053 – Creative ways to use automation in your agency

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053 – Creative ways to use automation in your agency

 
 
00:00 / 00:24:12
 
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This episode digs into some places you can add automation into your agency. Automation is a great way to free up future-you’s time. There’s an upfront investment of time but it continues to pay back forever.

You’ll learn some places to start thinking about automation, like onboarding, client education, feedback, getting testimonials and upselling your clients.

Resources mentioned in the episode

Connect with James

About James

James is the co-founder of Content Snare and Aktura Technology. Once a web designer, his new priority is to help web designers and developers regain their lives, work less and get better clients.

He does this by writing helpful posts, building software and working with web designers to deliver the complex web development that they don't normally handle.

Get James' agency toolkit to discover the best tools and resources for creative and digital agencies

Transcript

James Rose:

Good day and welcome back to another episode of Agency Highway. Today, I have no guest. It's just me blabbering on about some stuff. By now, you probably know that I'm a really big fan of automation. So I thought, what I would like to do this week is basically just run over a few creative ideas for using automation in your digital agency, maybe some stuff that you might not have thought about automating, maybe just to get your mind going about what is possible. Because you know, automation means that you get to work less hours and who doesn't want that, right? Over the years, I've spent quite a lot of time building automation for different parts of our business. And it kind of adds up over time it adds together and eventually you find that there's always stuff being done without your input. I mean, even if it's only a few minutes here and there that it's saving you, if it takes, let's say, an hour to set up and it saves you five minutes a week, it's only going to be, I don't know, I can't I can't do math. It's going to be 12 weeks until that automation is essentially breaking even in air quotes. And then all those lots of five minutes from that point onwards are free time that you're getting back, right?And it doesn't sound like much. But when you've got lots of these little five minute things, or maybe some 10 minute things added together, it adds up to a lot of time saved. So this is why I'm such a big fan of automation. But yeah, let's let's dig into a few of my favorite examples of how you can use marketing automation in your agency. 

James Rose:

So one of the first ones is client on-boarding. And I like this because in the beginning stages of a project, there's a lot of stuff you have to communicate with clients and I mean, this is comes into a lot of different places in the process, it might be on your website itself. You might have a, you know, our process page or something that you using your sales material even to show why you're so awesome. I don't know. But it also might be reiterated in your proposals, all this kind of stuff. I mean, they should have a fairly good idea of how your process works even before they've signed, signed off on a quote and paid. But as you know, people tend to skip over things and forget things. So I think you have to reiterate a lot of things. And this is one of the ways to do that. 

James Rose:

So you could fire off an email sequence immediately after they sign their proposal or maybe after they've paid their quote or pay their initial deposit. You could fire off an email that sends them something about what the next step in the process is. Like process, sorry, the project process and timelines, what information you'll need from them and when and these could be in separate emails that come a few days after another. And it kind of gives clients the feeling that you are constantly in communication with them. And given that this is a really big sore point for a lot of people. One of the biggest complaints I've heard about web designers is that they're just not fast enough at responding to emails or the communication is not there, it's lacking. So having emails go out, that are giving clients peace of mind in a way can be really helpful. So yeah, you might just follow through parts of your process and tell them what you need from them and when you might even decide to include some video in these emails so that can add another level like a personal level, personal touch, I mean, to these emails. When a client opens an email clicks a link and sees your mug talking to them, that can really make them feel special in a way. So and obviously a video image means 1000 words in a video is what 30 images per second on average. So that's a lot of words you can convey in a video. So this is a big thing like video is becoming more and more important. So I'm a big fan of including video in emails like this. And obviously Loom, if you haven't heard of it already, Loom is an amazing tool for creating videos that you can just send to clients. It's worth mentioning that you don't necessarily have to personalize these videos to their business like what I'm talking about here is an automated series of emails that goes out to most if not all of your clients that has you speaking on camera. So if you want to send individual personal videos to clients, I'm going to get into that a little bit further in this episode.

James Rose:

We Moving on to number two, one of the one of my favorite things to automate is education. And just having some automated communication going with your clients. It kind of follows on from what I was just talking about, with having emails go back just to make it seem like you're communicating a bit more to put your client's mind at ease. But oh, yeah, so clients can get pretty anxious without regular communications, like I said, so you can basically have, if you've got a standard process, that of your Web Designs or whatever kind of project they have going on, like a logo design or whatever. And you've got a standard process for that, that spans you know, two or three weeks you might have those first couple of weeks for of a few emails that go out, just sort of saying what you and your team are working on. You know, in an ideal world, I wouldn't advocate sending these out and not actually doing any work. But let's if you've got this down to a process and You know, by day five, you're normally working on some things, put that in an email, and it can go out automatically without you having to worry about it. And another one, in during this stage, I find it that's really good to send out is sending out like a educational material for your clients. So this might have to do with marketing, for example. So if you're building a website, and you've probably in your proposal, I think it's really good to say things like that marketing isn't included(, if you're just building a website, for example, to avoid those questions, like, why isn't my page ranking on page one for (inaudible), three days off you launch? So you can actually start seeding those ideas, you might have done it in the proposal, but you can also reiterate it here. 

James Rose:

You know, you can start talking about SEO, you can start talking about marketing campaigns, website maintenance and care plans, and seeding these ideas in automatic emails as you're working on the project. So that is another good example. I know Jennifer Bourn is a really big advocate of this. And it's a lot of what she teaches actually in her client management system. Profitable project plan is the name of the course. And I will link up to the episode of Agency Highway that we spoke about this it was actually episode nine. So it's a long time ago now, but it's actually a very popular episode. So check out agencyhighway.com/9 to get that. 

James Rose:

And yeah, when we talk pretty much all about this and using automated communication in this stage of the project to put your clients minds at ease and up sells and all that kind of stuff. 

James Rose:

Okay, number three of my favorite things to automate for agencies is getting feedback reviews and testimonials. So this is a kind of big topic. There's a lot of things going on there. Feedback reviews and testimonials. So I guess something I haven't really touched on here is how I'm flyering these email chains off. And I actually use Active Campaign as my CRM and email automation provider. So I've got like a, I don't know the best way to describe this without showing you on audio. But if your familiar with Trello, or the Kanban style card view, where you have lots of columns, and little boxes in these columns that represent something like it might be a project but in CRM terms, it's usually referred to as a deal. But we actually used Active Campaign, we had a special deals board, that was essentially for stages of the project. So as someone signs their proposal, it might they might get automatically moved to the science proposal stage, and then you might move them to another box when you start work which could fire off the previous stuff we're talking about with automated communication. And then at the end of a project, we would also drop them into a project finished column. And that would automatically fire off this one that I'm about to talk about with getting feedback, reviews and testimonials. So one of the first things we would do is ask about how the process was. So it asked questions like, how happy Were you with the overall result of your website? How happy Were you with communication? What did we do well? What could we improve? I really like that question. “What can we improve?” because it you know, it makes them be honest and not, It doesn't make them be honest. But if you just say, Were you happy? They're going to go? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. A lot of people tend to do that, right? But if you say, what is one specific thing that we can improve, you'll get some really good feedback out of that. But yeah, so and the automation point for this is that that might just be a form set up on your website using Gravity Forms is one of choices. But then so based on them getting dragged into the I'm done with this column like this projects done column. It would maybe wait three or four days before sending off an email to say, “Hey, now that your website's live, just wanted to make sure everything's cool. And could you, like shoot us some feedback on using this form because we're always looking for ways to improve..” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, you write whatever you want in the email. But the idea is you're getting them back to that feedback form. Yes, so the important thing for the automation here is having at least one field that is a numerical value, like “Overall, how happy were you with the results” or whatever. So the point here is what you can actually do is then have an automation set up. This is probably in something like Zapier, after a person has submitted a contact form that you know, maybe nine or above if it's an eight, nine or 10, you might fire off an email I'll to ask them to leave your review on whether that's on Google or Facebook. 

James Rose:

Of course, side note here, you can actually generate direct links to both Facebook reviews and Google reviews. So the easier you can make it for people, the better. So if they get an email where it's like, oh my God, thank you so much. I'm so glad you had a good experience with us. If it's cool, would you mind leaving us a review on Facebook or Google, whatever your favorite platform is, and you can link Facebook and Google directly to the place where they can type in the review. I'll have to drop some links in the show notes about that. I don't have them on hand. But just search creating a direct link to Google Facebook. And there's there's plenty of guides out there. I mean, with Facebook, I think it pretty much just ends up being facebook.com/yourpagename/reviews. I believe it is something like that. And then Google, you have to do some tricks like Getting your business ID and then putting it in this special link. But yeah, I'll put some links in about this. 

James Rose:

What's next? Another thing you might want to do is if they score eight, or like five to eight, you might send a different email. And if it's below below five, you might send an email to ask why, obviously. Well, they probably provided you some information in the form. So maybe I wouldn't automate that. But asking for reviews can work pretty well. Just on asking for reviews. There's a lot of ways you can go about that, like some people are very happy to leave a review with no incentivization, but some agencies also like to incentivize it in some way whether that's, I don't know, a discount on future services. Although I've heard very mixed reports about that. Like it doesn't work very well. Time and time again. I've heard and now experience the best result has been cash. Like a like $100, Amazon gift card or a $50 gift card or something like that, whenever you can afford to get a good review, you know that 50 or 100 bucks isn't a lot to get a really good review. So if that, you know, gets people across the line, then it can be very good for your business.

James Rose:

Alright, what next?

James Rose:

So we've so far we've done client on-boarding, education and communication, feedback and reviews. Yeah, so. So that's why I lumped all that together the feedback reviews and testimonials. That was because you can use a series of automations to ask for the feedback. And then based on that feedback, collect reviews and testimonials. I mean, if you want testimonials for your website, you could always just ask them to reply to that email with a testimonial and you'll give them a link to their site or whatever.

James Rose:

Although a lot of clients probably don't understand the value of a link. But yeah, so it's up to you, but you can use automation to follow up and get reviews and testimonials for your site in your business. 

James Rose:

OK, so the last one. Actually you know what, I'm going to tie another bit into this one on collecting feedback and testimonials. You can also ask for referrals. It's another good opportunity to do that. I mean, obviously you don't want to bombard people you don't want to say ask for feedback and and be like, Hey, can you leave us a review? Give us a testimonial and send someone our way? Generally, you want to ask for one action at a time like I wouldn't even ask for them to review on both Google and Facebook. I'd just say hey, look, pick the one. You might even isolate just one and say just leave a review on Google, whatever is more important to you. But asking for referrals is another one. So, referrals are obviously such a good source of business for, I mean, most businesses but especially agencies. The thing is, generally people will only be prompted to refer work to you if they get directly asked something like who built your website or if someone's complaining about a web developer, then they might remember, I've had this great experience and refer work to you. So another great way to get referrals is to actually prompt your clients. So you could have an automatic email that goes out maybe two months after the things finished maybe even less, just to say, hey, just just checking in, see how things are.

James Rose:

You know, do you know anyone who might be looking for website work? I mean that that's a pretty crappy example. I wouldn't word it like that. But just a little prompt in an email can make people go Oh, yeah, actually, I remember someone such and such was talking about this the other day and I forgot to follow it up. Maybe you should talk to them or you can ask them to do an email intro or something like that. So just prompting people to refer work your way can go a long way.

James Rose:

Again, you can offer incentives for this like a headhunting, not a headhunter discount. What do you call it? Just a referral fee? Right? So if it's a $5,000 website, you might refer, i don't know 10%, might be a bit too much. It depends what you can get away with. You know, some people really like getting referral fees. So if you can pay, like incentivize that referral somehow it can, it can work well. But honestly, I've spoken to a lot of people who have said things like, I am just happy to refer work to you, I don't even want the referral fee, because it feels it might feel to them like it is kind of poisoning the referral a little bit like making it for the wrong reasons, if that makes sense. So you know, there's actually a lot of nice people out there who think like that and won't even want a referral fee. So yeah, that's another possibility.

James Rose:

And final one, I would like to dig into, like a thing to automate in your agency are client check ins. So this can be used in a variety of ways. But let's say, the most basic example is checking in after a website project is finished. So maybe every couple of months, you know, a year, you might send out an email and just says, Hey, I just wanted to see how things are going with the website, maybe some updates. If you're sending this out to all your previous clients, like if this was a broadcast, you might just send some updates about what's new in the web design and marketing world or like, you know, a big one back when SSL certificates were, all of a sudden, you know, the Google-mageddon thing or whatever, when everyone without SSL was really worried. A lot of people used that as an announcement to their client base to be like, Hey, we can set SSL For you to avoid all of this. So it's kind of educational and a potential up-sell to your services. So that's a good way to check in. I've also used this in the past when for maintenance clients or anyone that's on some kind of recurring thing. You know, you could send obviously personal videos or emails to people. So I use a tool called Bonjoro, which is amazing for sending really quick videos to clients. It basically pops up on my phone with a notification. I click it and hit record, talk to the phone and it automatically sends that off to the client. So you might fire off one of those every month. 

James Rose:

But I've seen it automated as well whether it was just like a standard monthly check in, you know, just wanted to make sure everything's okay this month. Is there anything we can help with on your website? These are for people on your care plans. So you can just make sure they're getting the use of it. You know, because if people aren't actually using your care plan and requesting changes and stuff, they might realize that they don't need that service. So you could be like, Hey, here's some cool stuff you know, you haven't used a task in a while, here's some things we can do for you. Which can actually go a long way for retention rather than trying to hope they just don't request any changes, but then they might cancel. It's actually in your best interest a lot of the time for them to be making changes to their websites to justify your position and justify them paying you money. 

James Rose:

So yeah, automated client check ins are an option and semi-automated using a tool like Bonjoro or Loom where you can record something and send it to them, say once a month or every couple of months. So think that's it. 

James Rose:

That's all I really wanted to dig into. I mean, there's a kind of a bonus one like, I have touched on it a little bit by sending announcements like that SSL thing. This isn't so much automation, this is more just like email automation. You could send a weekly newsletter to your previous clients or current clients or whatever, which is literally just a wrap up of things that you think are important for them to know. So, the reason you would do this is because it's all about staying Top of Mind and this is for referrals as well. If you want people to refer work to you, they have to actually remember you when the time comes. And if you are being like you're emailing them once a week or you're in regular communication, there's a much higher chance they'll actually remember you when the time comes. And that's why I'm a big advocate of using weekly newsletters. This is something I've done for the Content Snare I guess and Agency Highway audience for a long time, with the Web Design Weekly if you aren't on that you can jump on it at contentsnare.com/weekly. And I've had a lot of people tell me that they've unsubscribed from basically every newsletter except mine. Because they know that it's going to have quality stuff. So that's what I'm trying to get to here is emphasizing that it has to be quality. You can't just send a crappy newsletter with stuff people don't care about and expect them to stay subscribed. People are very trigger happy on the unsubscribe button these days. So you really need to have, they need to feel like they're going to miss out if they unsubscribe. So the stuff you share has to be very, very helpful. 

James Rose:

And another link, I'll drop into the show notes for this episode, which by the way will be at agencyhighway.com/53, because that's the episode number. I will drop in a link to my video series on my automation website jimmyrose.me. I've got a post and a video series about nurturing leads with a weekly curated newsletter and curated is the word I want to emphasize here because it basically means you're picking out the best content that's applicable to your audience each week. So that's that's the key to making it a quality newsletter. 

James Rose:

So yeah, that was the last real thing I wanted to mention. It's like I said, another semi-automated thing. But you know, as far as time leverage goes, like the amount of time spent for the bank, and the ROI. I guess, on that time spent, I think it's one of the best options. And so that's why I've been doing a weekly newsletter for well, a year. I mean, I think it's over a year now. So yeah. 

James Rose:

That's it. I'm going to wrap up there. I just wanted to run over a few different ways, automation uses of automation for your agency. I hope that was helpful. Let me know I'm always interested to hear of some cool use cases of automation. So if you have done something you think is awesome, please email me at support@contentsnare.com and eventually, I'd like to do a wrap up of some things on jimmyrose.me, the automation website. So, yeah, shoot me a line if you've got something like a really cool automation that you've done. That's it. Hopefully that was helpful and I'll see you in the next episode.