Shattering Ai Fantasies & Mastering The Automation Cycle
Mastering The Automation Cycle For Growth-Focused Small Businesses On A Budget
These’s days half the world has gone slap-happy for artificial intelligence-driven “solutions” which are more accurately distractions. As someone who installs and upgrades marketing automation systems on a regular basis, here is what you should know:
Whether you call them websites, sales funnels, marketing campaigns, or social media strategies, the mechanics are the same: Turn traffic into qualified leads and leads into informed, motivated, and loyal customers consistently. You don't need to wait for some "new" ai tool to accomplish the leverage, automation, and return on investment that you desire for as little as $20-40/mo.
Today's tools have gotten cheaper and easier to use, but for the sake of your professional knowledge here is a "small business focused" summary update on small business artificial intelligence. Why? Because the REAL economy is always dictated by people like you.
The people who provide a valuable, honest product or service. Mostly because, you don't need a magic solution to drive business, automate sales and eliminate tedious admin tasks. It's the same reason why almost nobody is using a VR headset to have meetings in the meta-verse. Sorry Mark Zuckerberg your ambition clouded your vision. Practical technology always wins. NOW: Chatbots are powerful, but they need good data to operate on. Data you must feed them. Data you probably lack, for now.
More on that in a minute. (Let's bury some more ai fantasies") Here is what you need to know to stay ahead of the curve and talk your buddies out of "investing" in some foolish new ai driven idea or startup. There are lots of marketers and sharks sprinkling the term "artificial intelligence" on what is essentially old, recycled garbage and fools line up for days to buy into the next big thing.
What is “artificial intelligence” exactly and why does it matter for small businesses?
Essentially: Smarter computers and even smarter software.
Machines that have a deeper understanding of human context and therefore a better ability to provide relevant meaningful information via simple and straightforward prompts. What can they do for us specifically in the context of running a better business?
Mostly: Automate the things we don’t want to do, the things we aren’t good at, or the things that cost a lot like sales, customer service, and other repetitive, relatively consistent tasks.
Newsflash: Much of this is already possible with simple straightforward automations I help clients leverage on a daily basis.
Here is your key takeaway:
Without a foundation of well-segmented company data, there is very little that automation or artificial intelligence tools like chatbots can help you with.
In other words, artificial intelligence tool requires good data to operate from. The better your data, the more you can capitalize on automation. Your foundational company data is therefore critical to your business leveraging automation and artificial intelligence.
By well-segmented data I mean things like:
Your customer list
Your prospect list
Forms and quiz data collected from your website and landing pages
Website visitor behavior data
Ad generated tracking pixel data (where legally obtained of course)
The good news is this: A simple, properly built, and connected website and CRM can create and collect this data on autopilot.
Best of all you don’t need a full-time software engineer or marketing executive on staff to accomplish what has become relatively straightforward tasks with software that costs as little as $20-$40/mo. Not only that, you don't need a head full of jargon to help your team implement these tools relatively quickly.
As business owners and team leaders, here is what you need to know in order to make informed actionable decisions. I call this the good, the bad, and the ugly. THE GOOD: Powerful and affordable automation tools already exist. They’ve gotten cheaper and easier to use than ever before. Largely, chasing the next shiny object is risky, expensive, and full of guesswork. Most of all it’s unnecessary.
For those new to my blog, over the last 20 years, I’ve helped hundreds of leaders and teams install and activate simple, profitable business automations. Effective Straightforward Systems That Produce:
Increased Qualified Lead Flow
Stabilized Lead Flow
Increased Average Order Value
Decreased Cost Per Lead
Decreased Return Rates
Increased Customer Satisfaction & Positive Reviews
Automate (Important) Repetitive Sales & Enrollment Tasks
Increased Visibility Of Meaningful Metrics Thus Better Decisionmaking
Unlike most accomplished consultants who want a minimum of $10,000 put on the table before they sit down to have a conversation, I often work with small, growth-focused businesses for a fraction of that cost. Not only that, in most cases, I’m willing to get my hands dirty, supply vetted experts with, proven blueprints, and oversee successful, profitable execution.
Not only that, we train your team to competently operate what we help you install. This helps you break what I call the “agency paradox.”
THE BAD: In other words, it would be nice to think that there is an agency that can build, operate and maintain the tools that create the outputs I mentioned above. However, on the rare chance, you find a competent and affordable agency that can “knock it out of the park” for you, you automatically become dependent on them for a critical part of your business. This rarely ends well. In most cases, however, most agencies are inexperienced and over-scheduled, and most have little to no experience running and growing a real business. Often, you are left to work with a green-horned junior “account exec” LOL on a slow and expensive journey into the desert.
You can find social media agencies who can flood you with traffic, you can find IT companies who can help you build a CRM. Rarely can you find a team that can help you turn that traffic into reliable leads and sales that fill your bank account and databases at the same time. Is it that easy?
It depends on a few things that I would like to discuss with you, and your team. For now, I encourage you to remain cautious, even skeptical while you finish this article.
I'm willing to put my money and time where my mouth is, as you will see in a few minutes.
WARNING: One last caution before we get to action steps: Digital marketing, funnels, and CRMs (when built correctly) are extremely powerful.
“Businesses think they want a lot of leads until they meet someone who can actually deliver a lot of leads.”
That means when the marketing is hot, and the leads are coming in fast, your team needs a good plan to close and deliver profitably on the added business. I call this the second of three bottlenecks of growth.
Navigating The Three Bottlenecks Of Growth:
Bottleneck #1: Marketing / Lead-Gen / Sales Automation - In other words, any growth-focused business needs a consistent supply of qualified leads with a streamlined sales/follow-up strategy.
You happen to be talking with someone who has more experience building these systems for small businesses than almost anyone. With 20 years in the game, $50M in direct results, and a Shark Tank semi-finalist, I know how to walk teams through this process.
Bottleneck #2: Team Growth Plan - When the marketing is hot, your team needs a solid plan to train, enroll and reward the efforts of your delivery team. This is not rocket science, but team growth requires planning and is always part of the work I do with executive teams because it matters.
This is a conversational process that we can talk through on your first call with me. Bottleneck #3: Funding & Cashflow Management - Growth often requires capital and capital investments to deliver your product/service at increased capacity. However, I’ve learned that by addressing bottlenecks #1 and #2 ahead of time, I rarely find it difficult to secure funding for well-planned projects that are demonstrating clear demand via the marketing and lead-gen tools I’ve just outlined. In other words, when we can demonstrate a clear and deliberate, data-driven market response and demonstrate to banks or venture capital that you have a plan to grow your team, the funding often shows up in ways you don’t expect.
In other words, don't let money stop you from scheduling that first call with me.
Before you do however, it's important that you know what you are really up against.
THE UGLY: Growth is challenging and it’s risky, but so is staying in your comfort zone. Being growth focused requires teams to sit down and talk about "the ugly" uncomfortable bits of our work and even personal lives.
However, take this one step at a time.
Raw "growth" isn't always the best goal, at first. Sometimes, the best thing to do in "phase one" is to stabilize your revenue, increase your average order value and decrease some of your admin and sales costs.
Then, from that new vantage point, you can plan your next moves from a calm and empowered place. There is one last thing to consider before you can call yourself “adequately informed” in order to make decisions for yourself and your team.
BONUS: Raw, Honest, Uncomfortable Truth #1:
These tools are powerful and they can be misused.
Screen time is the new cigarette and companies who prioritize remaining productive and profitable while helping their teams manage screen time will be the companies who win in tomorrow’s economy. You don’t have to look any further than the so-called “labor shortage” for evidence of this. These so-called “missing” people aren’t going to Mars and they aren’t sitting home collecting unemployment. All you have to do is look at the employment numbers to shatter that pervasive illusion and excuse. So, where are they going?
They are working for companies that automate the repetitive, dangerous, expensive, or tedious parts of their work. Companies that expose their teams to unrealistic amounts of screen time expose them to dangerous and expensive conditions.
Look no further than Uber, Door Dash, and many companies you’ve never heard of that follow a similar model.
Companies that use technology to intelligently disrupt, innovate and eliminate expensive and fickle middle management. In so many words, the people and talent you need to run and grow your business aren’t interested in working for companies that prioritize and glamorize effort, sweat, and labor. They work for companies that use technology to humanize the work experience. They gravitate toward companies who use tech to create healthier and more productive work cultures, instead of symbolic work cultures that glamorize the values of an era based on yesterday’s values. Yes, I know this is a hard pill to swallow for a lot of companies with "old-fashioned" values and that’s not to diminish the value of persistence and excellence. These values are always part of a winning team. However, I advise you to stay away from work communities that throw around the term "hard work" as if it was healthy, productive, or effective. Typically, those are people that are unwilling to sit down and plan their automation strategies. These same companies also often fail to invest in leadership training.
"If you have an hour to chop down a tree spend 45 minutes sharpening the axe." ~ Abraham Lincoln
Harvard Business Review has 25 years of good data that clear demonstrates teams who chronically overwork are less profitable, have higher turnover and experience more serious illness, injury, and extended time off work as opposed to those who leverage intelligent scheduling and prioritize a healthy work culture.
Are you fighting and resisting the age we are entering, or are you embracing it?
As Fortune 500 Marketing Advisor Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Technology always wins.”
Companies that embrace/leverage technology and humanizing work policies that strive to foster roles with dignity are the companies that will win in the next 5-10 years. Maybe the company you are working with now is not that company. Either way, the choices you make in the next few months can ensure your ladder is leaning against the right way. I’ve always been a private guy, working quietly, moving from project to project via word-of-mouth referrals. Truth is, I’m a marketing guy who has never needed much marketing.
However, this article signifies a shift for me. I’ve assembled a team of experts who are ready to get to work delivering the next level of automation leverage for honest businesses that care about their customers and their team.
One last nugget before decision time.
BONUS: Raw, Honest, Uncomfortable Truth #2: (The final point for today) What we are talking about here is above average.
Above-average ideas will always be faced with resistance by average levels of thinking and the status quo in general. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s simply the challenge that comes with innovation and effecting change. As you consider taking these ideas to your team (or your next opportunity) you should expect a degree of resistance. That’s okay, it’s perfectly natural and is part of the growth process. Good ideas are always met with well-meaning answers like:
“But this is the way we’ve always done it.”
Or, “That sounds risky. “
Or, “What if it doesn’t work out?”
In many ways, the doubters are right. They want to protect and preserve what they have helped build. Effecting change requires a gentle, persistent, and caring hand. Most of all, it takes good planning, budgeting, and incremental progress. I always say, if your marketing or tech upgrades feel like guessing or gambling, don’t do it. There is always a way to build, test and scale incrementally with your marketing and system automation technology.
There are powerful automation tools you can deploy in your business TODAY for as low as $20-40/mo.
You don’t have to wait for some magic artificial intelligence tool to drop out of the sky to solve all your marketing, sales, or customer service challenges.
The future belongs to those who take action. Those who lean into innovation with careful persistence. That’s what this two-part series is all about. Tune in next month to see how I help teams deploy powerful marketing automation for as little as $40/mo.
If you don’t want to wait, or you would like to see what working with me and my team is like.
Check out the Work with Me tab for more information.
See you next month.