If iteration leads to perfection in product development, then automation leads to scale-up success for a startup. Startup automation, to be more precise, can be in many cases, the single most important thing which can make or break a business.
Why? Because startup automation, when applied correctly, can significantly accelerate the growth of a company as it attempts to scale up. Without it, there’s a whole lot of resources and issues that can slow down your progress.
It’s a point that many startup founders and entrepreneurs surprisingly miss. Some even think that automation is only for when a startup or fledgling business has moved on from its embryonic stage.
Quite the contrary though, the earlier you integrate startup automation into your planning, the easier it will be to grow your business and scale up later.
“It is totally possible to build a big company with a small team. The trick is called automation.”
Startup automation: the challenges
As a rule, startups don’t fail from terrible ideas. Although this does happen. But no, more often than not it’s because of poor planning, lack of resources, or execution methods.
The reasons behind this are clear. Usually startups simply don’t have the human resources and financial capital versus other larger companies. And here is where startup automation comes in – as many new startups and businesses are finding out in recent years.
First though, let’s look at some of the key challenges that makes startups so, well, special, for want of a better word. Those idiosyncrasies which make it challenging for them to succeed like a larger business does.
- small teams
- no hierarchy
- multiple roles & multitasking
- small budgets (if any)
- testing new waters and iterating
All of the above means one thing. Startups must eliminate waste – at all levels. This is the core strategy around the lean startup movement. And one of the best ways to eliminate waste is through automation.
The benefits of startup automation
So, what can automation do for your startup? In a nutshell it’s all about making the best of your available resources.
Most startups don’t have (enough) money. At least in the beginning. And you try to build something from scratch. So, the first thing you need to do is to make the best out of your limited budget which you might have accumulated usually from your valuable 3Fs (friends, family and fools). And by automating the majority of your procedures you won’t need to hire an extra employee and spend extra time on his/her training. The more procedures you automate the less people you’ll need.
Even for a small startup this one is really essential. Automation helps you to set the ground for future needs and problems that will come your way sooner or later. And so you’re also saving precious time. Small startup teams usually have to take care of EVERYTHING. Including HR, legal, admin, operations, etc. And believe us, we know all about this aspect. That’s why for example, we offer our portfolio companies a noise-free environment, so that they can focus on those things that are really important for their growth. And we also try to cultivate that mindset with them.
Automation helps you reduce frustration, and to keep going when problems (multi-tasking etc) come your way. You’re not going to lose excitement of your initial idea when you get to build it into business and face the real world problems. How? Because you will have already set up these procedures that will make things easier for you and your team. It’s about changing your mentality. You get and stay as much determined as you can, in order to grow.
How your startup can leverage automation
The benefits of startup automation are pretty clear. Saving time and money allows you the freedom to focus on more pressing commercial issues. Like growth and further product and customer development.
Where can you use automation? Here is a not conclusive list of areas where startup automation can put you on the road to success.
Marketing – metrics on tap
By automating things like sales results and marketing, you can monitor metrics and data and ensure that you always have a simple, high-level supervision of your business. A snapshot if you like. You can keep a close eye on your data, and know where you are and where you’re heading. That’s probably the best advice you can get as it helps you get a day-by-day overview of your real data and make the best out of it for your next steps.
Some good examples of marketing metrics that you can automate with simple tools are:
- Size of customer base
- Churn rate
- Acquisition cost
- Return On Ad Spend (ROAS)
- Retention cost
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Gone are the days of marketing automation being a luxury only for big companies. Advances in technology, and a plethora of tech startups themselves with solutions in this area mean than it is now both more affordable and practical.
Your startup can use automation in its inbound marketing if it’s experiencing rapid growth. Sales lead management tools for example, for when you no longer have the time to manually reach out to every lead. And marketing sales processes and customer on-boarding all can be automated. This will help you turn leads into customers. For example, you will be able to create a set up that executes activities as when specific actions happen, for example when a follow up message is sent to registered free users based on their activity or inactivity.
A lot of time is spent on human resources. And as a startup, time is one thing you do not have in abundance. Especially if you want to enjoy any kind of personal life. As with legal and other admin services, HR is all about documents, forms, and processes. Lucky for you, startup automation can help in this area too.
Activities such as importing documents, completing forms and applications, and reviewing job applications and resumes, can all be streamlined via automation tools.
Supply Chain Logistics
Running a supply chain can feel like running a business within a business. But again, automation is here to help in this arena – a lot! By automating order processes for example, you can aim for much better demand and inventory forecasting. You can also increase operations and labor efficiency. But most of all, you can streamline the delivery of goods and services through actions such as automated order entries.
Being hyper-aware of your immediate competitors is really important. So manually checking this every day/week/month can be a tiring an resource-hungry act. A lot of startup teams use automation to help on this element.
For example, you need to know when your competitors change pricing, or make any special offers, etc. For this you can create automated price comparisons. Something like this is really important if your startup is an e-commerce business. Numerous tools out there, such as Wiser, give your startup an at-a-glance picture of your competition’s pricing strategies.
Go forth and automate
Your growth and success will depend a lot on how much you automate. This is especially true for B2B SaaS startups. Startup automation allows you above all to serve your customers faster and more efficiently. All of our portfolio companies aim to do exactly that. Yodeck for example has automated all of its transactions with customers including subscriptions, payments, feedback etc. As well as such processes, startup automation helps you counterbalance a lack of some skills, such as marketing techniques.
Also, significantly, some other key benefits of startup automation are that you will reduce mistakes, and have more stability and control. While you can also plan ahead better and make gradual improvements faster. At the end of the day, it’s all about building an engine for growth and setting the ground for your startup’s success.
Put short, automation is the key to helping you scale up. Faster, and more efficiently.