Whether you are running e-commerce website, selling online courses, making money out of your blog, consulting services or YouTube channel, you face the same problems: tracking your metrics, billing, returns, running ad campaigns, and serving your customers. All in all, you end up performing repetitive tasks that keep you from doing creative work — the only thing that really drives value to your company and the world. It can get frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Nowadays everyone’s biggest effort is towards getting more and more customers — no matter how many manual tasks it takes and how leaky the funnel actually is. But the most successful businesses of the future will be the ones that can pause for a second, and first figure out how to work smarter and be in control.
In order to automate things, there are two solutions: use existing software or write your own. Both have some serious drawbacks. Readymade tools are often missing business-specific features and building on top of them can be risky in the long term. Writing software requires programming skills and plenty of time if you are doing it yourself, or plenty of money and plenty of time, when you are hiring developers or a software company. And, as we all know, this can also get pretty frustrating.
Luckily, there is a third way. In recent years there has been huge progress in tools and techniques that you can use to run different aspects of online business on autopilot. A great community of makers is already benefiting from those tools: building simple MVPs, websites, apps, testing ideas. Ryan Hoover from Product Hunt puts it this way:
But an even more obvious use case for automation is applying it to existing online businesses. The base for this concept is combining the power of existing services (for example Mailchimp, Gsuite, Stripe) via APIs, mixing and matching them with your business data and creating a supersoftware. The one that’s unique to your business and gives you a lot of flexibility while also saving tons of time.
Just a few years ago, no-code cloud-based tools could not take you beyond creating a simple non-scalable functional MVP. Today, thanks to a platform like Bubble, you can scale your startup without writing code.
What can you accomplish with automation? Let’s consider some scenarios:
- Automating live events or webinars so that people automatically sign up, get notifications, your social media posts are scheduled and tasks are distributed across your team on Slack
- Running marketing automation that segments your clients and picks up the best leads to target. Than sends text messages to sales rep when this person revisits your site and performs a key task
- Pulling data directly from your database and creating an admin panel from building blocks (buttons, dropdowns, tables) showing the results of queries but also allowing you to write back (for example to update users)
- Sending your users automated onboarding messages and notifications based on their activity
- Running automated surveys that your bots can act upon and automatically re-engage users, distribute their suggestions to members of your team and create tasks
- Having a dashboard with all the recurring services you use and bots to manage payments, collect invoices, and cancel unused ones
- Automatically maintaining your calendars and meetings with text reminders and messages with traffic on your route to a meeting.
Basically anything you could imagine that’s repetitive and can be done by a bot or through automation.
David and Goliath
There has to be a catch, you would think. Learning programming, manually digging into API integrations. But there is no such thing. The learning curve is short and focuses on basic understanding of how the web works and learning some tools like Zapier or Airtable. Implementing automation into your business is much faster than manual coding and it empowers you with limitless possibilities. Plus it generates huge doses of dopamine and is one of the most rewarding things to learn for any founder.
Today, businesses implementing automation are driving huge competitive advantage. I like to call them Davids, as they face the opportunity to win over the huge Goliaths — companies operated by hundreds of employees doing repetitive tasks. Automation can give you an unfair advantage — something most companies and startups are striving for. Greg Satell in his article The Future of Software Is No-Code puts it this way:
Cloud computing and APIs did much to give small, agile companies an advantage. Without legacy systems to hold them back, they could deploy cloud technologies much faster than their larger rivals and deliver better service to their customers. But no-code platforms are now helping larger enterprises to move with the speed and agility of startups.
In the future though, automated businesses will be the only ones to survive. From this perspective, it also feels a bit scary not to pick it up now.