How to Cheat Your Way to Efficiency: Automation

You may have read the book by Stephen Covey called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. I did, sometime back at the recommendation of one of my mentors. People big on self-improvement highly recommend it. I’ve kind of forgotten what the habits are (if you want, look them up here) but one thing that stuck with me was a quadrant of priorities, grouped into four (apparently called the “ Eisenhower Method “).

These quadrants are:

  • Important and Urgent e.g. a dealing with a heart attack
  • Important but Not Urgent e.g. posting on your business social media pages etc
  • Unimportant but Urgent e.g. interruptions, some types of “research”
  • Unimportant and Not Urgent e.g. using my personal Facebook account during the work day

Technology, in my opinion, allows us to cheat through some of these priorities and still reap the rewards. What do I mean? Let me explain.

There are certain business tasks that you just have to do every day, for example; answer incoming client calls, respond to client emails and resolve a misunderstanding. However, there are other tasks like sending out reminders or confirmations that you do not have to do manually. In Malawi, the businesses that tend to do this very well are quite obviously the larger ones. Banks and Utility service providers spring to mind. We get our bills automatically without daily manual intervention. If they didn’t their services would suck.

That’s where most freelancers, micro/small and medium-sized businesses in Malawi (and Africa) miss out. We are not automating and for that reason, life is harder for us. We already have too much to do and a lot of us are sole-traders: we wear so many hats that it can be so hard to stay on top of things. At the end of the day, our products and services may suffer, giving our clients a less than ideal expense of their hard earned money. A lot of us are not putting things in such a way that even if you are sick tomorrow, everything will keep moving. The good news is, there’s a way to make sure that certain things are automated and your time is optimized for more valuable matters that cannot be automated. it does not have to be expensive (require huge financial investments or specialized personnel). It actually requires simply learning a new thing, getting organized and automating that.

Your question might be: well then, what (and how) can I automate?

Some E-mail messages:

Ideally messages like reminders for due bills, meeting reminders, special offers in your sales pipeline and annual or monthly communication with clients. You can even group or segment your customer list e.g. new customers, loyal customers, and prospects. To do this, you would need an email automation tool. There are a number of free options available: here’s a list of 10 popular ones. Among some of the more popular, you may know of are MailChimp and Aweber. If I was going to use email automation software, my number one choice would be MailChimp.

However, you can always do things the old school way if you wanted to, like me. If you are going to do this, I suggest you make it look more personal. This can be achieved by using mail merge and scheduling even in Microsoft Outlook. This will help you have that “My name and business name are in this, they must have typed it out themselves” look. Mail merge coupled with scheduling the delivery of these emails ( here).

Social Media posting:

You literally do not have to post every day on your business’ pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and the rest. I don’t think I’m being clear: you can make it look like you post every 15 minutes if you want to. Automation allows you the glorious power of having technology do the heavy lifting for you. You can create posts in advance and schedule them for a specific date and time (text, images, video… whatever you want to put out to the world. Here’s is a list of some popular ones. I would recommend Hootsuite because that’s what I use. You can send up to 30 posts for free per month/ each month. If you want to send more, you have to sign up for a paid for the subscription. So far, since October 2016, the free subscription has sufficed for my clients and my own projects. In fact, a fellow entrepreneur taught me how to use it and it’s really improved my productivity and output: it makes me look way more consistent than nature would have me. It could also help you. In fact, shout-out to Nda, the founder of Events All Day for showing me how to use Hootsuite. It’s a very straightforward service and would take you a few hours to understand the most important aspects.

There are many other marketing automation solutions you should probably know about but this will have to do for now. Some quick tips before I go:

1. Schedule your content in advance.

When I do this I make sure it’s for at least one month. Once I automate it and make sure my posts are running, it’s like magic. Preparing one month’s posts (text and images) normally take me about 2 full days to organize.

2. If you are going to automate your social media, please do not start ignoring your social media pages. People will start to engage with your content because you are putting it out there. Part of social media engagement is community management. Make sure you respond within a reasonable time. If you are like me and struggle with routine, you can hire someone to do it for you.

3. Make sure that your social media marketing schedule is optimized for the best results. The best days of the week, times to post, types of content to post on respective platforms, the tone to use, imagery that people respond to, data usage related behaviours of Malawians and much more are some of the factors. In fact, that could be a whole different blog series of its own.

With that said, I hope that this has been helpful to you.

Would you like to add something? Teach me, I and my fellow entrepreneurs would like to learn. Even though I do this for a living, I know without a doubt there’s a lot I can learn.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

If you are a guru-entrepreneur, we would like to feature you on Afrineur’s upcoming podcast and vblog. Please connect.

Want to discover more about Maclean Mbepula? Find her on Linkedin or here on Medium. She’s written 3 books (one in entrepreneurship from a grassroots perspective (“Challenge Accepted) and 2 poetry books which are available for purchase on Amazon or you can sign up and get the kindle versions 100% FREE.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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Author. Tech-Entrepreneur. Web Designer, Artist / Creative/ Poet. Stand-Up Comedian. Founder of Afrineur, Creative Africa Space & Shekinah Invest. ENFP. :)

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Maclean Tamanda Mbepula

Maclean Tamanda Mbepula

Author. Tech-Entrepreneur. Web Designer, Artist / Creative/ Poet. Stand-Up Comedian. Founder of Afrineur, Creative Africa Space & Shekinah Invest. ENFP. :)

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