Efficiency Up, Stress Down: the Top 7 Business Automation Tools for Small Businesses in 2022

Technology advancements have been allowing us to do more in less time, with the help of numerous business automation tools. These tools make it easier to boost productivity, automate tedious tasks, and scale your business in ways never before possible.

However, with so many business automation solutions available, choosing the right ones can be challenging. Especially when most of the automation tools on the market are still geared toward medium and larger businesses – but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! 

This article has picked the top 7 best business automation tools designed for small businesses in 2022. Each of them would be conducive to a particular area of the business process, helping you take your venture to the next level. Let’s get started!

(In case you haven’t already seen Shoeboxed’s Guide to Business Automation, take a moment to read about what it is, how your business can benefit from it, and discover the most common uses of business automation tools.)

Zapier for workflow automation

Zapier is a simple business tool to automate your work by offering ways to connect many different software and apps. This app comes with predefined example templates that help users turn actions between essential applications into automated workflows. By doing that, Zapier saves you time and money on repetitive manual tasks, enabling you to spend more time on more profitable actions. 

business automation tools zapier
Zapier’s display and features

Some common uses of Zapier are the following: 

  • Automatically save attachments in Gmail to Google Drive
  • Save all new Google Docs files to OneDrive and then back them up in Dropbox
  • Create a new Trello task when a specific email arrives
  • Automatically share content on social media

ActiveCampaign for customer experience automation

ActiveCampaign is a cloud software platform that offers customer experience automation features. The software combines advanced marketing features, such as email marketing, sales automation, and CRM categories. This software is optimized for businesses of all sizes, with different packages and reasonable prices for the provided features.  

business automation tools activecampaign
ActiveCampaign’s display and features 

ActiveCampaign automates your entire customer experience by providing tailored guidance for all the automation goals, dynamic content, and email marketing automation, which enhances the customer reach-out as well as engagement rate. 

Xero for accounting automation

Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform that enables small- and medium-sized businesses to synchronize their bookkeeping, accountants, and bank apps. This accounting software is very flexible and keeps track of all users’ business finance-related activities using only a mobile app.

business automation tools xero
Xero’s display and features

Using Xero, business owners can check on bills, cash flows, and even clients’ claims to expenses and reimbursements. Users can automatically get all the necessary documents and key data without putting in any manual effort. Xero also offers special features such as transfer of payments, bank reconciliation, and data capture, making it the most helpful business accounting automation tool. 

Shoeboxed for receipt scanning and expense tracking

Shoeboxed is a painless receipt scanning and organizing solution for freelancers and small businesses owners. This versatile app serves many purposes, including:

business automation tools shoeboxed
Shoeboxed’s display and features

Shoeboxed’s OCR (Optical character recognition) engine and human data verification features ensure that your paper receipts are legibly scanned, clearly categorized, and approved by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Service in the event of an audit. Moreover, Shoeboxed enables users to create clear and comprehensive expense reports that include images of their receipts. From there, users can export, share or print all of the information they need for easy tax preparation or reimbursement, all within just a few clicks. 

Freshservice for IT management

Freshservice is an internal IT service management platform that assists businesses in streamlining and automating their IT operations. This software enables your IT department to collaborate with developers remotely and act quickly in response to requests, threats to service availability, and security. With IT service management tools like Freshservice, you can gain the ability to put your developer team’s and employees’ requests first.

Freshservice’s display and features

Freshservice outstanding features, including: 

  • Incident and Case Management feature helps address IT questions remotely
  • Knowledge Base feature provides IT, Service, and HR information
  • Service Catalogue feature helps simplify requests 
  • Asset Management feature updates asset details 

Buffer for social media management

With the rapid growth of social media platforms, building social media awareness is essential to almost all kinds of businesses. However, working consistently on various social media platforms can be very time-consuming. That’s why you need social media automation tools – like Buffer!

Buffer’s display and features

Buffer is an easy-to-use automation tool with great scheduling features that will bring your business to the next level on social media. This automation tool can help in the publishing process and even provide accurate campaign analytics to check what works better. Buffer makes it easier than ever to build a brand on social media! 

Grammarly for content review automation

Grammarly is an online writing AI-powered assistant that helps users compose mistake-free articles and content. As businesses today want to fill their blogs, social media, email marketing, and other publications with high-quality content, using a tool like Grammarly is extremely important to save writers from basic grammar mistakes. 

Grammarly offers some powerful AI features, such as: 

  • Grammar correction and spellcheck
  • Corrections for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure
  • Vocabulary enhancement
  • Suggestions for genre-specific writing style 
  • Plagiarism detector (it checks over 16 billion web pages)
Grammarly’s display and features

Moreover, Grammarly comes as a Chrome extension that helps you write on various daily tools like Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, Messenger, Slack, and many more. You can either choose the free version (if you only need grammar and spelling correction ) or subscribe to the premium package to unlock other features. 

The bottom line

Business automation tools aren’t just for the big sharks out there. There is actually a selection of tools designed for smaller enterprises. You just need to determine whether you want to automate all of your business operations or only specific elements that are time-consuming and ineffective. Knowing this will help you set the correct internal expectations as you decide which tools to use and what you expect from them. This practice also helps you reduce excessive costs and focus on what really matters. 

Don’t forget to sign up for the Shoeboxed blog if you’d like to read more business success stories, DIY accounting, together with the latest Shoeboxed product updates!

A Beginner’s Guide to Business Automation: Definition, Benefits, and Examples

Over the past decades, automation has significantly impacted almost every industry — from IT, engineering, and finance to customer services, sales, and marketing. Business automation tools free up employees to focus on more strategic projects, minimizing costs, increasing efficiency, streamlining processes, and so much more. 

This article will walk you through the term business automation, from its definition to its basic types, and why it matters to your business. 

What is business automation?

Business automation is a term for using technology applications to execute recurring tasks or processes, which frees up employees for higher-value work. Business automation usually includes business process automation, robotic process automation, and AI-powered automation.

Why is business automation important to your business?

Whether you’re a small business owner or running a large enterprise, automation is an excellent way to streamline operations and drive business growth. Business automation tools are designed to replace manual processes with machines so you can put human resources to work elsewhere in the business.

Additionally, business automation is critical for a rapidly changing world. For example, with the help of business automation tools, you can collect and analyze data to predict post-pandemic customer behaviors — from wildly fluctuating demand to heightened health and safety precautions. Automation, especially when combined with AI, can help you fix or refine these data analytics and reports, resulting in higher revenue, better use of resources, and greater customer satisfaction.

There are some other compelling reasons to automate your business processes, which are the following: 

  • Improve efficiency: Business automation tools pinpoint inefficiencies or hotspots in your operations to help determine where automated processes can provide the greatest impact. This involves process mining and modeling.
  • Apply intelligence: The data from automating your operations, together with machine learning and AI, can recommend actions and allow people to focus more on strategic tasks.
  • Automate core operations: Apply core automation capabilities — document processing, workflow orchestration, decision management, and content services — to key operational areas to meet business needs.
  • Smarter management: An automation tool makes process management much easier. You can make changes and improvements without introducing all the changes to your team. The information under a system is saved somewhere in a database, so you won’t need to repeat to team members how things should be done on specific processes.
  • Streamlined processes: Streamlined processes are one of the great outcomes of a process automation system. Clear accountability, customizable notifications, valuable insights, and faster turnaround times make eliminating wasteful activities easier and focusing on enhancing core-valued tasks.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Customer satisfaction is a key differentiator in any industry. Focusing on process and operational excellence helps you exceed customer expectations with ease. When you consistently meet promised standards, customers are more likely to develop a preference for your company.

Four common uses of business automation

1. Marketing automation

Marketing automation is a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes. Through marketing automation tools (which are usually in the form of software), companies can generate higher qualified leads that are ready for sales engagement. Companies can also use these tools to track and measure a prospect’s activity, better identify target customers by automated messages via social media and deliver leads to sales as soon as they meet predefined criteria.

With email marketing automation tools, companies can send out emails to a client distribution list on a predefined schedule, which reduces the costs of running the campaigns manually. Some tools can provide a framework for teams to target, build, implement and measure the success of marketing campaigns, taking the complexity out of lead qualification and conversion. 

2. Financial and accounting automation

For businesses of all sizes, accounting is time-consuming and includes many manual steps. By automating their accounting and bookkeeping tasks, companies can save considerable time on accounts receivable, accounts payable, billing, collections, credit card applications, data backup, and other financial processes that are managed regularly. 

Companies can also apply automation to core processes like closing their books, general ledger management, and bank account management. Automation makes a complex process more manageable by removing manual elements from the accounting team’s work and handling the number-crunching and transactional work. Businesses can focus on important tasks like analysis, strategy and improve their core values. 

For example, an automated system for accounts payable management saves businesses money and time as data entry is automated, invoices are automatically matched to documents, and approvals are electronically routed. It reduces data errors and helps prevent fraud through a system of “touchless” controls that happen behind the scenes. Accounts payable automation software also frees up cash flow. Any team member can submit invoices, manage approvals, and process payments through a single platform with swift approvals, better visibility, and greater control over important financial processes and data.

The Shoeboxed app this a typical example of an accounting automation tool. Shoeboxed helps freelancers, accountants, and small business owners scan their receipts, track and manage their expenses, and easily generate expense reports. 

What’s more, Shoeboxed offers OCR (Optical Character Recognition) function, and a human-verified data feature to ensure that your receipts are legibly scanned, clearly organized, and accepted by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Service. Trusted and recommended by thousands of users worldwide, Shoeboxed is your go-to option when it comes to automating your business’s financial and accounting processes. 

3. Sales automation

Sales automation tools enable sales teams to spend less time logging their deal-related activity and more time meeting clients, making phone calls, and closing deals. The tools can automate repetitive tasks throughout the sales process, whether qualifying leads based on their buyer journey, assigning prospects to the right rep, or creating data-backed sales forecasts. 

Companies that sell physical products can also benefit from these sales automation tools. Using these tools, sales reps can track stock from anywhere, at any time while consulting with their customers. They can also log order information to the system, making it easier to track every step. Should any problem arise, the sales team can find where it’s at and solve it quickly. 

Other sales tasks that software can perform are the following: 

  • Automated order entry
  • Automated batch processing
  • Automated report generation and distribution

4. Human resource management automation

Human resource management systems can handle various HR tasks, including processing job applications, scheduling interviews, sending offers, onboarding, managing payroll, and benefits administration. Since these systems automate all aspects of human resources management, it provides complete analytics across these processes, bringing accurate insights into the company’s workforce productivity and efficiency. For example, if a company is experiencing a high employee turnover rate, the business owners can use an HR management tool to pinpoint the specific problem and solve it.

There are other tasks that human resource management automation tools can handle, including: 

  • Recording employees’ retention and retrieval
  • Reviewing job applications submitted online
  • Generating work contracts, confidentiality agreements, waivers, and other new-employee documentation.
  • Calculating employee taxes
  • Providing training documents for new employees

The bottom line

Automation tools are transforming business operations and processes, making it possible to control and scale up your businesses with ease. No matter what kind of business you’re running, you can always find the perfect automating solution. If you’d like to take your business to the next level, start today with Shoeboxed
Don’t forget to sign up for the Shoeboxed blog if you’d like more information on how Shoeboxed has helped our clients automate their business processes and other engaging success stories, DIY accounting, together with the latest Shoeboxed‘s product updates.

Financial Services Marketing: Definition, Benefits and Best Practices for Small Businesses

Growing a business can be challenging if you’re a small financial services company. Especially with the evolution of digital transformation causing an industry-wide shakeup in the financial sector, digital-savvy customers are expecting more from financial services companies. How can small financial services companies survive—and thrive—in this volatile environment? 

Only using traditional marketing methods won’t bring the best result for your business—try financial services marketing instead. But what is financial services marketing, actually? In this article, we’ll walk you through this term, from the definition, types of businesses that can take advantage of it, and the five best financial services marketing strategies for financial service providers. 

What is financial services marketing?

Financial services marketing is several marketing methods that employ special strategies and techniques to generate brand awareness or drive conversions to a financial firm. By using custom-made marketing strategies for financial services, business owners can turn obstacles into advantages and grow their business effectively.

What kind of businesses can benefit from financial services marketing?

The financial services sector includes many different niches and segments. Here are the main types of financial companies that can benefit from financial services marketing:

  • Auto finance firms
  • Brokerage firms
  • Credit unions
  • Commercial banks
  • Retail banks
  • Credit card companies
  • Insurance companies
  • CPA firms
  • Wealth management firms
  • Accounting firms

However, these financial institutions are subject to different laws and regulations, which are beyond the scope of this article. Before you consider and implement the following marketing strategies, keep in mind to refer to standard practices and regulations specific to your field. 

Two major challenges of financial services marketing

  • It’s hard to gain customers’ trust

This is perhaps the most common issue for financial-service marketers. Money is a personal topic, and customers must trust their financial institutions before purchasing more services.

The Covid-19 recession negatively affected most people, and only recently are customers becoming more comfortable with their financial positions. This means they are very cautious about investing money in products and services they don’t know thoroughly or are uncertain whether they are necessary. 

  • Customers are unaware of financial services marketing’s benefits 

A potential car buyer can immediately judge quality based on objective factors like appearance, gas mileage, and price. They can read quantifiable figures about each vehicle to make comparisons and discuss them in a public forum to pick the most suitable one. 

However, people looking for a financial service are less inclined to publicize their demands. This means product attributes are vague, which can increase customers’ skepticism. This problem is not easy to overcome, especially because most people consider financial services uninteresting.

Five best practice marketing strategies for financial services

Now that we have identified the challenges of financial services marketing, let’s go into the details of the most effective financial services marketing strategies that will help you attract more leads and convert them into loyal customers.

1. Host educational webinars

Webinars are an effective channel to generate leads, especially for B2B businesses. According to Findstack, around 73% of B2B professional marketers think they can get high-quality leads from webinars. Additionally, the use of webinars has increased rapidly since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Webinars continue to be the first choice for many marketers because they offer an effective way to build authority and trust among your brand’s audience base. Unlike other marketing strategies, a webinar session allows financial institutions to reveal a more human aspect, which is a huge plus since most people perceive financial companies as impersonal, formal, and unfriendly.

Webinars are an effective approach to generating leads because they promise more value than most other marketing methods. If your webinar attracts a prospect’s attention, they will be more likely to fill out their information in your webinar sign-up form.

Additionally, hosting a webinar is a golden opportunity to understand your audience. It’s the best thing next to having face-to-face conversations, making potential customers comfortable enough to bring up questions or concerns that they wouldn’t have raised in any other environment or platform.

2. Publish case studies

Broadcasting case studies can be the best way to tell your audience that you have a solution for their financial problem. Why’s this true? It’s because case studies allow you to demonstrate to your prospective customers that your product or services are effective Case studies tell a story and show how successful a product or service is. And if there’s one thing potential customers are looking for, it’s a story that promises a good ending.

Case studies are also based on evidence and are backed by real numbers. For example, if you tell a story of how you were able to help a struggling company increase their annual revenue by 200% and then back it up with statistics, you’re showing that you’re trustworthy and that you can live up to your promises.

3. Build social media presence

Statistics show that roughly 7-in-10 Americans use social media, and they spend an average of 2 hours and 25 minutes surfing the internet per day. That means that most of your customers (both potential and existing) are on social media.

Social media is where conversations and discussions happen, making it an ideal place to develop your financial brand’s authority and trust. What’s more, on many platforms social media users are not only there to interact with their friends but also with brands. 

Business blog Oberlo’s research about social media statistics has also proved it: 

  • 54% of internet users use social media platforms to research products or services.
  • 71% of customers who have had a good experience with a brand on social media will recommend it to their family and friends.
  • 49% of customers are likely to buy something if it was recommended by a social media influencer.

In other words, if you’re not focusing on building your social media presence, you’re leaving money on the table.

4. Implement PPC advertising to generate financial leads

When growing a financial services business, neglecting PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising is a huge waste. After all, financial services companies largely rely on lead generation. PPC advertising is the way to go when it comes to generating leads.

PPC advertising offers the following benefits:

  • Helps you rank faster for strategic keywords.
  • Brings you prompt traffic.
  • Attracts highly targeted visitors to your website.
  • Contributes to your search advertising, display advertising, retargeting strategies.

5. Publish high-quality blog posts

Blogging has changed radically over the years. In general, most people will do a Google search to find answers to their financial problems or dilemmas. That’s why publishing high-quality blog content is still an effective strategy for growing a financial brand (or any brand for that matter). 

Like a PPC strategy, you can start by doing keyword research. However, unlike PPC, you have a new metric to consider with SEO keyword research: keyword difficulty. This gives you a comprehensive insight into a keyword or topic, its volume (which indicates how many people search for the keyword), and how easy or hard it is to rank for a keyword. You can use keyword research software like Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, or Semrush. If you’re just starting out, try focusing on keywords with lower difficulty to start earning initial search traffic.

Investing in a blog can benefit your financial services business in the following ways:

  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Boost brand awareness via SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Generate leads for your email database 
  • Build trust and authority in your niche
  • Grow a social media presence (when sharing a high-quality blog post on social media)

The bottom line

So now you have it—the five most effective financial services marketing strategies that can help boost your financial firm. You can now consider the pick the best method(s) for your company to increase your brand awareness and generate conversions. 

Shoeboxed is a versatile receipt-scanning and expense-managing app for small businesses. Shoeboxed offers business owners the best accounting solution: digitizing receipts, managing expenses, storing business cards, tracking mileages, and so much more. Additionally, Shoeboxed ensures that the digital versions of your receipts are clearly scanned, well categorized, human-verified, and legibly accepted by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Service in the event of an audit. By that, you can rest assured that all your business financial documents are audit-ready and focus on developing your business’s core values. 
Don’t forget to sign up for the Shoeboxed blog if you’d like more information on how Shoeboxed has helped our clients with their financial challenges and other engaging stories about entrepreneurship, staying organized, DIY accounting, together with the latest Shoeboxed’s product updates.