Owning and running a digital marketing agency involves a huge amount of plate spinning. For bootstrapped agencies especially, all the business functions that would eventually have teams to handle them—sales, marketing, HR, account management, fulfillment, customer service, and much more—often fall to the owner or are spread across a very small team.
It can be extremely overwhelming.
If you don't find a way to manage those functions, it can impact the core services you offer as a business and undermine your whole operation: If your employees aren't happy they won't do their best work, if marketing isn't taken care of you won't get new customers or clients. Every function is important in keeping your business healthy and profitable. But how do you keep all of those plates spinning as a new bootstrapped agency owner?
That's the exact position I found myself in when I started Searchant, a digital marketing agency—too many things to do and not enough hours in the day.
I realized if I wanted to grow my business, offer a solid service, and have some kind of life outside of work, then I'd have to get organized. So taking inspiration from James Clear, I knew it was time to improve my systems and automate: "You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems."
I looked for ways to automate some of these tasks and found Zapier. I was able to redirect the time saved into my business, helping it grow.
These are some of the processes I've streamlined with automation and how much time I save each month by using these techniques.
I'm a big believer in incremental gains, and that's exactly what all of these small automations are: small gains here and there that collectively produce a huge effect.
Lead generation and marketing
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of your business, so anytime something comes up that can make it more efficient, you should definitely be interested.
Add your leads directly to a Mailchimp list from a web form
One of the most effective ways to generate leads is through a form on a website landing page. Although this is undoubtedly a great technique, having to sort through all the responses and manually transfer them over to your email lists is definitely not a fun experience, and if you delay the task, then leads very quickly turn cold.
If you use an email marketing service such as Mailchimp, then you can easily integrate a Zapier tool to make this process an absolute breeze. The Wufoo + Mailchimp Zap is a great example that automatically adds contact information from a Wufoo form to your email list.
If you work with apps or software not included in this article, don't worry—Zapier works with thousands of apps. Head to our App Directory and search for the one you use, or browse to find the right solution for your needs.
Taking this idea a step further, you can set up Mailchimp to automatically send out a welcome email to those new leads. Being able to quickly distribute your newsletter or company information to potential new clients will impress them and save you tons of time.
The beauty of this Zap is that once you have leads on your mailing list, you can send out valuable information to them. And when the time is right, even leads that turned cold may become interested in your services again.
Time saved per month: 4 hours
Send booked discovery calls a pre-sell email, add them to your CRM, and let Slack know
This is probably my favorite automation, as it's made a measurable difference to show-up rates to our discovery calls:
Discovery calls are a quick 15-20 minute call to learn about businesses that have made inquiries, to discover if and how we can help prospective clients.
Just because someone booked a discovery call, it doesn't mean they're going to show up. People get busy, and sometimes we need to give them a little nudge to remind them of the potential value in partnering with us.
We want to get them excited to show up and learn more, and we do that through a pre-sell automation. As soon as a discovery call is booked, they get an automated, personalized email with some extra information:
This simple, personalized—yet automated—email increased our show-up rates by 25 percent and creates intrigue that nudges the right prospects toward working with us.
Along with adding new prospects to our CRM and sending a Slack message to notify the team of the meeting, this Zap ensures everyone who needs to know about the meeting is set, and that the lead doesn't fall through the cracks.
You can get started with this Zap that sends an email in Gmail for booked Calendly meetings, and then click the + (plus sign) to add the next steps.
Time saved per month: 10 hours
Spread your new blog posts across social media
When you've taken the time to produce some great content for your blog, you really want people to read it. However, spreading these posts across all of your social media accounts can be time-consuming.
This is another process that can be easily automated using Zapier. There are Zaps available for every major social media platform that post your new blog posts to your social feed as soon as you upload them to WordPress.
Easily increase your reach without eating into your working hours by using an automated connection like these that share your new WordPress posts automatically on social media.
I consider this a fairly basic Zap, but distribution is so often a missed step when producing content.
If Twitter isn't your preferred network, you can do the same with other social sites:
Time saved per month: 2 hours
Lead generation is far from the only process that can be largely simplified using Zapier. Client onboarding is another realm where significant time savings can be made using automation tools.
Although client onboarding might initially sound like something a business owner would want to keep as personalized as possible, there are easy ways to automate parts of the process without sacrificing client experience. In fact, done well, automation will enhance the onboarding experience.
Automatically send or draft welcome emails
One of these tasks is sending out welcome emails. Even if you use a generic welcome email for every new client, manually distributing these individual emails can be a pain, especially if you've had a bunch of new client sign-ups following a deal.
Automated emails don't have to be generic either. If you want to personalize the email for each new client, then you can set up your automation tool to alert you when a welcome email needs to be sent, or even send you a standard template that you can personally adjust.
This is a good opportunity to set some early expectations, share some logins, or send along information that will help streamline your overall onboarding process.
Here are a few starting points:
Time saved per month: 2 hours
New client feedback
Digital marketing can be a bit of a black box. Once you have all of the information you need from a client, you often move on and end up not communicating with them for weeks. But that can leave clients wondering what work is being done and if they are being valued.
So we make sure to over-communicate, especially within the first couple of weeks and months of our engagement with new clients.
We want to make sure new clients are happy, and while we're often communicating regularly anyway, a more official feedback email is an opportunity for clients to give constructive feedback on what is working well so far and what they'd like to change:
This feedback request email is automatically sent 15 days after the start of our engagement with new clients. In this Zap, we've set it to delay 15 days after they complete our onboarding Google Form.
We also use this Zap to add a task in Asana for the project manager of the campaign to ensure any feedback we receive is read and acted on appropriately.
This simple automation has given us insights we would have missed and that have helped us improve our services. I have no doubt it will also lead to increased client satisfaction and retention.
In the future, we plan to build on this automation by including more structured client feedback tools that automatically gather feedback at regular intervals, so we can truly start to understand client happiness as an internal KPI and work to improve retention.
Time saved per month: 4 hours
Ongoing administration and fulfillment
Sometimes, it can feel like whole days are spent completing tasks that help you track your work but don't contribute to your growth or the growth of your clients. Those days can leave you feeling like you've wasted your time. Setting up automated processes for these tasks will allow you to focus on the parts of your business that you really want to grow.
Notify the team of new links in Slack
One of our core services is building backlinks and mentions for our clients.
Our team is focused around this goal, so landing links is exciting for the team. We like to celebrate every single link win by having it feed through to a dedicated "links won" Slack channel.
Not only does this allow the team to celebrate each other's victories and help the remote working culture, but it's also an opportunity to provide feedback or ask questions about other team members' work.
It is not only useful, but also contributes to our company culture of teamwork and transparency.
Set up customized notifications for just about any app using Zapier.
Time saved per month: 10 hours
Automation in the background, growth at the forefront
Total time saved: 32 hours per month
Adding automation to your processes means a few small changes can lead to massive time savings each month. This saved time is yours to play with and can be used to alleviate your workload and drive you towards growth.