Transcript: Take Your Hands Off the Wheel: Automation for the Smart Business Owner

April 29, 2021

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AMY PORTERFIELD: What if I told you that automating your business is easier than you think. In fact, whether you're just starting out or you've been rocking and rolling for some time now, automation that allows you to spend more time in your zone of genius is actually at your fingertips. And today I'm going to give you my step-by-step processes and tips for automating menial daily tasks so that you can spend more time creating and doing the things you love, with all the schedule flexibility you dream of. Sound good? Let's dive in. 

All right, my friend. Close your eyes, because I'm going to take you on a little journey. Actually, I want to take you on two journeys, and once we're done, I want you to decide which one feels better for you, and I want you to align these scenarios with where you're at in your business right now. Maybe you're doing a side hustle or maybe you've been a full-time entrepreneur for a while now.  

First scenario: it's Monday morning. You turn on your computer, and you see a flood of emails coming inemails from customers, scheduling requests, and everything in between. You start to task out your day and make a note that you have to upload your daily social posts. Maybe you have a blog to share or a podcast to publish. All in all, you're looking at your list of to-dos, and to say the least, it's daunting. And it's only 8:00 a.m. on a Monday. Yikes. Um, I don't know about you, but I'm thinking, No, thank you. 

All right. Lets lighten the mood just a bit and talk about scenario number two. It's Monday morning. You log on to your computer. Your inbox is taken care ofalmost no emails await you. You're excited for that social post, email newsletter, and your weekly content to automatically post because you've got some good stuff to share with your audience this week. You can't help but let out a little sigh of relief, knowing that everything you could possibly automate in your business right now is set up, allowing you more space to be creative, focused, and spend more time in your zone of genius.  

Time to open your eyes, sweet friend. I'm guessing I know which scenario got you excited. Am I right to say the second one? So if so, then you're in the right place right now, because in today's podcast episode I'm going to walk you through setting up your business for automation. That means you'll start each week and each day with a sense of peace, knowing that you get to do the things that light you up in your business instead of the mundane things that keep your business afloat. And do you know what that means? It means you get to spend more time working on your business instead of in your business.  

So today I'm taking you through some of my favorite tips and tools for automating your emails, lead magnets, social media, and weekly content. I'll even give you some tips for creating SOPsstandard operating principlesto help you stay organized, and a couple of ways to use a virtual assistant to help you automate your business even further and that only requires that you hire and pay them for a few hours a week. We're keeping it simple and affordable.  

All right. We've got a lot to cover in this jampacked episode, so let's dive in. And be sure you stay until the end so I can lay out the exact action steps that you should take next to get your business to work like a well-oiled machine. Here we go. 

First things first, why the heck should you spend time automating your business? I get it. When you think of putting systems into place to automate your business, it sounds like a lot of work up front, but done right, it doesn't have to be a ton of work. Plus, speaking from experience, the earlier you can set up systems in your business and get things running without you hands on, the better. So even if you're a brand-new entrepreneur, don't go anywhere. This can help you at any stage of your business. 

Okay, the benefits. Automation saves you time, you know that, but it also saves you money and precious energy. It takes out room for human error. Trust me. When you're juggling a lot of things, eliminating this in a few areas of your business can go a long way. It also means that you and your team members, if you have any, can focus on the big-picture stuff over the menial day-to-day tasks. And last but not least, automation can support and make your customers and potential customers feel important and know that you care.  

Now, before we jump in, I also want to mention that I'm sharing a little bit of what we use now to automate and what I've used in the past to automate. Some of the automation I currently use within my business is something that wouldn't serve you if you're just starting out or early on in your business. So these tools I'll offer you today are ones that will really relate to where you are now.  

So here we go. Let's kick it off. We're talking about email automation. Before I share the first strategy, I highly recommend that you consider only checking your email maybe once or twice a day, or if you're really good, only a few times a week. And if you do that, these strategies will work like a charm.  

So the first strategy is to set up an autoresponder to be sent outside of the times where you check your email. In the email that you auto send, you'll say something like, Thank you so much for reaching out. Your email is so very important to me. I do want you to know that I only check my email,” and then state the days and times that you check your email, so you can plan to hear back from me during those times. However, I also wanted to provide you with a resource that might help to answer any questions you might have in the meantime.” And this is where I would actually encourage you to create an FAQ doc or a web page, and you can put it right in the email or link to it, answering all of your most-common questions. So maybe you answer questions like what products you currently have available or when your products will become available again. If you have a business where people can schedule or book appointments or sessions with you, maybe you include that scheduling link, which we'll talk about in a moment, and you can even share it if you're currently taking on clients booking to be a guest on podcasts or willing to collaborate. The list is never ending depending on your business.  

I would then wrap up the email, saying, I hope these help to answer your question. However, if they didn't, please respond back to me, and I'll get back to you the next time I check my inbox.” While you'll still need to personally respond to some emailsand stay tuned because I have a trick up my sleeve to speed that up as wellthis should help to minimize inbox overflow. 

All right. Lets talk about this trick to speed up your response rate on those lingering emails. You've probably heard of something called canned responses, but I prefer the term guided responses. I'm not a huge fan of sending a canned response without any personal touches. So I take the most-common questions or email replies that we send, and I create a guided response for each one. And guided means it's just thata guide. You can still add a little personal touch to it, even if it's just one sentence. And you can pretty much create these in any email platform you useGoogle, Spark, Help Scout, which is the one I useand they all give you this option to put in these guided responses, and you can pull them up easily each time you want to use them.  

All right. Last little strategy for automating email. It's a platform called Boomerang, and it served us well in the past. After all, if you're anything like me, you love to get to inbox zero each day, and with Boomerang, you can mark an email in your inbox to go away and come back another day when you're ready to tackle it. Get it? Boomerang? You can also pause emails coming into your inbox for a period of time, track emails, and get follow up reminders. So if you email someone and you don't hear back, the email will return to your inbox for you to handle. Boomerang offers a free option, a five-dollar-per-month option, and beyond, so you can check it out and see if it's a good fit for you.  

All right. I know we spent a lot of time on email, but it's because it's such a big part of your business. It's important and easy to get under control, especially early on in your entrepreneurial journey.  

Ohand I'll speak to this a little bit laterbut having a VA, a virtual assistant, work on your emails once a week for a minimal amount of time is a wonderful way to ease into having a virtual assistant.  

Next, on to scheduling automation. Whether you have a business that requires one-on-one scheduling, or maybe you get asked to be a guest on  podcasts, speaking arrangements, or any other types of collaborations, there's nothing more time consuming than going back and forth, trying to find a good time that works best for both parties. Schedulicity is my favorite app for doing this. You can use it for free or paid, and it's easy to set up, not to mention a lifesaver. Basically, it's an online calendar that you can integrate into your Google calendar and personalize, creating your own individual link and inputting your availability. People can then go in and find a time that works for you and for them. Easy peasy. And for a long time, we used this for setting up podcast interviews and scheduling testimonial interviews. And listen, friend. I don't care if you're a weekend owning a business or you've been at it for a while; setting this up will simplify your scheduling and minimize headaches. So go ahead and set it up. Deal? And if you're wondering why we don't use it anymore, I have a full-time executive assistant who does all my scheduling. But when you don't have someone like that, a tool like this is golden.  

All right. Moving right along, let's talk about automating social-media and weekly content automation, which, let's be honest, is an essential part of owning a business and growing your email list, but can also be a pain in the butt. The best benefit of using a social-media automation tool is that it gives you the opportunity to plan out your weekly and monthly social media all at once rather than constantly having to be reminded of it, a burden that can be avoided. Batching, anyone?  

While there are so many options available for platforms that allow you to do this, I'll give you a few of them here. Let's start out with some of the free platforms that seem to work well for budding entrepreneurs. Later and Buffer, both offer free plans with limited-use features. If you're just starting out and you need something to take the daily social scheduling off your hands, these are great options. You can also move into paid options with more features as your business grows.  

If you have a little cash to put towards automation, these scheduling platforms might serve you better. For starters, Hootsuite. This is a platform that we used for a long time. Like many of the other platforms, it gives you the flexibility to manage social-media activity all in one place. Plus it offers analytics and makes it easy to keep tabs on all moving parts of your social-media accounts.  

The platform we currently use is Gain app, which offers some more advanced features. Plus, when we work with contractors or agencies, it makes it easy for everyone to access the content. At the end of the day, you have to choose the social-media automation platform that suits your needs best. Just be sure you look for something that will support you in having a consistent social-media presence, and allows you to schedule ahead and across multiple platforms, and ultimately makes your life easier. 

Now, I know I've already mentioned email automation with Boomerang and other strategies, but that was about managing your own inbox. To support your automation efforts further, I want to talk about managing emails from your community, a.k.a. those who sign up for your lead magnet and get on your email list. Fun stuff, right? When you collect names and emails, whether that's through someone signing up for your lead magnet or your email list or even purchasing one of your products and now they're on your list, you need to have a database of all of your potential customers and paying customers. And surprise, surprise, you want to email them on a regular basis. That's where I like to suggest ConvertKit. Inside my business we currently use Infusionsoft, and we've used them for, like, twelve years now. However, if you're just starting out or if you're in the first few years of your business, I believe that ConvertKit is a better solution to get you started. And the bonus is that you can grow into all of its features and bells and whistles as you scale. ConvertKit is software that will manage and optimize your customer lifecycle through marketing- and sales-automation funnels. And the cherry on the top? They're extremely affordable. Just another reason I love to suggest them to my new entrepreneurs. 

Now, not only does it house your email list, it also allows you to tag incoming subscribers as well as other fun features to optimize your email list in your email marketing. But all in all, this is a wonderful email-service provider to start with to get your email list automated. On top of that, you can pre-write and pre-schedule your email broadcasts so you don't have to do it in real time. Hello, schedule flexibility. That means that when you're enjoying a little staycation, but you're still wanting to remind your audience of that epic blog post or podcast that you just released, you can still get it into their hands without breaking that at-home pedicure you scheduled for yourself. 

All right. Time to talk about standard operating procedures. It sounds so stuffy and corporate, right? We call them SOPs. Why are they important? Well, listen, before you skip ahead, stick with me. These seemingly unimportant docs will actually save you a lot of headaches down the road when you hire and scale your business, which you will.  

Now, I won't spend too much time diving into these, but I'll give you the rundown of how we create these in my business. Any time we have a new system or process that we're creating, like automating something, we require somebody on the team, whosever responsible for this, whosever working on it, to create an SOP, meaning we write a Google Doc with step-by-step instructions on how to perform the task at hand. Now the SOP includes all the instruction, and also at the top, we say how much time it takes for this task, why we do it, and then, of course, the written instructions, along with any images needed, if appropriate. So creating SOPs ensures that if you have to reset something or perform a weekly, monthly, or yearly task, you don't have to start from scratch and try to figure it out as you go. Instead, it's going to be all written out for you. And if you bring anyone on, say, a virtual assistant or a new employee, you can task them with this, and they can use the SOP to be efficient, and that means you dont have to show them how to do everything from scratch.  

So I'm going to tell you right now, SOPs feel like a pain in the butt until they're not, meaning slowing down, actually creating them, no one likes to do that. However, if you do this, you never have to start from scratch, and you don't have to repeat yourself over and over and over again. We like to house all of our SOPs in one spot on Google Drive so that they're easy to access.  

Okay. Now for my favorite and most-fun part of the automation conversation: hiring out these tasks. And yes, I just said fun because hiring a VA or employee or thinking about growing your team should be a fun thing to think about. The cool thing about every single task we talked about today is that they can easily be passed off to a VA for just a few hours, if that, per week. For as little as five hours per week, a virtual assistant could schedule all of your content, answer all of your emails and questions, set up your automated weekly emails, manage your inbox, and help manage your schedule. You'd simply give them the SOPs to help support them, and there you have it. They take care of the daily and automation tasks, and you get to spend time in your zone of genius, just like we envisioned at the very beginning of this episode.  

All right, my friend, if you're multitasking, come back to me. Let's talk about your action steps, the steps you're going to walk away with from this episode and implement. And my challenge for you is to start to implement within the next seven days. Here's what you're going to do. I want you to decide on one automation process that you can set up in the next seven days. Start simple and build from there. Within the next week, you will set up one really good, valuable, core automation tool that will allow you to step away from your day-to-day menial work and instead focus on the things that matter most in your business. Deal? Okay. To hold you accountable, I want you to reach out to me. I want you to jump on Instagram, send me a DM, and tell me which automation tool you're going to implement in the next seven days. I want to hear from you because, listen, I cannot wait for you to spend more time creating and doing the things that you love. Cheers to time and schedule freedom.  

Thanks for joining me today. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now. 

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