Avoid These Pitfalls When Automating Your Small Business
As a small business owner, I understand the desire to automate the parts of your business that are repeatable. This frees up your time and keeps things running smoothly. Win-win!
Or so you think!
Most automation opportunities are marketing automations that involve customer touchpoints.
I’m going to suggest that automating any part of your business with customer touchpoints only works if the automation serves your customer.
I think we can all agree that the last thing you want to do is unintentionally annoy your customers or turn them off your business, when all you meant to do was take some manual labor off your hands.
Here we're going to explore some of the dangers of automation, how to ensure your small business avoids these pitfalls and see to it that your customers are happy in the process.
3 Common Dangers of Marketing Automation for Small Business
To automate parts of your business and make sure those systems serve your customers, you’ll want to avoid these three things:
1. Over- or Undercommunication With Customers
We’ve all been on the receiving end of too much communication. The world is a noisy place, and people are busy (just like you). Overcommunication is annoying, let’s just say it.
On the flipside, undercommunication also has its downfalls. Not enough communication leads to gaps in knowledge, assumption-making and general confusion.
This is a tricky one, because whether you’re sending automatic follow-ups, check-ins or requests of any kind, you run the risk of over- or undercommunicating with your customer. And as we’ve identified, both situations can be off-putting. Thankfully there are ways to identify if you’re doing this and steps to avoid it (see more below).
2. Automation Triggers for Wrong Parts of the Customer Journey
This is probably best explained with a story.
I recently bought a pair of sunglasses, which took an unexpectedly long time to arrive. In the meantime, I started receiving automated emails from the company I purchased the sunglasses from congratulating me on my new set of sunnies and asking me to provide feedback.
As you can imagine, these emails were not in sync with where I was at in my customer journey and further heightened my frustration with the long delivery process.
Here’s an example of an email I received before my sunglasses arrived:
No matter what system you’ve set up for your business, it needs to be triggered at the right moment in the customer journey. Otherwise, you risk creating confusion and frustration for your customers.
3. Overreliance on “Set It and Forget It”
Your time is precious and the appeal of a “set it and forget it” system promises small business owners hours added back to their lives.
It’s a very attractive idea. And it can work as long as you aren’t setting and forgetting forever.
It isn’t meant to work that way. If you truly “forget it,” there’s a chance that the system runs in the background even when it isn’t appropriate or when it is no longer effective for your business.
I’ll give you an example.
You set your business hours on your website, on Google My Business and on your Facebook Business Profile, and then you “forget it.”As your business transitions into winter hours, COVID-19 restrictions or holiday hours, there’s now the potential for customers to contact you or seek your services when you are not available. This creates a point of confusion and tension for the customer that could be avoided.
The good news is that all of these potential pitfalls are completely avoidable. You can automate your business systems and make sure you’re serving your customers in the process. Now that’s a win-win!
How to Bring Automation to Your Small Business (and Keep Your Customers Happy as Clams)
Communicate Clearly and Succinctly Every Time
This is a big one that can save you from the dreaded over- or undercommunication pitfall.
Here’s a checklist that will come in handy the next time you’re putting together a piece of forward-facing communication:
- Is this necessary information to share?
- Does this information matter to the customer?
- Is this the easiest and most clear form of communication?
- Does this in any way violate how often I promised to communicate with the customer?
If you receive feedback from customers about the frequency of your communication, make the necessary adjustments to either increase or decrease your touchpoint frequency.
Test Your Systems Regularly
What I mean by this is to regularly test that the system you put in place is working and creating the desired results.
I’ll give you an example from NiceJob. We created an automatic review collection process that includes smart follow-ups. By testing the system and collecting data, we know that four follow-up messages is the sweet spot for winning a customer review.
We also know that this system can help small business owners win 2-3x more reviews, which indicates that this number of follow-ups is appropriate for their customers (otherwise we wouldn’t see the desired results). This system works, we checked.
Set Appropriate Rules
Many automatic systems have rules in place or the ability to set rules that can help you manage the ways in which the system runs.
I’ll give you another example using NiceJob.
If you have enrolled a customer into a review-request campaign and that person does send you a review, that same customer will not be asked again for another six months. This allows for a cooling-off period.
Rules like this are there to best serve the customer, while still ensuring you are getting the desired result.
Put Yourself in the Shoes of Your Customer
This you should always do. If you’re creating automatic systems for yourself without considering how it will impact your customer, you will likely create friction.
Test your systems on yourself to see if perhaps there are too many follow-ups; maybe there is an instance where they trigger at the wrong time. Your goal is to serve your customers, and your automatic business systems should do that too.
Monitor Your Marketing Automations Instead of “Setting and Forgetting” Them
As long as you occasionally check in on your systems, you can avoid this pitfall.
This approach is preventative in nature, making sure you don’t get to a point where something has gone wrong and you have to retroactively correct it.
Set yourself a calendar reminder for every couple of months to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Add Business Systems to Your Small Business, But Don’t Forget About Customer Experience
The moral of the story is: absolutely put automatic business systems in place to free up your time and keep your company running like a well-oiled machine. Just don’t forget to consider your customer when it comes to any system that can have an impact on their overall experience with your business.