3 Essential Steps to Eliminating Workflow Bottlenecks

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This article is taken from the Build Your Queue podcast below, Season 1 Episode 8 with David Rowland, the Growth Marketing Strategist at SIGNiX.

Growing a business often requires doing tasks manually until they create bottlenecks, then you automate the process and move on to the next thing. You need these automations to save your company time and provide great customer experiences—but the problem is that automating something can be easier said than done once things actually start piling up.

To prevent things from getting out of control, so you can grab the reins to create automations, you’ll need to consider:

  • Where are bottlenecks occurring, and which of them are consuming the majority of your time?
  • What tools can you use to automate them?
  • How do you get buy-in from the rest of your team to make automations?

We’ll help you answer these questions, and show you how to bring your team together to best avoid bottlenecks. Keep reading, or listen to the full audio in the player above.

PC: HelpSystems

1. Which parts of your buyer’s journey have the highest chance of bottlenecking?

You have to fully understand your buyer’s journey if you want to be able to identify its bottlenecks. A bottleneck could be anything from customers filling out unneeded forms, to your team not having a functional internal communication system that alerts the sales team when there’s a hot lead.

You need to analyze your buyer's journey and identify those potential bottlenecks before they get out of control.

Your buyer's journey is essentially how you take a stranger and turn them into a prospect, then a customer, then eventually into an advocate.

There are usually eight steps:

1. Awareness

2. Engagement

3. Subscription

4. Conversion

5. Excitement

6. Core Offering

7. Advocation

8. Promotion

PC: Crash Creative

You have a certain number of people who make it through to each stage. Start by figuring out where the biggest drops are between each stage, and you'll be able to figure out where bottlenecks will most likely arise.

For example, you may notice you have a problem with lead generation or conversion in the engagement stage. Or you may realize you’re missing the key value moment when you offer your core product.

Align your departments to identify bottlenecks in your buyer’s journey.

You’ll need to get your sales, support, and marketing teams together to also analyze your buyer's journey, so they can point out additional pain points you may have missed.

From there you can attach KPIs, or key performance indicators, to each step of your buyer’s journey to track benchmarks where you could improve, like:

  • The number of leads you get through contracts
  • The amount of engagement you get on your promotional content
  • The length of time it takes for a sales rep to contact a warm lead

PC: TechTarget

Aside from just mapping out your buyer’s journey, you’ll also want to align your departments on what your qualified leads should look like, and what kind of information your client should know before they’re ready to buy.

Creating a buyer persona, if you don’t have one already, can help your departments accomplish this. Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer, and they detail your buyer’s:

  • Demographics (i.e., age, gender, marital status, education level, income, etc.)
  • Needs, aspirations, and goals
  • Problems, pain points, and obstacles to achieving their goals
  • Buying behaviors and patterns
  • Potential objections to your product or service
  • Average timeline from interest to purchase

The goal is to use all this information across your departments to recognize which parts of your buyer’s journey are most crucial to your target customer. From there, you know where to prioritize automations so bottlenecks don’t occur.

Related: How to Create (and Target) Custom Buyer Personas

2. What tools can help you automate part of your buyer’s journey?

A lot of weak points within your buyer’s journey most likely stem from internal problems. For example, when you spend a lot of time communicating ineffectively with teammates, you lose valuable time you could have spent focusing on clients.

That’s why if you don’t have your process set internally, growth and attracting more clients is going to become incredibly difficult.

The good news is there’s a ton of automation tools you can use to get your team on the same page.

Project management systems, like Trello, can help you organize projects by setting up task delegations between departments for whenever you take on a new client.

You can also tie those automations to communication platforms, like Slack, so your teammates get immediate updates whenever actions are taken in Trello. That way whenever you start something, like a proposal for a customer, you can automatically ping people who would need to be involved in that process.

You can ultimately keep teammates from ever being out of the loop when you use the right combination of tools to automate communication like this—plus sometimes even eliminate the need for a manager.

You can even tie parts of your buyer’s journey, like forms, to your CRMs, so leads are automatically logged and your team always knows which customers to prioritize.

Lead scoring tools, like Hubspot, not only determine CRMs, but can also attach numbers to each action a lead takes during their buyer journey, so your entire team can tell how qualified they are beforehand.

The ultimate goal with these automations is to keep everyone on the same page.

Related: 25 Powerful Digital Marketing Tools to Increase Sales (2019)

PC: SelectHub

 3. How do you get buy-in from the rest of your team to make automations?

It will always take time and money to automate a process as a team. But the long-term benefits will ultimately outweigh the initial lost time—and you need a way to show your team that.

This is where metrics need to come in to give your team concrete examples of what an automation can accomplish. You’ve got to prove there will be ROI.

Once you get with your marketing and sales team and attach KPIs to each part of your buyer’s journey, you need to create a growth chart where you list out the most important KPIs for each part of your buyer’s journey.

A growth chart not only helps with keeping up with KPIs, it also highlights how much room there is for improvement. The best part is you don’t have to spend a lot of money to put this growth chart together, it could be as simple as using an Excel spreadsheet or SaaS.

Look at these KPIs at the first of every month, and your team will be able to see where improvement can be made.

You’ll also want to take a step back from a strategy perspective and think about revenue and the impact an automation software can have on sales. Look for concrete things you could change, like doubling conversion rate or getting more leads at a certain stage in the pipeline.

Weigh in the opportunity cost for not addressing these things. Then pick the one that will have the biggest impact on your bottom-line, and move on to the rest later.

PC: iGrafx

Use automations to make your customers more satisfied.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re scrambling to do everything manually, because you’re afraid automations will take away from the personal touch a process once had.

But if you do automations right, you can be even more personal in your processes. Once things are streamlined, there’s even more room to address additional things for your customers, like sending automatic emails on their birthday or generating promotional materials specifically for their interests.

At the end of the day, it’s all about creating a smoother buyer journey for your customers.