Every small business struggles with having more work tasks than time and resources. It would be nice to hire a full-time social media manager or virtual assistant so you can get on with running your business, but maybe it’s just not in the budget right now.
Luckily, technology is here to save the day! These days there are hundreds of automation tools that can help to save you time and increase your productivity and efficiency.
From email automation to social media schedulers, to customer service – we’ve rounded up some of the best automation software on the market today to help you to run your business on autopilot and find those extra hours in the day you need.
Email Marketing Automation Tools
Email marketing still offers one of the highest ROIs of any marketing activities, generating $38 on average for every $1 spent.
It’s quick, cheap, and easy to batch send an email to thousands of people in a click. But to get the most out of your business email, you should think about automating your emails.
For example, you can use email automation software to automatically reply to a customer, send an order confirmation, or a thank you message when someone registers on your site. You can also automate email personalization, which makes it more likely that your emails will be read and generate conversions.
Mailchimp has been around for almost two decades and it’s still one of the most popular email marketing tools due to its ease of use and affordable plans.
Mailchimp offers a variety of pre-set automations including emails that are triggered by a specific date, event, or user activity, abandoned cart emails, order notifications, and product retargeting emails. You can also create a custom automation from scratch or edit a pre-defined workflow to suit your needs. You can send a single one-off email in response to a trigger or queue up a series of emails to send out automatically.
Want to know how well your email campaigns are working?
Mailchimp also shows you analytics data on open and click-through rates as well as calculating revenue generated if using eCommerce data.
Pricing: Free accounts include automation for up to 2,000 contacts. Paid plans start from $9.99 a month for up to 50,000 contacts and additional features such as A/B testing.
Sendinblue is a marketing automation service aimed at small businesses and agencies that want to maximize their conversion rate. As well as email, it offers tools for SMS automation, chat, landing pages, and Facebook ads.
Advanced automations are where Sendinblue really excels. With a visual drag and drop interface you can build complex workflows, triggering an email or SMS message at various points in the customer journey.
You can even optimize your optimization workflow by setting up split A/B tests to measure the performance of different variations and choose the path that better helps you to meet your goals.
Sendinblue also offers an entire landing page builder as well as a drag and drop form builder, so you can maximize conversions and build your list quickly and easily.
Pricing: Free for up to 2,000 contacts. Paid plans start from $25 a month.
ConvertKit is an email marketing service primarily aimed at bloggers and creative who have some type of product or service to sell. It offers tools for designing emails, building landing pages, and automating email sequences.
The email automation tool is simple to use but powerful, with a visual builder that allows you to build custom funnels with events, actions, and conditions. A content editor is also built into the workflow builder so you can edit your emails and adjust email sequences all in the same place.
ConvertKit also integrates with a number of other services including Shopify, Teachable (see our Teachable review), and WooCommerce, so you can use it to capture leads, run courses and memberships, and manage eCommerce transactions.
Pricing: Free for up to 1,000 subscribers. Paid plans from $29 a month.
Social Media Marketing Automation
Social media can be a great way to interact with your audience, attract new traffic to your website, and raise your brand profile. But it also takes a lot of time to build a presence on social media, especially if you’re targeting multiple platforms.
Social media automation tools can make your life easier by enabling you to schedule posts in advance, post to multiple networks from a single platform, and instantly reply to messages even when you’re not at the computer.
One word of warning about social media automation: it’s a powerful tool but you should use it wisely. While it’s possible to automate pretty much all your interactions on social media, that doesn’t mean you should. Nobody wants to talk to a robot – keep your communications real and human as much and possible and keep automation for eliminating repetitive tasks.
Hootsuite integrates with over 20 social platforms and has advanced tools for planning, creating, and publishing content, engaging with your audience, managing ad campaigns, and social data analytics.
The visual planning tool allows you to see published and scheduled content across all your networks and the built-in composer automatically adjusts images and videos to suit each network’s requirements.
An auto-scheduler optimizes your post times for maximum engagement and a curation tool makes it easy for you to share content from across your networks or from any website from a single platform.
You can improve the efficiency of your social communications too, by filtering messages and applying bulk actions, monitoring brand and topic mentions, and replying instantly to messages with a chat bot.
Pricing: free for a single user on up to 3 platforms with up to 30 scheduled posts. Paid plans start from $19 a month for up to 10 social profiles and unlimited scheduling.
Buffer makes it easy for you to queue up content for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn from a single dashboard.
It also includes some advanced tools for Instagram including a Stories planner, hashtag manager, and Shop Grid to link your posts to an eCommerce site.
Organization is key when it comes to being efficient on social media. Buffer has everything you need to stay organized including a preset publication schedule for each network, a visual calendar, and a built-in editor so you can tailor your posts for each network.
Pricing: from $15 a month for up to 8 social accounts and 100 scheduled posts.
Coschedule has tools for planning out not only your social content, but also emails, blog posts, and all your other content in one place.
The real-time blog calendar integrates with WordPress and all the major social media networks so you can schedule and publish all your content from one tool. If you change your mind about your content schedule, you can easily drag and drop posts into a different schedule position.
Coschedule will also automatically share your evergreen social messages at the best times for engagement and re-post top-performing messages so you can make the most out of your content.
Pricing: from $14 a month
Lead Management Automation
It doesn’t matter how much traffic you get to your website – if you don’t do anything with that traffic, it won’t do you any good.
That’s why it’s so important to capture leads as soon as possible and nurture them carefully through your sales funnel to avoid losing them.
These days, funnels are no longer a simple linear customer journey. Your leads may come from many different places and have many interactions with your brand before they convert.
Lead automation tools can help you to collect leads from several sources, track them, and communicate with them at optimal times, all with minimal work at your end.
Keap is a CRM and marketing automation platform that enables you to store all client information and communication in one place
Intelligent automation means you can respond to leads immediately with personalized messages. You can also track leads throughout the sales process and trigger automatic emails in response to user actions.
Pricing: from $40 a month for up to 500 contacts
Salesforce is one of the world’s top rated and most popular CRM platforms and offers a wide range of tools for businesses of all sizes.
The Salesforce Sales Cloud enables you to standardize processes and automate tasks so you can automatically move each customer through the sales funnel and track and score each lead.
The contact management software connects with social networks so you can gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs. A drag and drop process builder can send emails, auto-assign tasks, and more.
Salesforce offers many more advanced features for marketing, eCommerce, customer support, analytics, and more.
Pricing: from $25 a month
Zoho offers an entire suite of tools for email, collaboration, marketing and more. Zoho CRM has all the tools you need for collecting and communicating with leads, with automation tools to save time and optimize conversions.
With the omnichannel communication feature you can bring emails, calls, and social media into one place, monitor conversations, and get real-time notifications when customers interact with your business.
The workflow automation tool makes it easy to set up sales routines with automatic actions such as sending emails and you can also analyze and optimize your workflows.
eCommerce can be a highly lucrative model but it does require a lot of administration. Updating stock levels, processing orders, communicating with customers, reviewing payments, and marketing products all take a lot of time.
eCommerce is ideal for automation as many of these tasks follow a pre-defined procedure. Simple automation can be used for tasks such as emailing a customer when their order ships or if they haven’t completed checkout. AI can manage more complex tasks such as making product recommendations and dealing with customer service enquiries.
An automated eCommerce platform is a must for any eCommerce business that wants to scale up and maximize revenue.
10. Shopify Flow
Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms globally, and Shopify Flow is an automation solution that integrates with a number of business tools so you can systematize your processes and focus on your customers.
Flow includes features such as the ability to tag and segment customers based on their buying behavior, automate inventory management, track customers and automatically offer high-value customers rewards and deals, and automatically cancel high risk order or flag them for review.
You can easily build a custom workflow using the visual interface and integrate with all the other third-party apps and tools you use to run your business.
Pricing: from $29 a month for basic Shopify with some automations, $2,000 a month for Shopify plus with flow.
If you’re running a dropshipping store on Shopify, Oberlo is a must to speed up the process of finding products and adding them to your store.
Oberlo automates the process of importing products, allowing you to import copy, images, and other product info automatically. If you have hundreds of products in your store, you can imagine how long it would take you to import all this information manually, so Oberlo is a real time-saver for dropshippers.
Oberlo also automates order processing by sending your customer details to suppliers so you can run an eCommerce store almost entirely hands-off.
Pricing: free starter plan for up to 500 products. Paid plans start from $29.90 a month for up to 10,000 products and some additional features.
Customer Service Automation
Efficient customer service is essential for running any kind of business that offers products or services. Today’s consumers expect instant replies to their queries – a few hours delay could mean losing business to one of your competitors.
But you don’t have to hire a full customer service team staffed 24/7 to offer great support to your customers.
Automated customer service platforms eliminate many of the repetitive tasks associated with dealing with customers. Your customers get an instant response and you get more time to deal with queries that need your direct attention.
Zendesk offers a full customer service platform with a suite of products and services for automating and delivering a great customer experience.
With Zendesk you can setup time-based automations to modify customer service tickets and send out emails to customers and agents based on certain conditions. For example, you could set up an automatic notification to a customer service agent if a ticket remains unresolved after a certain number of hours.
Zendesk also sorts tickets automatically so that priority tickets get dealt with first, closes tickets after a set amount of time, and offers a live chat tool that can be triggered by customer actions and staffed by a bot to answer common questions immediately.
Pricing: from $5 per agent, per month
Freshdesk is Zendesk’s biggest competitor and offers very similar functionality but there are a few differences across the two platforms.
For example, Freshdesk offers a proactive outreach option that detects when customers might be having an issue and reaches out to them in advance. Freshdesk will also automatically assign and escalate tickets based on keywords like “unhappy” in customer messages.
Like Zendesk, Freshdesk comes with a live chat module that has automation options built on its AI platform, Freddy.
Pricing: Free for basic platform. Paid plans including automations start from $15 per agent, per month.
Process and Task Automation
Whatever sort of business you run, there are sure to be some tasks that you do over and over again.
By automating these business processes you can become more efficient, provide a better service to clients and customers, and save time so you can focus on higher-level activities.
Zapier makes it easy for you to connect all your business web apps together and build a customized workflow including a series of triggers and actions.
For example, you can setup a workflow to automatically add new leads to a database, add important tasks to your to-do list, or share content across all your social media channels.
If you’re not sure where to start, Zapier comes with a number of pre-built workflows so you can get more time in your working day immediately.
Zapier works with over 2,000 apps including Google apps, Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Trello, and many more.
Pricing: Free for single-step workflows up to 100 tasks a month. Paid plans start from $19.99 for multi-step workflows and up to 750 tasks a month.
IFTTT, short for “If This Then That” is a free service that works in a very similar way to Zapier. The main difference is that Zapier offers more complex multi-step workflows and integrates with more services.
IFTTT connects apps and services from various different providers and connects them in a workflow called an “applet”. There are currently over 54 million applets on IFTTT and if you can’t find one that suits your needs, you can create your own.
IFTTT works particularly well with smart technology so you can use it to automatically turn your smart lights on or get your smart coffee maker brewing as you arrive at the office.
Automate Your Business and Get More Done!
The examples included here are some of the most popular automation apps and services but there are literally hundreds more.
What works for one business might not necessarily work for another, so try out a few to see what suits the way you work best.