SaaS providers have solved many of the challenges small businesses face as their day-to-day operations become increasingly complicated. The days of relying on people and manual processes to complete tasks – both basic and complex – is being quickly supplanted by technologies designed to make the workday easier and businesses more productive.
As believers in making the lives of our SMB customers easier, we wanted to share a few automation and productivity tools, designed for the small business. These tools are designed to save time & money and reduce stress for the busy business owner.
There are currently 4.1 million remote workers in the US, expected to grow to 36.2 million by 2025. Small businesses are especially impacted as they are twice as likely to hire full-time remote workers. As SMBs add more remote workers, providing them with virtual workspace makes them easier to onboard and train, easier to manage, more productive, and helps keep them connected to their teams.
Our pick for the best SMB virtual workspace? SkinnyOffice.
Skinny Office is an easy-to-use cloud based work environment that includes many of the productivity tools you might subscribe to individually – but all rolled into one package. SkinnyOffice includes:
- Secure file & document manager
- Task management for teams
- Custom workspaces for users by function
- Shared calendars, task lists, forms, notes and internal chat
- Administrative IT & support
Scheduling time between parties – whether they be co-workers or business and customer – the days of back and forth emails or calls to set up and confirm a time are over. There are scheduling tools designed for specific industries (like Booker for spas and salons) and others that are geared towards workforce scheduling.
Our pick for best scheduling tool? Calendly
For the SMB that does not fall into a “pre-ordained industry” that has a purpose-built calendar, Calendly does the trick. Serving both internal and external meeting requests, Calendly offers the easiest way for the requester to select a time that works for them and is available on the other party’s calendar.
Ways to use Calendly:
- To schedule internal meetings
- To capture new sales lead appointments
- To schedule meetings with existing customers
Leveraging your customer engagement automation tool to drive more Calendly meetings is a great use of your inbound lead generation efforts!
Automated Email Marketing
Creating and sending email marketing campaigns is a pain – if you are still using your Outlook box to do it. To create and manage a good email campaign strategy requires list management, creative guidance, customer journey scheduling and opt-out functionality.
Our choice for best email marketing? MailChimp
MailChimp allows you to easily create marketing campaigns that include a landing page, social ads, email and even postcards. We especially like the email component as once you have obtained a lead from your landing page, social media or postcard, you need to “nurture” it. Email campaigns let you do that.
- Professional email templates so you don’t have to design from scratch (who has time for that anyway?)
- Subject Line Helper that helps craft subject lines that encourage people to open your email
- Content Optimizer that helps so send the right message with a great layout and imagery
- Automation delivers the right message based on your customer journey
MailChimp won’t break the bank and has the added benefit of being considered a “trusted” source by email servers. This means that marketing campaigns coming from MailChimp have a much lower incidence of reaching the recipient’s spam folder vs. other less trusted platforms.
Cool automation factor: MailChimp runs the campaigns for you once you set them up. Not exactly a set-it and forget it since you always want to monitor results and tweak things where you think you need to, but for those businesses that are still seeing out emails manually from their Outlook server will be pleasantly surprised at how easy this tool is.
Customer Engagement Automation
The typical small business misses 30% of their phone calls and experiences challenges with managing all the ways their customers want to communicate with them – by phone, SMS, Facebook Messenger, Google Local Business messages and even on their website.
With 83% of consumers expecting immediate response from businesses – 24/7! – leveraging automation to reply to and communicate with customers has become one of the most needed tools in the small business shed.
Our pick for the best SMB customer automation tool? Agentz of course!
Serving small businesses in more than one hundred industries, Agentz is purpose-built for the SMB to help them reply to all of their customer interactions and manage them in one easy-to-use inbox.
- Respond to missed calls and seamlessly convert conversations to SMS
- Automate SMS conversations allowing customers to self-service their need
- Integrate with Facebook Business and Google Local Business pages funneling all communications through the Agentz automated assistant for immediate response
- Answer customer questions using our AI/NLP-driven pre-trained knowledge base
Designed for ease of use, the quick setup of the no-code Agentz automated assistant means that businesses can experience automation that engages customers and captures more highly qualified leads on day one.
Cool productivity factor: Agentz helps small businesses save time and money by reducing up to 20% of their front desk workload through automating inbound customer conversations!
Making the Most of Your Tools
OK, here’s the “listen to your mother part.” Once you’ve signed up for a free trial or subscribed to a new tool that is designed to help your business be more successful or run more smoothly – use it!
Many small business owners are nervous about starting “yet another tool” but take advantage of the opportunity to try something that is designed for you and learn how it can impact your business. Tools designed for the small business tend to be three things:
- Easy to set up
- Easy to use
- Low cost
Simple! And for those tools that include automation, the set up is worth it once you realize the time saved in the long run!
Top Picks for Outsourced Services
Sometimes it’s not a tool you need so much as it is a service provider that can do things for you. Small businesses, especially those just starting out, typically do not have all the skills required within the founding crew. Operating a business includes more than just the “thing” the business does but those things still have to be done. And, sometimes, there is more work than bodies to do it. Enter outsourcing.
HR departments handle a myriad of tasks – they recruit, hire and onboard, they manage payroll and benefits, they guide company culture and deal with employee issues. Many small businesses avoid having an HR role and simply divvy up the responsibilities – typically to the office manager and accountant.
There is a better way. Even for the smallest teams of three to five people, outsourced HR can handle all of those tasks professionally and less expensively than you might imagine. Once your company has reached about fifty employees, considering bringing some of those functions in-house makes sense while leaving some in the hands of your outsourced HR.
Our pick for the best SMB outsourced HR? ADP
ADP’s experience, resources and buying power allow them to offer best-in-class HR and payroll services at affordable rates. Do you want to offer health insurance for your small team but the premiums are high? ADP’s buying power pool gives small firms the same advantage as the large ones when it comes to insurance rates. Do you want to offer premium benefits but don’t know where to start? ADP will handle all of that for you.
Think of ADP as your remote team that will handle everything for you when it comes to HR. Key benefits:
- Payroll & taxes
- Job descriptions, recruiting and candidate evaluations
- Onboarding new hires (they’ll take care of all that paperwork!)
- Small business health insurance plans
- Benefits administration
- Employee handbook creation
- Workplace safety & Workers Compensation insurance
Cool productivity factor: ADP is your full-service recruiter who will also handle screening your new hires including reference checks, background checks and drug screening. Squarely in your camp, they handle it all!
And when you really can’t hire another person or just don’t want to, there’s freelancers at your disposal. Understaffed businesses, whether it be due to labor shortages or simply not having all the needed skills in-house, are increasingly taking advantage of outsourcing their work. Freelancers are paid either a predetermined hourly rate for the project or a flat fee upon project completion.
Advantages to hiring freelancers includes:
- Access to proven talent
- Faster turnaround for needed projects
- Lower cost as compared to hiring a part or full-time employee
- Try before you buy – you just may find your next full-time hire by hiring them as a freelancer first
Our pick for the best freelance resource? Upwork
Upwork is one of the largest freelance marketplaces matching jobs with freelancers. Upwork freelancers provide capabilities in the areas of software development & IT, design & creative, sales & marketing, writing & translation, admin & customer support, finance & accounting, engineering & architecture, HR & training, and legal.
Cool productivity factor: Upwork’s platform provides robust profiles of each freelancer, making it easy for businesses to select the right person for their job. Upwork’s platform also handles every payment transaction making it easy for businesses to budget and pay for the job as well as provides certainty to freelancers that they won’t get stiffed.
You Are Not Alone
For small business owners who are frustrated with the level of managerial tasks required to run their operation or have more work than resources to do them, there is probably a SaaS tool or outsource provider that can help.
With a little research or simply asking other business owners how they accomplish everything, you are sure to get some good advice and maybe even some reassurance – that you are not alone!
Agentz offers the most feature-rich and budget friendly customer engagement automation solution for small businesses.
Our mission is to help SMB owner’s lives to be better!
Contact us to learn how Agentz can help your small business or, if you support SMBs, ask us how your agency, technology or SaaS company can better service your clients.