Ping, ding, clickety-clack and swoosh. Then repeat: again, and again, and again. Sound familiar? It should. According to a McKinsey study, 28 percent of the average workweek is spent answering emails. Similarly, a further 19 percent is spent gathering information and data and 14 percent on communication and collaboration, leaving a meager 39 percent actually spent on a person’s role-specific activity. Perhaps you can relate to this. I certainly can.
As a marketer, I often find myself pulling data from different tools and building reports that are then sent off to stakeholders all before I even have a chance to get on with my own work. It’s mundane and repetitive, but it’s also important. And in my never-ending quest to become more productive (and perhaps less frustrated), I was referred to Ross Jenkins, founder of DigitalMe, a leader in automation. He primarily focuses on helping executive teams improve their workflows and decision-making processes utilizing automation.
The move to automate tasks isn’t just founded by a desire to excise repetitive tasks and free up time, but in fact to improve reliability and remove human error from the equation. From the simple to the advanced, it turns out there’s a whole lot out there that you can automate to make your day a little more productive.
Here are a few of the ways you can start automating your most repetitive tasks.
Automate Your Emails
According to Jenkins, email is one of the easiest tasks to automate that can have powerful effects on your productivity. By simply introducing filters to compartmentalize your inbox, you can prioritize what needs to be read and what needs to be left for later. For example, by funnelling emails from white-listed domains into one folder and unknown domains into another, you’ll quickly see the benefits of a less chaotic inbox.
Jenkins explained to me how you can go a step further by automating your most frequent email responses, too. Using advanced filters and then managing this through automation software like Zapier, you can generate auto-responses to your most frequently asked questions. Likewise, by using calendar scheduling software such as Calendly, you can then set up auto-responses to scheduling requests, giving people the ability to book a time right from your calendar. You can also link in a to-do-list tool such as Todist with your email, so that starred emails are automatically added to your to-do list or even your CRM (e.g.HubSpot), ensuring you never forget to respond to an important email.
Automating Data and Information Collection
Jenkins explained a situation where he was helping an executive team automate access to their most important statistics and ensure this was available to those who needed to see it. In this particular case, he set up custom dashboards to visualize statistics pulled directly from HubSpot. You can do the same using visualisation tools such as Google Data Studio, a free tool that is easily integratable into your CRM, spreadsheets or databases. They then had automatic notification emails sent to both investors and internal stakeholders, with links to the most up-to-date dashboards.
According to Jenkins, by simply automating a repetitive task like this, he helped the company save hours of employees time in both collecting and compiling the information, but also helped the CEO introduce better transparency between external and internal stakeholders.
Automating Marketing and Sales-Lead Management
This was particularly interesting to me as a marketer. While a primary part of my role as a marketer is to utilize marketing automation to give leads a great (and hopefully persuasive) experience through automated email drip campaigns, ad-retargeting and on-site experiences, a secondary part of my role is internal lead management. For example, how leads are scored and managed between the marketing and sales departments. This is an area with tremendous opportunity for automation.
To automate lead management, such as the handoff from marketing to sales once the lead has become a marketing qualified lead, involves ensuring that the sales managers are aware of the lead and take action upon it. While CRMs like HubSpot are great for synthesizing all the data on that lead, Jenkins uses automation to notify sales reps with critical and timely information on the lead but to also send information back to the marketing department on the quality of the lead and the outcome of the sales calls, which is handled in HubSpot. This is then all compiled into aggregated data for senior management, using similar practices as outlined above.
In concluding our discussion, Jenkins explains to me how automation is becoming integral to companies all the way up to decision-making processes. With developments in artificial intelligence, business leaders are utilizing this technology to make immediate and smarter decisions based on complex data sets, removing human error. This extends back to the customer, in areas such as customer service, where customer service agents are complemented by powerful AI recommendations, giving accurate guidance to solve customer tickets. Executives are also leveraging AI when making strategic decisions. By automating the decision-making process with AI-led probability outcomes, leaders are also able to remove human error from strategic decisions. Automation is becoming a truly integral part of the business landscape.