How to Automate Your Agency
What can be automated?
Virtually any task you’re doing to make your agency run can be automated. That could be scheduling meetings, following up with sales leads, bookkeeping, payroll, project and task management, onboarding processes (for both clients and employees). If you do it and it keeps the gears of your business moving, it can probably be automated.
Just because something can be automated, doesn’t necessarily mean it should be.
High-Value versus Low-Value Tasks
To decide if a task should be automated, you need to look at the value that the task is delivering - what kind of bang for your buck do you get from doing this?
High-Value tasks are ones that are a key piece of delivering your service. These are tasks that directly affect your clients, the relationship you have with them, and the quality of service you’re delivering. They can also be tasks where a decision needs to be made by a human.
Some examples of high-value tasks:
- Determining strategy
- Creating a customized product
- Design Work
- Sales calls or meetings
High-value tasks are ones to be wary about automating - you don't want to risk harming your relationship with your clients.
Low-value tasks are ones that have minimal impact on your clients - things they never even see but happen in the background of your business. They are also tasks that don’t require anyone to really make a decision at that point in time about what should happen - there’s a solid process that you follow every time and the task just has to get done.
- Entering transactions in your accounting books
- Having employees complete their tax forms
- Sending invoices
- Processing payments
Low-value tasks are perfect for automation - usually, a computer can complete the task faster, cheaper and more accurately.
2 easy questions to decide what to automate
Every time you look to automate a task, there are 2 simple questions you can ask yourself to decide whether you should or shouldn't automate.
What's the value of the task?
Does someone (a human) need to make a decision in order to accomplish this?
This will help you determine whether this is something you should fully automate, use technology to assist you in performing the task or something that really shouldn’t be automated at all.
What does this process look like?
Task: You're onboarding a new client and you need to create all the client folders in Google Drive for the new client and move copies of all your template documents into that folder.
Currently, you have a VA or administrative assistant spend 20 minutes manually creating that file structure, copying over template documents into the folder, so you’re ready to start work with your new client.
Now, let’s walk through how to decide if this is a good task for automating.
1. What's the value of this task?
How does this impact the client’s impression of our service?
If we automate this task, would we degrade the quality or value of the service we offer?
For our example task, there’s no negative impact to the client or to the value of your service. This is something your client won’t ever see (at least not until you share it with them) and, ultimately, they don’t care how your files are structured. So… that makes it a pretty good candidate for at least some sort of automation.
2. Does someone (a human) need to make a decision in order to accomplish this?
In this case, you have a process that happens the same way every time. The file structure is always the same. The template files always get copied into the same folders. No one needs to decide anything - it just needs to happen, which makes this a great candidate for fully automating.
Task: Client call to kick off a new project
1. What's the value of this task?
This sets the tone for the entire project and allows your internal and external teams to start building relationships. You could automate this by sending an email to introduce everyone and talk about how the project is going to go, but it would reduce the quality of your service (because you wouldn’t have built a relationship).
This is a high-touch, highly-visible part of your interaction with your client, so this type of task isn’t a great fit for automating. We don't even need to ask our second question.
What not to automate
Your sales process and other high-touch aspects of your service are where you build relationships with your clients, where you get to know them, understand how they like to work and get feedback on your service - these are all parts of your business that are vital to its success, and automating them should be approached with extreme caution.
But, you CAN automate around these high-value tasks to make them easier to deliver.
Using our client meeting example, some ways we could automate around this task are:
- Use an automatic scheduling tool like Calendly or Drift Meetings to reduce the time you spend going back and forth via email to actually get the meeting on the books
- Using a project management tool, like Accelo, to automatically remind you to do the tasks associated with the client meeting.
- Automatically send out a Paperform before the meeting to collect everyone’s contact information and project roles.
Just because you don’t want to automate the task itself doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of ways to make the operational tasks that go with it significantly less time-consuming and easier to deliver.