for marketers in the digital age and factors like these are only going to get more important, not less, as time goes on.

About the author:
Jenny Beightol is the Director of Words & Reputations at Belly, the leading digital loyalty and marketing solution for businesses. Her expertise in brand identity and customer loyalty comes in handy when playing the “Loyal Brands” edition of Trivial Pursuit. Tweet her which brands you love here

The Benefits of Using CRM Software

Article written by:  Grant Lingel

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Advances in technology have made everyday tasks much easier to manage.

For small businesses, new technology and software make administration easier and efficiency more attainable. By making it possible to store all aspects of a business in the cloud, workers are able to organize in a way that was impossible in a world where Post-it notes and whiteboards were the alternatives.

Using customer relationship management (CRM) technology is essential for businesses to engage with their clients. The software can be used to organize sales and marketing efforts, improve customer service tactics and support, implement time management strategies and much more.

The idea of CRM is nothing new. In fact, it has been around as long as people have been making transactions. Ages ago, CRM was simply a sheet of paper used by a businessperson to track sales, manage inventory and keep tabs on customer relations.

Today, CRM technology is a sophisticated twist on that age-old principle. By adding all data to the cloud, companies and employees are able to share, track and analyze all information at any time, from anywhere.

Companies that apply CRM technology to their everyday practice experience numerous benefits, helping them become more productive, efficient and profitable.

Start saving time and money by automating administrative work.
Make time management manageable

Time management keeps workers on track, allowing set goals to be reached in a successful manner.

Not knowing how to manage time is detrimental to completing tasks and staying focused. Multi-tasking, while seen by some as a good way to get a lot done quickly, has been proven to make workers less productive (and dumber). Being able to focus on certain tasks for certain periods of time is a much more efficient way of doing business.

CRMs give workers the ability to sync team calendars, making it possible for entire offices and departments to stay on task. The CRM can send out daily task reports based on priority, which will ensure workers are on top of what’s urgent. Thanks to these task reports, forgetting to follow-up with clients or, even worse, missing important meetings, are things of the past.

Access important information from anywhere at any time

Instant access is arguably the most desirable feature of modern technology. Back in the day, instant access was a luxury, a chance happening. Now, it is a necessity. Most people feel ignored if they don’t hear back from an email immediately or if a message was seen, but the recipient isn’t yet typing their response.

CRM technology makes it possible for all users to add, access and update information from anywhere at any time. This makes a world of difference for those using the system.

When multiple people are reaching out to new leads or contacting clients, instantly updating the database makes it possible to avoid embarrassing situations like reaching out to the same potential client multiple times with the same message. This is especially true with the growing trend of remote workers.

It wasn’t very long ago that people left their work at the office at the end of the day. If something came up after hours, it had to wait; that is no longer the case.

Lead management

Acquiring a vast database of leads is useless if they aren’t followed up on or available to the right people.

Garnering new leads is a multi-faceted process that spans content marketing strategies, emailing and newsletter campaigns, advertising and other marketing efforts. Nothing is more important to growing a business than capitalizing on these new leads.

If a new lead comes in or a partnership develops, that information can be shared immediately with the rest of the team. That way, efforts can be planned perfectly to follow-up on that lead and the right person can instantly get in touch. No more are the days where business has to wait until Monday morning.

Improved customer service and relationships

This is the most important aspect of implementing CRM technology with any business.

Companies that actively manage the relationships they have with customers have a much higher customer lifetime value (CLV). Customer retention and high CLV are key to running a successful, profitable business that grows organically. The happier the customer, the further they will help spread your product or service to the world.

By cataloging customers based on their needs and desires, companies will have a much better idea about how to contact them. This helps companies personalize the experience with each and every customer. This also helps boost CLV and customer retention.

Personalizing the business-customer relationship is of the utmost importance. This makes customers feel as if they are much more than simply buyers of a product or users of a service. They feel a connection, a real relationship with the company. By creating a relationship (and being able to properly organize each and every relationship efficiently), a company can almost guarantee to keep their customers from ever straying to the competition.

Success story

There are endless success stories out there about companies implementing CRM technology, and the number keeps on growing.

With game-changing technology like this readily available and affordable, businesses are seeing the high ROI and spreading the word. With so much to gain, in both growth and efficiency, it is only a matter of time before all companies start using CRM technology.

About the Author: Grant Lingel
Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Grant now lives in Brazil where he owns a hostel and works as the Content Manager of Bunny Inc., creators of VoiceBunny and ArticleBunny. Before Brazil, he was working in the travel industry as a freelance writer, consultant, and promoter for over a decade and has visited dozens of countries across five continents on assignment.