With AI currently taking the world by storm, all forms of automation are raising questions about what can and should be done by a human versus a machine. Marketing automation has been around a lot longer than AI, and the concern of “will this dehumanize my business?” has been around just as long.
When you hear the word “automation,” the first thing that comes to mind might be machines replacing human labor and impersonalizing interactions, but the reality is that marketing automation can actually improve your customer relationships and free you up to do more uniquely human work in your small business.
In this article, we’ll explore seven common myths about small business marketing automation and reveal how you can harness these tools to grow your sales and gain more freedom and flexibility.
But first, let’s quickly define what we mean when we talk about automation in a small business context.
What is sales and marketing automation?
Sales and marketing automation refers to using software to automate repetitive tasks and business processes, such as email campaigns, appointment scheduling, sales pipelines, customer fulfillment, etc.
Automation is set up by defining a trigger and one or more actions the trigger sets off. For example:
Trigger: If an Interest Form is submitted
Action: Then send the New Prospect Welcome Email AND Create a task for salesperson to call prospect
Small business automation is not about replacing human interaction with technology, but about using technology to enhance and personalize the customer experience. It frees up human time and resources that can be better used to build more meaningful connections with customers. It also makes work easier for small business entrepreneurs and their teams.
Small business marketing automation myths
Now, let’s dive into the seven most common myths surrounding small small business automation.
Myth 1: Automation replaces human interaction, making your business robotic and impersonal.
Truth: Automation in small businesses means using technology to streamline and optimize repetitive tasks. By automating repetitive tasks, employees actually have more time and freedom to focus on personal outreach, creative projects and strategic work. Here are some common examples of how it works:
- By automating appointment setting for sales pitches, a sales team is able to spend less time going back and forth on availability and more time preparing for the pitch itself.
- By automating marketing and sales follow-up emails, a consultant spends less time answering emails and has more billable hours available to work with clients.
- By automating past-due invoice follow-up, a small business entrepreneur is able to stop chasing clients for payment and instead focus on developing strategies to grow the business.
Not only does automation allow for more freedom and flexibility, it also helps small businesses create results that would otherwise be impossible with a small team. Here are some examples from Keap customers:
- By automating requests for reviews, independent pharmacy Avalon Pharmacy was able to go from 20 to over 500 Google reviews.
- By using automation tools in their nonprofit from the start, Wrap Ukraine with Quilts has been able to send over 20,000 quilts to refugees with only two full-time staff members.
- By automating multiple processes in his business, Lifeonaire founder Steve Cook was able to take three months away from the business — his first sabbatical in 20 years.
Myth 2: Automating my communications will take away the human touch and leave clients feeling neglected.
Truth: Automation can improve the customer experience by ensuring prompt and accurate responses to inquiries.
For example, instead of struggling to keep up with a high volume of website inquiries, a small business can set up automation to immediately respond to requests with an FAQ email and automatically create a task for a team member to reach out personally.
In addition, audience segmentation allows you to give customers a more personalized experience, at scale. For example, Amit Kakar, owner of Avalon Pharmacy, segments his customer list based on their medical condition, such as diabetes, hypertension, etc. This means patients get emails that are more relevant to their specific needs.
Myth 3: If part of the process needs to be manual, I can’t automate it.
Truth: Even if some parts of your process require human intervention, you can still automate tasks and communications surrounding the human components.
For example, in the sales process you can automate all the steps surrounding sales outreach:
- Automated: New lead welcome email
- Automated: Task created for salesperson
- Manual: Salesperson calls new lead
- Manual: Salesperson enters notes and changes pipeline status
- Automated: Pipeline change triggers nurture email sequence
- Automated: Task created for salesperson to follow up again
- Manual: Salesperson calls and leaves a voicemail
- Automated: Send “Left you a voicemail” text message
- Automated: Send “Let’s schedule a time to talk” email
- Automated: Call booking and confirmation
- Manual: Call with prospect
- Manual: Call notes entered into CRM
- Automated: Call follow-up email
- Automated: Offer email and text messages
Notice how, out of 14 tasks, nine can be automated. And the remaining five are the points in the sales process when human interaction is most important. The automated steps are repetitive tasks that aren’t an optimal use of a talented salesperson’s time.
In addition to removing repetitive tasks for employees, automation can:
- Increase consistency of messaging, since it’s all pre-written
- Customize messages to recipients without human intervention
- Ensure every step happens in the right order and with the right timing
- Reduce dependency on humans to respond right away and move processes forward
- Provide a consistent and predictable experience for prospects, clients and employees
Myth 4: Automation is only for marketing.
Truth: Small business automation can be used for all your processes — anything repetitive that needs to be done quickly and consistently every time.
For example, many small businesses use automation to finalize a sale and transition the new client from sales to customer fulfillment, automating processes such as:
- Quote approval
- Invoice payment
- “Welcome and next steps” email
- New client appointment scheduling
For any process your team does over and over, ask the question: How can this be automated?
Myth 5: Automation is time-consuming and is only for big companies.
Truth: While it’s true that you do need to have an established business, the time to start automating is actually at the small business stage. Automation won’t create new business for you, but once you find yourself working long hours to keep up with all the leads and orders, that’s when automation comes in.
If your goal is to grow into a large business, then automation is essential. You can’t grow effectively without it, because the only way to generate additional revenue without a corresponding increase in overhead costs is to become more efficient with your existing operations. Keap co-founder Scott Martineau explains this in more detail in his video on Lifecycle Automation.
Even if you don’t want your business to become really big, the reality is you can’t enjoy a high quality of life as a small business entrepreneur if you have to work long hours to make sure everything is getting done. For small businesses that want to stay small and lean, automation is the accelerator that allows them to have a big impact with a small team. Here’s how one Keap customer expressed it:
“Now that I've automated my onboarding processes, my actual work time is spent doing what I love to do. I've gotten so many hours back, I've been able to spend more time on parts of my business that I really never got to spend time on before. I've also gotten so much time back to spend with my husband and toddler, which is ultimately the life I dreamed of when I wanted to become an entrepreneur. And Keap helped me get there.”
— Alex Zsoldos, First Dance Charlotte wedding dance studio
Myth 6: Automation will make my employees feel like cogs in a machine.
Truth: Implementing automation can actually make your business feel even more human by reducing the workload and stress on your team. When employees don't have to spend hours on repetitive tasks, they can focus on building relationships with customers and creating innovative solutions.
It’s actually the act of doing the same thing over and over that makes employees feel like cogs in a machine.
When you remove those tasks and instead assign your team members tasks they enjoy, are good at, and that make an important contribution, you make their work more fulfilling.
Myth 7: Automating tasks will take work away from my employees and lead to layoffs.
Truth: Layoffs are necessary when the revenue of a business can’t support overhead. Because automation reduces overhead costs by making your processes more efficient, it actually provides more job security, not less.
And let’s be real: There’s always more work to be done in a small business! When you automate repetitive tasks, you’ll find plenty more high-value work for your employees to do. And your business will most likely flourish when your team is working on the growth projects they don’t have time for right now.
In short, automation is not about replacing human workers with machines, but about enhancing and scaling their abilities and improving the overall performance of your small business. By freeing up time and resources, automation allows small businesses to focus on what truly matters: human connections and creativity.