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This article was published on September 21, 2017

11 ridiculously effective tools to help you automate your business (and life)

11 ridiculously effective tools to help you automate your business (and life)
Lucas Miller
Story by

Lucas Miller

Founder, Echelon Copy

Lucas Miller is the founder of Echelon Copy, a digital media agency headquartered in Orem, Utah that helps brands improve their online prese Lucas Miller is the founder of Echelon Copy, a digital media agency headquartered in Orem, Utah that helps brands improve their online presence.

As a business owner, you have a lot of responsibilities on your plate. From finding the best employees to ensuring that your customers stay happy, one thing is certain: you have no trouble staying busy.

Of course, staying busy doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being productive. Many small business owners end up wasting a lot of time on redundant, time-consuming tasks. Some of these might be extremely important, others might be more mundane.

The problem is that manually performing these activities almost always wastes a lot of time. Throw in your other responsibilities outside of work, and you might find yourself with hardly any time left over for the things that matter most.

The good news? We live in the age of the internet of things — a time when our world is more connected than ever. There are a stunning number of tools available to help you automate various parts of your business and your personal life.

From improving customer communications to simplifying your marketing, these valuable tools will help you make better use of your time so you can grow your small business faster than ever.

1) Expensify

Depending on the type of business you run, your employees will likely incur a lot of reimbursable expenses during their work. The problem, of course, is that trying to keep track of receipts and other expenses is hardly easy. Nobody likes to go through a stack of disorganized receipts in an effort to organize their finances.

This is where Expensify comes in. This handy tool allows employees to quickly scan their receipts, after which the expense is coded and submitted as part of an automated report. Best of all, you can also use it to track your own expenses, ensuring that you won’t have to waste time doing calculations on your own.

* Cost: Three subscription tiers — free, $5 per user per month and $9 per user per month

2) Zapier

Zapier has rapidly become one of the internet’s most popular tools for automating a wide range of business tasks. This valuable program allows business owners to integrate their web apps by creating Zaps — a series of instructions that ensure that if a particular action is taken within one app, a desired action will automatically take place in another.

With only a few clicks (no programming necessary), Zapier allows you to start workflows from any app to automate routine tasks. A fill-in-the-blank setup helps you add as many steps as you need into your Zap so that you don’t have to waste precious hours on mundane actions. Zapier supports over 750 apps, so you’ll have no trouble finding solutions for your needs! Pre-programmed Zaps are also available.

* Cost: Tiered options, including free plans and premium plans starting at $20/month

3) Stripe

More likely than not, your fledgling startup is hoping to make a splash by generating consistent online sales. While a lot of your efforts might be focused on finding a way to get people to make a purchase in the first place, you can’t ignore what happens after they click the “buy” button.

Stripe ensures that you can accept secure online payments from your customers, no matter how they want to pay. From international currencies to Bitcoin and Alipay, Stripe gives you access to a truly global audience. Better yet, this handy tool automates monthly invoices, credit card charges, and other key accounting tasks so that you don’t have to devote countless hours to this essential part of your business.

* Cost: 2.9% + 30 cents per successful card charge (pay as you go plan); enterprise plan also available

4) MailChimp

When it comes to sharing major updates about your company, maintaining contact with repeat customers, or simply spreading the word about your business, few marketing tactics are more effective than email. MailChimp helps you save time and craft emails that will actually make a difference.

MailChimp primarily achieves its impact by diving deep into marketing data, analyzing customers and email subscribers based on their past behaviors. Delivering beautifully designed emails to the right people at the right time will help you achieve better results from your campaigns so your startup can flourish.

* Cost: Subscriptions range from free to $199 per month depending on service tier and subscriber numbers

5) Occasion Station

The mental exhaustion of running your own business doesn’t just take its toll in the office — if you’re not careful, it can also affect your personal life as well. Your family won’t appreciate it if you forget birthdays, holidays, and other important events!

Occasion Station ensures that you’ll never forget the things that matter most. This helpful service allows you to automate many of those simple tasks that mean a lot to those you care about — like buying gifts and remembering anniversaries and other important events. By helping you give the right gift for any occasion, Occasion Station ensures that your busy work schedule won’t ruin these other events.

* Cost: $5 per month subscription, plus the cost of the purchased gifts

6) ActiveCampaign

For small businesses with a longer sales process, nurturing and converting leads is crucial for growth. ActiveCampaign helps your sales team by streamlining their work so they can be more effective in their consumer outreach efforts.

ActiveCampaign automatically assigns sales reps with key tasks and customized sales flows based on customer actions, while also giving scores to each lead to identify the best sales opportunities. Whether a lead will be best served by a drip campaign or a phone consultation, this tool will help salespeople identify the right tactics for success. This sales tool will keep leads from slipping through the cracks.

* Cost: Service tiers range from $17 per month to $149 per month

7) Needls.

Digital marketing can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if you don’t have the knowledge or skill set to handle this task on your own. Needls. streamlines the process of running a paid social media advertising campaign by gathering information about your business to create personalized ads on your behalf.

Needls. tracks real-time social media conversations to deliver your message to the people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service.

Rather than dealing with confusing scheduling dashboards and trying to generate content on your own, Needls. provides a cost-effective solution for reaching potential customers with social media advertising.

* Cost: $100 per month

8) Google Calendar

Sometimes the simplest tools work best, and this is especially true of Google Calendar. This versatile tool is perfect for both home and business use, allowing you to do everything from scheduling office meetings to setting up reminders about your home to-do list.

Adjusting your reminder settings will help you get the most out of this useful tool. Google Calendar can send reminders via email or push notifications, which can be sent between ten minutes and one week before your scheduled event. It’s the perfect way to keep track of important activities both at work and at home.

* Cost: Free

9) Asana

Even startups with a relatively small staff require the efforts of several people to finish major projects. Asana ensures that the entire team can stay on track with their responsibilities by allowing you to quickly create, prioritize, and assign tasks. Project templates make it easy to get everything set up and organized, while subtasks help you track the completion of each task.

With the ability to manage file uploads, share comments and conversations, schedule calendar updates and more, your team can more effectively share ideas and manage their tasks. Asana helps you spend less time in meetings and more time working so you can turn company goals into a reality.

* Cost: Three subscription tiers — free, $9.99 per user per month and an enterprise plan

10) OurHome

You might have a busy work schedule, but that doesn’t mean your chores and other home responsibilities are going to go away! Your family or roommates aren’t going to appreciate it if you slack off in your home care responsibilities — and letting your house turn into a pigsty will eventually carry over into your work life, as well.

OurHome is geared toward motivating children to do their chores, but it can make a big difference for anyone who needs help organizing their home life. The app allows users to quickly assign and schedule chores so you always know what needs to get done when. With the ability to rotate responsibilities and set up recurring assignments, the entire family will be able to stay on track.

* Cost: Free

11) PitchBox

Building a strong SEO presence is a key part of growing your startup, regardless of your niche. While contributing content to authority sites has long been accepted as one of the best ways to generate quality backlinks, navigating the outreach process is often easier said than done.

PitchBox facilitates your SEO outreach by helping you find authoritative websites for your niche so you can find the influencers and websites who could do the most good for your rankings. Better yet, PitchBox takes much of the stress out of this process with customized automation for email outreach and follow-up.

* Cost: Service tiers range from $195 per month to $1,500 per month

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