Everyone in business today is being asked to do more with less. There is constant pressure to improve performance, maintain growth and beat the numbers. From large multinationals to independent contractors, increasing efficiency is top priority. Here are five tips that you will help you grow your business, without adding more overhead:
Automate tasks with software. Lots of tools are now available that allow for many manual tasks to be automated. For example, social media management tools such as Buffer or HootSuite let you queue up content and have it post automatically. They also let you manage social media as a team, instead of as individuals. Most blogging software also has similar functions. Set up content to post in advance, which frees you up to focus on generating new material.
Email marketing can also easily be automated. Low-priced software from vendors such as Hubspot and Marketo allow small companies to build automated customer relationship management systems that rival the sophistication of what Amazon has had for years.
Consider what other tasks you can automate, such as billing or accounting. Even public relations teams can set up daily searches to look for relevant articles based on keywords, instead of reading each headline one by one.
Focus on scalable channels and ignore everything else. Email is still the most cost-efficient and scalable channel. Every organization should have an email strategy. Even the smallest retailer can effectively use email to drive additional in-store traffic or online sales. Digital advertising and social media are also scalable and both require very little money to get started. While it does take time and effort to build a social media following, once you have it in place, it’s powerful and effective.
Door-to-door selling, cold calling and other traditional methods of sales are not scalable. Instead of adding headcount to sales, focus on giving your sales team more warm leads to follow up on. Make the sales team more efficient, rather than larger.
Build your business through referrals. Referrals are a simple way to grow a business. Asking customers for referrals directly is low-hanging fruit that everyone should take advantage of. But why stop there? It’s simple to develop a rewards system to encourage customer referrals. This is a popular technique with many retailers and consumer brands. But business-to-business companies can also adopt this by providing incentives or rewards to customers for referrals or loyalty.
The absolute best way to accomplish this though is to incorporate sharing into your product. This approach has been exploited over and over again by many Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook, Dropbox, AirBnB or even Yelp. Their products require them to be shared in order to be used effectively.
Be an efficient leader and project manager. Effectively managing your own time is another key area that will help you improve the overall efficiency of your business. Focus on efficient business communications by training people to contact you by email instead of by phone. Why? Email is searchable, scalable, documented, available 24/7 in the cloud and there are a host of productivity tools available to become even more effective with it.
Become a planing ace, and schedule your entire week in advance. In order to be effective at this, your calendar must be sacrosanct. If it’s not on your schedule, then the meeting shouldn’t take place. This takes discipline to implement. Be polite but firm with people and they will respect it and get on board. Another great tip is to utilize cloud-based tools such as Dropbox, Google Docs, Asana, Basecamp and Box. This will allow you to easily share important documents with people and work collaboratively. With all your files in the cloud, you can work anywhere at anytime, even without your workstation.
Don’t aim for perfection. Be smart when implementing any of these ideas. Find small opportunities to test and learn as you go. Some of these ideas will require a significant amount of investment, social media for example, before it will yield measurable results. That doesn’t mean you should give up on it, it means that you need to invest in multiple areas at the same time. Scale the ones that show results and nurture the other ones.
Aim to improve the quality over the long term by making each iteration slightly better. Don’t worry about getting it right on the first try -- you won’t. It’s repeated often in my office that the first iPhone shipped without a copy/paste function, and that didn’t stop Apple from launching it. When in doubt, just remember what’s painted in the hall at Facebook: “Done is better than perfect.”
Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.