Time Hacks

5 Ways Service Based Businesses Can Use Automation

Automation has so many different levels and can be used for any business, blog and the like.  Oftentimes when you hear about automation, it’s about how to post automatically to social media, copy data to a spreadsheet or add email subscribers to an email list.  Fortunately, the possibilities are endless and it’s not all about social media.

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1. Online Booking

This is the #1 way that automation can be used for a service-based business.  I often see businesses that have an email address to send inquiries to for booking services. This causes too much back and forth and potential for booking mistakes and /or plain confusion.  It also takes away time that you could be spending performing your services or working on other aspects of business. I suggest using an online booking tool (I use Acuity Scheduling), set your available days and times on your account and add the ”Book” link to your social media profiles.  Instagram actually has the book button for a few different online booking tools (Acuity Scheduling, Appointments by Square, Appointy, Avec, BeautyDate, Booksy, Fresha, Genbook, GetSquire,GlossGenius, Gopanache, MyTime, Salon Iris, Schedulicity, Schedulista, Setmore, Shore, StyleSeat, Treatwell and Vagaro), so you can make it easier for people to book with you right from your profile.


When using a booking tool, depending on what you use there may be automatic email reminders, appointments added to you and your clients Google Calendar, and rescheduling options without you having to be involved.  Many of these tools also have built in billing, so depending on the service you provide, if prepayment or deposits are required, this can also be done without you being present. Lastly, if you wanted to send a satisfaction survey, many tools have the option to do this automatically after a set amount of time after the service was rendered.

2. Up Sell products or services

Having a list of your clients and their purchase/service history is helpful for up selling.  If you keep track of and tag your clients in an email marketing program, you can add them to a small email funnel pitching more products and services that they would benefit from.  For example, if you are a beautician and gave a client highlights, if you know a certain conditioner that you sell is great for color-treated hair without all the chemicals that are in standard conditioners, you can put them into a small 3-part email funnel that tells them the best ways to keep color treated hair healthy.  Ultimately you will lead them to the conditioner and make it available to purchase in the email.

This is the same with service up sells.  If a client had a manicure and you know they will need another in two weeks, you can send them an email reminder in 1.5 weeks to schedule an appointment, include a discount code and a link to book in the email.  You can also suggest certain services related to the service they had done at their appointment in an email such as a a nail service upgrade of powder nails rather than gel. For this, you would explain the benefits of powder over gel and possibly offer a discount code for them to try it out.  The beauty in all this is you don’t have to manually do any of it, only set the initial emails up. After that, your products and services will be selling themselves for you on autopilot.


3. Intake Forms & Onboarding

If you are a service based business, you should have an intake form/questionnaire of some sort.  It’s helpful for you to get to know your client and their needs. This is going to make it easier for you to work with them and make suggestions for what they may need.  You also just want to have customer details to save in a CRM tool (Client Relation Management). By having an intake questionnaire, it will save time from them having to fill one out in person (ultimately cutting into the appointment time). You will also have a little background on the client before your appointment which is always a bonus.

4. Satisfaction Survey

Ratings are a huge deal in the service industry because people want to work with someone that people have had a great experience with.  No one wants bad service, so if you have a great rating you are likely going to get more clients. This is why you should send a satisfaction survey after every appointment.  If the online booking tool you use doesn’t have a survey option, you can always create one using Google Forms, Typeform, Interact or Survey Monkey. Keep the survey short so they don’t lose interest and abandon it, and also make sure you have a rating scale question on it.  There is no purpose in sending this survey manually; you can send it using automation in your email marketing platform. The results from your survey and ratings can be used on you website for the reviews page and on social media to show potential clients that you have great reviews.

5. Offboarding

There may be things that a client needs to know after the service has been completed.  For example, if you are a graphic designer and designed a website, there may be things that they can update and manage without you.  Send an offboarding automated email with details on how to make the updates themselves. Include any other information that they may need to know as well.  This will lessen the need for them to reach out to you for updates because they have the instructions on how to do it. Another example is if you are a massage therapist.  After a session, there may be things that they should or should not do for a few days. Along with telling them in person at the end of the appointment, send a reminder email with the details in it so they will have a copy of it.


As a service based business, a personal touch and seamless workflow are key.  Any confusion or disconnects along the way can cause clients to not want to work with you again.  To lessen that possibility, think about your entire workflow from booking to offboarding and pinpoint the areas where you can improve the efficiency of the process.

Here are two examples of service based workflows:

Beauty Professional

  • Instagram feed heavily focused on your client projects (include before and after) and client satisfaction/quotes

  • Add a “Book Now” button to Instagram

  • Main Link in you social profile goes to your website where they will learn more details about you, your services and see more testimonials

  • Link in header of website “Work with me”

  • Work with me page is a sales page - “Book Now” button on sales page

  • They are taken to a scheduling page which includes intake questionnaire .  If payment is required, this will be built in as well.

  • Once appointment is booked, details are added to your calendar and the clients.

  • Client is tagged in email marketing platform based on service purchased

  • Appointment reminder is sent

  • After appointment, client begins receiving four-part email funnel

    • Satisfaction survey

    • One helpful tip related to service

    • Another helpful tip

    • Third helpful tip directly related to upsell of product/service

  • Periodic targeted emails sent to email list segment for clients that purchased a specific service.

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The only things that involves you to be present (aka human interaction) in this whole process is setting up the automated tasks and emails, then the actual appointments (the fun stuff!).


Photographer

  • Instagram feed with heavy focus on your photography work

  • Book Now button on Instagram + social media main url with linked pages (like Linktree but not them). Potential client clicks button and are taken to your scheduling page to see availability and book.

    OR

  • Potential client clicks “Work with me” link in website header and is taken to sales page with package, pricing and details.

  • Book now button directs to scheduling page

  • Intake questionnaire is filled out, deposit or total paid (if necessary) appointment is booked

  • Client tagged accordingly in email marketing platform.

  • Appointment added to you and your clients Google Calendars

  • Appointment reminder is sent

  • After photoshoot, invoice for remaining balance is sent (if necessary)

  • Photos are sent to client or they are provided website gallery credentials

  • After photos are delivered, client begins receiving three-part email funnel

    • Satisfaction survey

    • One helpful tip related to their photoshoot

    • Third helpful tip directly related to upsell of product/service (photos enlarged and mounted/framed, photo books, photos printed on products, etc.).

  • Periodic targeted emails sent to email list segment for clients that purchased a specific service.

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In this example, the only human interaction involved is again, the inital setup of the automated tasks and emails, the actual photoshoot and delivering the final photos to the client.


If you are a service provider and struggling to determine where you can add automation into your processes, hopefully these examples have given you some ideas! Automation is for everyone no matter how big or small your processes are.





Why You Need a Monthly Planning Session (+ what to do in it)

I’m a huge advocate of planning. It’s one of the things that attributes to keeping me sane in this world of blogging. Without a plan, a lot of wasted time happens (something that I’m not interested in - hence my love for automation). I love planning things out as best as I can and though I know that things don’t always go as expected, at least having a plan will provide a good sense of direction.

When it comes to serious blogging...like if you want to start making money from blogging...you have to be organized and strategic.  Finding the time to plan out your blog content can be challenging especially if you are already spread thin in your personal life. This is one reason why I’ve implemented a monthly planning session where I plan out all of my blog content for the following month in just a 2-3 hour time frame one Saturday a month.  Today I will be discussing the benefits of this and what I do to get one month of content planned in just a few hours.

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I first started monthly planning a little over a year ago after I got tired of getting behind with blogging due to not making time to plan out my content. Well, let me rephrase...I used to plan out content on a weekly basis.  I had no idea what topics I wanted to post about for the week, so I would decide randomly on Sunday or Monday, add the post to my content calendar and immediately find myself in struggle mode. Struggle mode meant I was trying to pull ideas and content together for a post that would be publishing in a few days.  This often lead to not posting at all or a quickly thrown together post (not a good look!). This was all due to a lack of proper planning. Planning is one thing...proper planning is another.

Around this time, my daughter was 1 year old and I rarely had me time (this is still true today actually, ha!).  My Mom offered to watch her one Saturday a month to give me a set time to have me time (my husband often works weekends so there’s little opportunity for Lauren time!).  It was then that I decided to dedicate a few hours of the day to begin planning my content out for the following month. This way, I could have a better hold on what was going on, felt more at ease about being consistent posting and it was just good overall for sanity sake!  I posted up at a Starbucks for a few hours and got all of my content planned out!


Now that you know a little background info on how this all came to be, it’s time for you to start implementing your own monthly planning session into your life! Here’s how-

The Tools:

1 / A blogging editorial calendar

I use Trello for my editorial calendar, but you can use whatever works for you.  I used to use Asana before Trello, Google Docs before Asana and good old pen and sketchbook before Docs. Editorial Calendars are so important to have when running a blog is mainly because they keep your affairs in order.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Blog Needs an Editorial Calendar

2 / A running list of content ideas

I keep my ideas for new blog posts in Trello.  Before that I used Evernote and before that...a very unorganized notebook, lol! Where can you get ideas for new content?

a. Market Research- I have an automated task set up that searches for a specific hashtag on twitter and saves it to a Google Sheet.  I find lots of content ideas from this spreadsheet. If there is a niche specific hashtag or other keywords that your audience uses on Twitter when asking for help, you should definitely set up the automated task that I created to do the searching for you!

Related: 3 Smart Reasons Why You Need to Automate Market Research

b. Your random ideas- I get blog post ideas randomly sometimes.  They tend to also be at the most inopportune times (in line in the grocery store, while doing laundry, in the middle of the night, etc.).  To remedy the possibility of forgetting these ideas, I created a widget on my phone to type the idea into and it is instantly saved to my Trello board.  Minimal effort on my end, maximum asset in my blogging process. If you want to set a similar widget up on your phone, here’s a post about how to do it.

c. Your audience- the Instagram Stories Questions sticker was a game changer for the blogging community because it gave you the opportunity to ask your audience a question and get a response in an easy format.  Easy is the key. Surveys are awesome and have such great benefits, but the longer a survey is, the less likely it is going to be completed. If you just have a series of 1-3 questions to ask, put it on a Story and see what you audience says!  Even better than that, if you want to increase your chances of getting a response, use the Poll sticker because all the follower has to do is tap one answer. These two tools can easily give you content ideas.

d. Your Inbox - Does your audience tend to ask you the same questions all the time?  These are the types of things to keep track of so you can create content surrounding it.  The questions that people are always asking are questions that people who haven’t come across your blog are also wondering!  This applies to blog comments, social media comments, etc. also. Find out what your audience already wants to know!

3 / A place to work away from home

Your planning session needs to be away from home so you can eliminate distractions and focus 100% of your time on planning your content.  I know this is not always possible, but if you know that you have one day a month to plan, you should get babysitters, etc. scheduled out in advance as well. Also, being in a different surrounding always helps the creative juices flow better!

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The Process:

  1. Pack up all of your electronics to take with you - Laptop, iPad, chargers (major key!), notebooks, etc.  Get all of your things together in advance so you don’t forget anything. You could even create a packing list if you want to ensure you don’t forget anything.  Also, make sure your electronics are fully charged.

  2. Pick a place to work from - I generally go to a coffee shop because caffeine equals productivity on 1000 for me, ha! You can also go to a library, a park, a cafe, etc. Bonus points if the location has free WiFi!  If the place you go doesn’t have WiFi and you don’t want to use your mobile data, there are things you can still do with no connection if you use apps that offer an offline mode.

  3. Find a place to sit that’s next to a plug - this is also a major key! These are the spots that are most popular, so you may have to get there early to get a good seat.  If you know the place you want to go to is busy between 12-4, you may want to get there at 11 or 5. If you still find yourself with no plug availability, if your electronics are 100% charged you can begin working and make a move as soon as someone next to a plug leaves.

  4. Review the previous months content on your calendar - is there anything that you wanted to post that you didn’t get around to posting for some reason?  Do you really want to post it? Move it to the next month.

  5. Begin focusing on the content for next month- this is where I start to really get into it. You will be planning out things based on the focus for your blog.  Maybe you do video content. You will be planning out video topics.  Perhaps you have a podcast. You will be planning out show topics.

    There are three things that I plan out in my session:

    • My main goal for the month - This is something that everyone should have.  You want to have goals to hit, so you should consciously include them on your editorial calendar so they can stay in the forefront of your mind.

    • My blog posts for the month - I search through my post ideas that I have sourced from the various locations mentioned above then add them to the list for the month. Sometimes I will have a theme for the month, so my posts will all be related to a specific topic.  For example, in January I focused on blogging organization as it was a new year and that’s what people do in the new year. If you decide on a theme for a month, it can make it easier to choose post ideas as well.

    • My email marketing contents for the month - If I plan out the emails that I want to send to my list, it’s easier to keep up with it and not neglect them!  Often times we tend to get all of these email list subscribers but end up forgetting about them and rarely email them. What’s the point of having a list if you never communicate with them? I look at my list as a place to provide exclusive content, so I tend to send them information that isn’t shared with my social following or even on my blog because I like to make them feel special :)

6. Schedule the content on your calendar - Once you know what you want to post you just need to decide when to post it.  The awesome thing about Trello is you can plan and schedule all in one card. I add a due date to the card for each piece of content and since I have the Calendar power-up activated on my board, I can switch to a calendar view to see when all of my content is due.  Again, you can do this in whatever editorial calendar you choose, I just like to keep mine digital because it’s portable and easier to organize.

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There it is!  This is what I do for my monthly planning session.  Sometimes it may take less than 2-3 hours, but I still keep the timeframe dedicated to blogging.  If I finish planning early, I start writing blog posts or working on other tasks for that month. I encourage you to do the same.  Maybe you don’t have the option to have 2-3 dedicated hours, but even if you can find one hour a month, it’s better than nothing!

If you like to plan on paper, I have created a free pdf download to use when having your monthly planning session. Click here to get it!

So tell me, do you plan out your content in advance?  If so, what is your process and how far in advance do you plan?  I’d love to know! Let me know in the comment. Happy planning!