In this last post of the series on Automation, I dig into some of the platforms and software that are on the market to allow business to revolutionize their operations.

Simplify Work, Part 5: Platforms

In this last post of the series on Automation, I dig into some of the platforms and software that are on the market to allow business to revolutionize their operations.

The Story Up Until Now

This is my last post in a series about sales, marketing, and operational automation. If you want to read the others, feel free to click this link (which will open a new tab and take you to the category for these posts).

For this last post, I wanted to dig into the software and platform side of things. It’s all fine and wonderful to talk about automation and how you might employ it at a 40,000-foot level but it’s also good to dig into some nitty-gritty every once in a while.

I’m going to dig into three different platforms and how they relate to the three different areas of a business that we’ve been focusing on (sales, marketing, and operations) and then hop into some automation platforms that are out there.

Sales – CRMs

Standing for Customer Relationship Management, a CRM is a program that allows you to create contacts for all of your customers, leads, and stakeholders. Beyond entering a name and email, you can record their position in a company, the last time you spoke, see the last email they looked at, and maybe any personal information that’s important to have. A good CRM also gives you the freedom to shape the fields and data so you can mold it to your business.

In terms of Automation, a CRM is important because you can automatically import new leads from forms, track email opens and clicks for possible customers, set tasks for following up on leads, and keep a history of your interaction with a lead / future customer. Even if your sales team is one person like me, a CRM is a must for keeping track of all your sales effort.

Your big CRMs for small to medium businesses are HubSpot, Zoho CRM / Bigin, Insightly, Agile, and others while there are larger platforms like SalesForce and Keap (formerly InfusionSoft) for larger companies.

Personal Faves: I currently use Zoho Bigin as my CRM after starting with HubSpot. I really like Bigin (it’s a variation of Zoho CRM but more sales-focused) but I love (seriously: love, love) HubSpot because it’s so easy to set up and things just work perfectly right outside of the box. However, HubSpot is also expensive to upgrade.

Marketing – Email Marketing Platforms

If you haven’t read my posts about email marketing, check them out. If you have customer emails and aren’t emailing customers on a regular basis, you’re leaving money on the table. I’m not going to go into too much detail about email marketing platforms since I’ve already written about them but I will say that an email marketing platform allows you to send mass emails to past customers as well as future ones in a way that’s engaging, safe (doesn’t hurt your domain standing), and effective.

Email Marketing Platforms are massively important to automation because they put the power of email and behavior science in the palm of companies. Customer journeys (series of emails) can be designed to engage customers and lead them to the things that you want them to pay attention to based on their actions. Email marketing automation also allows companies to message their staff when users meet certain requirements so that sales opportunities aren’t missed.

There are plenty of Email Marketing Platforms out there from simple (but powerful) platforms like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, and Constant Contact to more complex platforms like SharpSpring, SalesForce, Keap, and others. It really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Obviously, I recommend hiring a freelance marketer (like me) to help set it up.

Personal Favorites: I cut my teeth on MailChimp and still use it for multiple companies to this day. CWT Websites uses Campaign Monitor, a pretty-awesome platform that allows you to build great-looking emails and complex systems.

Project Management Platforms

Project Management Platforms (PMP) allow companies to better handle projects – whether the project is fulfilling a customer order, handing a service call, or selling a customer a custom product. A PMP can massively impact overall operations as it allows you to unify your projects under one area, connect all communication, and stay on top of projects. It’s an opportunity to revolutionize your operations.

Automation in Project Management allows users to automatically create projects, tasks, and notifications between staff. You could even create outward notifications that go to customers when certain milestones are reached in the overall project status. PMP is about accountability, transparency, and keeping on top of projects.

Platforms on the market are Asana, BaseCamp, Trello, Monday.com, and others. Many of them have different flavors that lean towards different industries so it’s best to explore all your options or have someone who can help you explore.

Personal Favorites: I cut my teeth on PMPs with BaseCamp but I currently use Asana. I actually invite my clients to their Asana project and we communicate on projects in it. This way they can see what I am working on and I can update them easily enough.

Automation / Integration Platforms

We’ve got our CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, and our Project Management platforms… but can they talk to each other? The answer is yes. Some of the better platforms have straight-up integration so your email marketing platform can update your CRM and your CRM can create a new project in your PMP. Sometimes, though, you need something more complex and that’s where an Automation / Integration platform is going to come in handy.

This is a platform built by developers that allows you to connect APIs and create cross-platform automation. Something is triggered in Zoho Bigin that causes you to send data to Asana and create a new project. An Integration platform is a bridge between the two apps (if they didn’t have an integration or you just wanted to create that bridge itself).

The biggest and most easy to use is Zapier. Zapier makes it really easy to connect apps from Google Sheets to Quickbooks together easily enough that you don’t have to be a developer (it helps) to figure it out. Beyond Zapier you have platforms like automate.io, IFTTT, Zoho Flow, Monday.com, and n8n.io.

Personal Favorites: While I love Zapier and it’s ease-of-use, I’ve recently started building complex automations with n8n.io, an open-source Integration tool. Not only can I use community nodes that other developers have built, but I can write my own for platforms that don’t have nodes yet. I’ve just scratched the surface of what I can do with n8n but it’s pretty amazing.

That’s All She Wrote, Folks!

That is the end of my five-part series on Automation. There’s still plenty more to write (I’ve actually started writing an eBook off of this series because there’s so much more that I can get into) but I feel that, for now, it’s time for me to check into some different topics.

Next week, I’m going to write about website design and some of the ways that I do it now.

If any of this intrigues you and you want to hear more about how this connects to your business, you can drop me a line through my contact form or you can set up a time to talk to me: https://cwtwebsites.zohobookings.com/#/customer/4321453000000026017

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