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4 Steps to Automate Your Busy Work—And Improve Profit Margins by 20%

Eric Goldschein

Eric Goldschein

Eric Goldschein is a freelance journalist who covers entrepreneurship, small business trends, emerging technologies, culture and sports. He was previously the managing editor of SportsGrid.com, and has written for Business Insider, Trep Life, the Huffington Post and more.

You can contact him at ericgoldschein.com, or on Twitter at @ericgoldschein.
Eric Goldschein

Busy work: We know it when see it. It’s the stuff that feels like it’s supposed to be done a different way. It’s slow, it’s not fun, but it has to be done.

In the age of technology, we sometimes become bogged down with more busy work than ever—transferring things over, adding clients to mailing lists, other menial administrative tasks. Our tools should work seamlessly together, not independently. A new practice is emerging to meet that gap.

“Business and Sales Automation, or BASA,” explains Chris Post, founder of Post Modern Marketing, “It’s not like I recreated the wheel—there are plenty of people that do this. But it’s something that we’ve formalized after using it ourselves, and we’re going to offer it as one of our core services.”

BASA is a fairly broad term that boils down to a simple premise: Let the apps you already use communicate with each other—either natively or through a third-party tool—and remove inefficiencies in the ways you start and complete your projects.  

Step 1: Identify work that can be automated

For Post Modern Marketing—a Sacramento-based full-service digital agency that handles everything from website design to content marketing—communication among various arms of the business is common. When a deal with a new client is closed, lots of people need to know about it, and many administrative tasks need to be taken care of. As Post found, those general errands didn’t always require a guiding human hand.

“I was paying people to do the kind of boring, brain-dead busy work that no one wanted to do. Who wants to go in Google Drive and create a new directory, or input a new customer’s data when the customer already filled out all of that information in their forms? Why do I want to pay someone to do it again?” says Post.

That brings up another good point: Lots of this kind of work is rife with data entry errors. These errors lead to time-consuming runarounds, or even worse, lost business.

“There will just be fewer typos on the front end than what results from the employee just trying to get through the work,” says Post. “That’s opportunity cost. Bad data is bad for business.”

Focus on High-Impact Jobs

Post found that many of the things he asked an administrative assistant to do—email the team to alert them of a new lead, create a Slack channel to discuss a client, input information from a discovery form to the database—could instead be automated. With less for the administrative assistant to do than ever, Post eliminated the position (there’s a happy ending: she planned on going back to graduate school soon anyway) and was able to spend that money on people doing higher value work instead.

“We used to have an entry-level person to do the heavy lifting on entry-level tasks, and there wasn’t much left for other employees to absorb after that,” he says.

Step 2: Create connections between your applications    

Some applications, like those in Google’s G Suite, are able to natively integrate with one another. For those that don’t, there are third-party sites that help create connections.

Post recommends Zapier.  

“It’s applicable to almost anybody’s business and the possibilities are endless. They just need to identify the low-level tasks that software or a middleware application can do for them,” says Post.

Zapier works with hundreds of applications, including Dropbox, Evernote, Twitter, Instagram, Calendly, Excel, and many more. The question is, if you’re using some of these and they don’t normally integrate, can you find ways to make them do so?

What Can Zapier Do?

Here are a few interesting examples of “zaps” that can be set to occur automatically:

  • MailChimp: You can add subscribers to MailChimp from a Google Sheets spreadsheet, add new Eventbrite attendees to a MailChimp list, and send a welcome email to new MailChimp subscribers via Mandrill.
  • Salesforce: You can copy Salesforce cases into Trello, create a Google Doc for each new Salesforce lead, and extract information from email to send to Salesforce.
  • Asana: You can add new Asana tasks to a Basecamp to-do list, add new Facebook Lead Ads to Asana as tasks, and create Asana projects from new Infusionsoft contacts.  

There are many more combinations you can try out on the Zapier site to see what’s possible… Or what you haven’t even considered before.

“Even in the free version of Zapier, there are a lot of free things and integrations through there if people want to get their feet wet,” says Post. “You won’t have access to all the apps, like Salesforce and Quickbooks or other meatier apps, but you can get an understanding of what’s possible.”

Step 3: Create a cascade of work

Post describes using BASA once a deal closes as a “cascade, a domino effect,” as opposed to the past, when each person had to move through tasks one at a time.

“We created workflows and ‘multi-zaps’” says Post. “We have so many different things that need to be done administratively, like with bookkeeping and sales, when deals close. So now, instead of all these people needing to be involved, sending emails, creating files, this and that, the system just cascades when I mark off through a workflow app that we have the opportunity in hand.”   

Before BASA, projects might take awhile to get off the ground, or potential clients who were owed a call could never get one. Now there’s no thinking about what needs to be done in order to begin working an account: That menial work is completed when you pull the trigger.

“A lot of things get completed right away or at least started with this,” says Post.

Additionally, using Zapier to create this cascade helped Post and his team identify app redundancies—he may have liked working with one kind of app, but another app may do multiple things and can help skip a step altogether. That reduced the number of app licenses needed and eliminated overhead costs.  

Step 4: Embrace the new

In some corners of the business world, there’s something of a fear about a future where humans can be phased out of the equation and replaced by artificial intelligence…

But not in digital marketing or other non-legacy industries.

“A lot of those tasks are boring, and in my industry, there’s excitement about what else people can do rather than this stuff,” says Post. “There’s nothing fun about having to let people go, but if that improves the greater good, you have to consider it. When you’re a small business owner, it’s tough because your employees are everything to you. But not operating at full efficiency and paying people to do work that doesn’t need to be done, is that fair to your other employees? Or to you and your family? It depends on the culture at the company.”

You can’t blame business owners who want to run a business that involves less redundant work, more accurate information, a more informed and happier workforce, and more money committed to higher-value work.

***

BASA is the logical next step for businesses that do a lot of their work through apps and often require seamless in-house communication. Automating a workflow is how you get those apps to work for you, rather than having to work through or even around them.

In all, Post found that BASA—through reduced employee costs, reduced loss of productivity due to errors, and eliminating financial and opportunity costs that resulted from those errors—increased his company’s overall profit margins by 20%. That makes a huge difference, and whether you want to have an agency walk you through possible automation, or find ways to create cascades yourself, it’s a concept that a lot of companies can take advantage of.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Eric Goldschein

Eric Goldschein

Eric Goldschein is a freelance journalist who covers entrepreneurship, small business trends, emerging technologies, culture and sports. He was previously the managing editor of SportsGrid.com, and has written for Business Insider, Trep Life, the Huffington Post and more.

You can contact him at ericgoldschein.com, or on Twitter at @ericgoldschein.
Eric Goldschein

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