Your freshly decorated tree stands proudly in the living room, fairy lights twinkle at the local mall, your colleagues have started planning their holidays.
Yep, the build up to Christmas is a pretty magical time. So why do you have this nagging feeling in the back of your mind?
As a business owner it can be hard to mentally ‘switch off’ over the holidays. Your company is your livelihood. It doesn’t feel right to abandon it, even when you’re surrounded by prezzies, family and food.
But here’s the secret. You can have that stress-free holiday you’ve always dreamed of. All it takes is a little planning, preparation, and the magic of business automation.
Here are 10 of our best tips for automating your business this Christmas, so you can have a worry-free holiday.
1# - Automate your email marketing
Effective email marketing is based on three principles - sending the right message, at the right time, to the right person. Thanks to an abundance of wonderful apps these factors can be automated with surprising precision.
Email automation systems can be as simple or complex as your business needs. Many small companies will simply schedule an email newsletter over the holidays. More advanced email marketers will segment their entire customer base into groups, and send different sequences of emails according to triggers, actions, geographic locations or even more specific audience data.
Here at WorkflowMax we use Hubspot for our segmentation and email workflows, and we recommend them highly. But you’ll want to shop around for one that suits your business size and requirements. Capterra has a handy list reviewing the top 20 email marketing software products.
And if you’re already using email automation, remember the end of year is a great time to thank your customers and clients for their loyalty. Personalised email surprises like e-cards or digital rewards can be a thoughtful gesture to ring in the holidays.
2# - Schedule your social posts
Just like email marketing, social media shouldn’t grind to a halt because you’re backpacking through the rocky mountains. With a little scheduling your audience won’t even notice you’re gone.
It’s very simple to book all your social posts in advance. For most platforms you won’t even need a third party app - but they can be useful for streamlining your messaging across several channels.
Facebook has also added a brilliant feature called Response Assistant, which lets you programme an automatic reply to any private messages your page receives. This helps to keep your publically displayed business ‘response rate’ high even when your team isn’t checking Facebook.
Of course, if social media is a big part of your customer support you may need to designate a staff member (or several) to monitor it over the break, and respond to urgent comments and questions.
3# - Use a cloud-based helpdesk
Customer service has come a long way thanks to cloud-based technology. It’s easier than ever for your team to respond to queries during the holidays with the use of internet helpdesks.
Most helpdesk software lets you create a customer self-service portal for your business. This allows customers to easily find information and resolve issues themselves. After all, most people prefer it when they don't need to speak with someone (I know I do!).
If your customers still need to contact someone directly they can submit a support ticket. Support tickets are great because they keep all of your customer queries in one place, and make it easier for your team to manage customer enquiries and quickly resolve issues.
Most helpdesk software also lets you set a holiday schedule for your business. This will give your customers visibility about when they can expect a response. It’s remote customer service made easy!
4# - Automate your invoicing
Invoicing...I can hear your biting your nails. It’s not something people like to leave to chance, especially if you’re jet-setting overseas and won’t be around to help in emergencies.
That’s why you should trust your finances to reliable, cloud-based accounting software like Xero, which is used by over 800,000 subscribers globally.
Xero is perfect for remote working because it allows you to log in and check your finances from wherever you are. You can capture expenses, send invoices and reconcile your bank transactions on the go with the Xero mobile app.
Even better, Xero integrates seamlessly with WorkflowMax. This means you can set up recurring invoices in WorkflowMax and push the data through to Xero automatically. Save yourself time and double-handling!
5# - Schedule your blog posts
You should never miss a chance to engage your audience - so don’t let your blog gather dust over Christmas. Blog posts are easy to schedule in advance, the challenge is writing enough of them! Start stockpiling extra material now (or re-purpose some evergreen content) and you should have enough for when Christmas rolls around.
Scheduled blog posts are a great way to keep your business brand at the forefront of users minds, while also delivering seasonal greetings and important information.
Extra tip - Adjust your blog settings so readers can’t leave comments while you’re away. This means you won't accidentally leave someone hanging (being slow to respond is a bad look).
6# - Capture leads while you hit the beach
You might be sipping cocktails on a beach in the South Pacific but that doesn’t mean you can’t capture leads.
Timed website pop-ups are one of the most effective methods of capturing contact information while you’re away (in fact they're pretty effective all year round!). Unlike annoying website 'entry' pop-ups, timed pop-ups only appear when people have been on your site for a certain period of time, indicating genuine interest.
It's a simple, smart way to build a database of hot leads. You can include these people in your marketing efforts when you return to work.
Wondering why some pop-ups work better than others? Check out Pop-up Examples: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Extra tip: Use smart pop-up settings to make sure you don’t ping the same people twice.
7# - Ensure your website is mobile friendly
You’re not the only one trekking through a rainforest, hitting the ski slopes or drinking eggnog by the fire. Your customers are travelling at this time of year too. They don't cease to exist, but they’re more likely to access your website from mobile phones or tablets.
If your business website isn’t already mobile friendly make this a goal before the holidays. Businesses who haven't adapted are looking more outdated than ever. Worse still you could be hemorrhaging potential customers. Why risk it?
Google have a free, simple tool for checking whether your design is mobile friendly.
8# - Make your unavailability known
This is a bit of a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. The whole point of automating your business over the holidays is giving yourself a break. You can’t do that if you’re being pinged and emailed constantly.
The best way to limit contact is to be very clear about your status over the holidays. If you’re not going to check emails create an auto-response. It’s usually wise to include a phone number that people can call in case of emergency (whether it’s you or someone you’ve delegated).
Sharing this information will make staff and clients less likely to pester you about unimportant things, so you won’t come back to 3,000 emails in the new year. It also means people know where to reach you if there’s a serious issue - so you won’t be constantly checking your emails ‘just in case’ something is wrong.
9# - Delegate holiday guardians
Despite all the wondrous technology at our fingertips, some things still need human oversight. But ask yourself whether it needs to be you.
Unless you’re a really large business, one person is usually enough to monitor your social pages (answer queries, check for negative comments). If this role is clearly assigned to an individual everyone else can forget about it and enjoy their break.
Likewise, you might have a dedicated customer service person looking after support tickets. Figure out who is keen for extra hours & pay during the holidays and delegate your ‘guardians’.
Then you can switch off your smartphone and fully enjoy the roast dinner, fireworks, carol singing or whatever you do at Christmas (here in NZ it’s usually a BBQ at the beach).
10# - Remember to switch off...At least a little!
This time of year is for you. Yes, you. No matter how much you love your business, it’s important you take this opportunity to have some fun and recharge your energy levels.
Spend quality time with your family and loved ones. Eat three servings of cake. Go for a surf in the ocean or take ice-skating lessons. Do whatever you have to do to return to work feeling refreshed and brimming with enthusiasm and inspiration.
That’s the beauty of automation - if properly executed, you won’t need to check your email, website, or social media at all. So let the cloud do the hard work while you eat, sleep and travel the world this Christmas!