Save Time With These Automation Tools

Automation is a term that’s being thrown around a lot at the moment. If you’re a bit of a technophobe, or even if you’re not, it can all sound a bit sci-fi and you may be wondering what it has to do with running a small business. Well the good news is that these tools are generally fairly simple to use and will save you time. Would you like new prospect to automatically receive your brochure as soon as they fill in an online form? Automation can do it. How about planning your entire months social media posts in an afternoon? Easy! Want to text your customers an appointment reminder there’s a tool for that too.

We’ve had a dig around various sites and blogs and come up with a list of automation tools for small businesses. In this first part of the guide we’ll look at All-In-One Options, Communications and Social Media Management tools.

No matter what you’re looking to automate, the companies on this list are sure to provide you with the solutions you need.

  1. All-In-One Options

HubSpot is an inbound marketing platform that focuses on content management, site optimisation and lead tracking. It is a one stop shop including landing pages, segmentation, analytics, CRM – in short everything a small business needs to take control of its inbound marketing.  You can create workflows to automate your marketing campaign and track your growth with pre-defined goals and lead segments. In addition, HubSpot offers a comprehensive educational programme. Hubspot starts at $200 per month, but offer a free 7-day trial and the CRM is free as a standalone tool. Everything HubSpot does is available elsewhere, often cheaper or even free, but the convenience of having everything integrated and in one place shouldn’t be underestimated.

Infusionsoft is a popular all-in-one sales and marketing solution designed specifically for small businesses and offers a variety of automation tools, including email marketing, social marketing, sales and e-commerce. A powerful CRM allows automation of lead scoring, capturing and segmentation Infusionsoft integrates with hundreds of third-party business services through its expansive marketplace of apps. Prices start at $199 per month for the essentials package which is likely to be big enough for most. However, there is an additional cost for training, starting at $999.

  1. Communications

MailChimp is one of the most affordable options on the list; the platform is free for up to 2000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month but the automation options ramp up at ‘Enterprise’ level at $25 per month. Focused primarily on email marketing, you can use MailChimps marketing automation features to target customer segments based on specific data, including behaviour, preference and past sales. You can use application program interfaces (APIs) to create custom workflows with scheduling and segmentation tools. The platform is often underutilised, with most using MailChimp for simple tasks such as newsletters etc. but it has massive potential particularly as it integrates with a plethora of Web technologies.

Constant Contact is a MailChimp alternative that offers lots of choices for templates, sorted by industry and function and access to a library of free stock images to customize your messages. There is a 60-day free trial and pricing starts from $15 per month for up to 500 contacts to $85 per month for up to 10,000 contacts.

  1. Social media

Fingers showing social media channels

Hootsuite is a marketing leading tool for enhancing and automating your social media engagement across more than 35 global networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can sign your business up for Hootsuite’s free plan which supports up to three social profiles and two campaigns for single users. However for some of the really cool stuff you’ll need the Pro version that starts at $14.99 per month. Hootsuite identifies social influencers in your market and automates social marketing strategies.

Sprout Social is another popular social media automation software that features unlimited custom reports, advanced scheduling and team collaboration tools. The easy-to-use dashboard and “Smart Inbox” win plaudits from fans whilst the publishing and scheduling is first rate. The inbuilt analytics is genius and eye-catching in design and it has first rate collaboration abilities. So it’s amazing – what’s the downside? It’s probably better than Hootsuite but it’s considerably more expensive at £99 per month. If you can afford it, it’s worth it.

Next week we’ll continue with part 2 of the guide when we will look in more detail at Digital Marketing Platforms, Customer Relationship Management, SMS Marketing automation and Internet Automation.