As times change, technology becomes far more advanced in every industry and most businesses decide to use automated systems to take over some of their simpler operations. Here’s how automated systems can help your business.
Automation services allow you to spend more time on the more important and time-consuming tasks so that you can better your business. For example, rather than having to ask someone within your HR and communications department to send text reminders to patients about their upcoming appointments, an automated service will do this for you. This means that they can spent the time that would have been used doing this on an area that is much better.
Automation also provides you with more precise data. As human errors are inevitable, it’s much more accurate using an automated service to ensure that everything is done precisely as it is set up to be. This way you can track and trace communications and keep customers and employees in the loop.
What types of things in the workplace can be automated?
Automation can be used all over the workplace in multiple ways. One good example of workplace automation services is using payroll software to ensure employees are paid correctly and on time, by keeping a close eye on the hours that your employees are working and calculating the deductions in live time. This software means that there’s less room for errors and with the help of digital ‘clock in’ services, you are able to pinpoint your employees’ working times right down to the minute.
You can also automate your stock levels to sync up as you make sales, this way you can easily be notified of when stock is running low, and you need to order more in. This saves hours of time doing stock counts on a regular basis and means that you won’t end up overstocked with products going out of style or out of date, as items that aren’t selling won’t flag up.
You could even automate your booking system, allowing customers to book online or over the phone with an automated service and the notification coming straight to your management system, so that you know exactly how many covers are needed for every night for the following few months.
Just-in-time inventory is a supply management strategy that schedules products and materials to arrive as they are needed to fulfill orders. This reduces how much inventory is kept on hand and can help small businesses reduce waste, save space and improve cash flow. Instead of ordering a large volume of items, businesses make smaller, more frequent orders to limit their inventory specifically to what they know they will sell.
A company’s business model, available cash flow, supply chain and consumer demand can all play a role in how well the method works. Business owners who implement this strategy need to be prepared to track consumer demand and navigate the supply chain swiftly.
How does just-in-time inventory work?
To use just-in-time inventory, a small business decides how much inventory it wants to have available at all times and orders small shipments of material to replace used stock as it fulfills customer orders. Let’s look at an example.
Fiona wants to implement just-in-time inventory management in her knitting store. Instead of keeping a large volume of stock on hand, as she had previously, she decides to keep only a month’s worth of inventory at a time.
After averaging out the monthly sales for each item, she adjusts her inventory orders over the next quarter until she has only enough of each item in stock for a month’s worth of sales. At the end of each week, she orders replacements for what she’s sold that week so that she constantly restocks to keep a month’s inventory in her store.
This allows Fiona to invest a smaller amount upfront, improving her cash flow and allowing her to make profit before investing in more inventory each time.
Nerdy tip: Some small businesses that specialize in custom orders, such as an at-home cake business, might find that a similar approach of only ordering materials after a customer submits an order works better. Rather than replacing all of the materials that were used in the last order, the baker can purchase all of the ingredients after receiving an order so there is no risk of unused ingredients and wasted investment.
What are the advantages?
“If every day you replenish what you consumed, then you would need less inventory and you could adjust dynamically,” says Lisa Lang, who has a doctorate in engineering management and is president of Science of Business, Inc., a consulting company that has helped small businesses implement the just-in-time method.
For small businesses, the benefits of just-in-time inventory management include:
Reducing waste by not over-ordering or having goods expire or go unpurchased.
Minimizing inventory storage cost by housing a smaller inventory.
Freeing up physical space that can be used for other operational purposes.
Creating available cash to use for other operating costs, such as labor.
Just-in-time inventory management also creates flexibility for seasonal changes. In the same way that stores stock up on candy in the month leading up to Halloween, you can build up inventory for temporary changes in customer demand, says Lang, who is certified by the Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization, which aims to minimize bottlenecks in companies. In the example of Fiona’s knitting shop, she can easily review her sales from the previous holiday season and order a little extra to account for the surge in customer demand.
What are the disadvantages?
These potential disadvantages do not occur for every business, but it’s important to understand what can go wrong with this method. Have a plan in place in case you encounter:
Higher spending on inventory rates if you switch from buying in bulk to smaller, more frequent orders.
Supply chain disruptions that are beyond your control. Think COVID-19 or natural disasters.
Running out of inventory if you do not accurately track sales or forecast customer demand.
Businesses that can benefit from just-in-time inventory
Small businesses that have regular sales and want to keep tabs on cash flow are good candidates for a just-in-time inventory strategy, especially if they find their inventory often sits for long periods.
Good Promotional Products, a provider of customizable merchandise for businesses, once had offices full of unsold products, said Joe Bass, CEO and founder, by email. Switching to just-in-time inventory helped.
“When I just ordered as much as I knew I needed, it freed up a lot of my office space as I didn’t have a lot of unordered products just sitting around,” Bass said.
But retail businesses aren’t the only ones benefiting from rethinking their inventory management. Several business models have found just-in-time inventory helpful in lowering costs and creating a more streamlined process, including:
Coffee roasters and coffee shops.
Businesses that should avoid just-in-time inventory
Businesses that source materials internationally. For Illuminate Labs, a dietary supplement manufacturer, the need to frequently order materials internationally made the just-in-time method overwhelming.
“Dealing with suppliers is a time-intensive process,” says Calloway Cook, the company’s founder. By choosing to keep a lot of stock on hand, he says the company has been able to focus its efforts on scaling the business instead of worrying about long lead times from international suppliers.
Businesses that only process a handful of orders annually. A just-in-time inventory strategy tends to be “less effective for slow movers,” Lang says. “This is for the fast-to-medium movers, where you replenish more frequently.”
Businesses with certain operational limitations. You might want to wait on implementing the method if you:
Can’t delay orders without drastically impacting business.
Don’t know how to track customer demand to anticipate inventory needs.
Aren’t confident in your supply chain to deliver on time.
Don’t have reliable employees who communicate well about supply issues.
What to do before implementing just-in-time inventory as a small business
Small businesses should ensure the following operational areas are working before implementing a just-in-time inventory approach.
Test your turnaround time
When you receive inventory just before you need it, you may still need time to create products and provide services using the materials you ordered. Research and test your process to be confident that you are able to get orders out the door on time without a large inventory.
Track consumer demand
Some businesses replace the inventory they just used to fulfill customer orders; other businesses prefer to forecast inventory needs by averaging monthly totals and noting seasonal sales from previous years.
Find reliable suppliers
With such a tight turnaround time, you need dependable vendors that will deliver inventory when needed. If they can’t, a just-in-time inventory strategy can fall apart. If your suppliers are inconsistent about deliveries, consider changing providers before implementing the new system.
Have a plan for supply chain disruptions
You must be able to adapt to supply chain disruptions and find alternative vendors when material orders are delayed or canceled despite your supplier’s best efforts. Make a plan about how to respond to a bad situation to avoid delayed orders.
is probably the most popular cloud storage app around. And with 15GB of free storage space, it’s not hard to see why.
Luckily, it’s not hard to sign into Google Drive either. Google Drive, like other Google services, is connected to your Google account. That means it uses the same email address, username, and password as your Gmail account, YouTube account, and more.
Here’s how to sign into Google Drive on both a computer and phone.
How to sign into the Google Drive website
All you need is your Google username and password.
2. If you’ve signed in before, you might be offered one of your Google accounts — click the one you want and enter your password to log in. Otherwise, type in your Gmail address, username, or phone number and click Next.
3. Enter your password and click Next again. If prompted, complete the two-factor verification process.
You’ll be signed in.
If you can’t remember your account information, click Forgot email? or Forgot password? You’ll be able to use your recovery method to get back into the account.
William Antonelli is a writer and editor based in New York City. As Editor of Insider’s Tech Reference vertical and a founding member of the Reference team, he’s helped grow Tech Reference from humble beginnings into a juggernaut that attracts over 20 million visits a month. You can find him on Twitter @DubsRewatcher, or reach him by email at [email protected].
With Black Friday and the holiday season fully upon us, it’s time to pull out all the stops and get selling. Now’s your best chance before 2021 draws to a close, so here’s some advice — and visual inspiration — to set your campaign for holiday sales up for success.
The final months of the year bring with them an ongoing series of promotional opportunities. Consumers are looking for bargains, and they’re ready for the celebratory rituals of giving and receiving gifts. After a difficult two years, they want to treat themselves and those they care about — and as a business owner, here’s your opportunity to give your customers exactly what they’re looking for.
In addition to any seasonal promotions for winter that bring your product or service into the spotlight (think all things snowy and cozy like candles, sweaters, soup, hot yoga and ski trips!), the end of November marks Black Friday, which flows seamlessly into the holiday season, and then the new year.
Also bear in mind that Black Friday is no longer just a single day on the calendar. Not only is it extended into the following week via Cyber Monday (and the more benevolent Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday), but there’s also a growing trend to minimize gridlock on Black Friday by running “early bird sales” up to a month ahead.
This is your chance to shine, to step into the spotlight and seize your moment. Bear in mind that you need to do it properly though. The competition is fierce, so throwing out a single post the day before your sale starts just isn’t going to cut it.
Devote some time to developing a simple strategy for your seasonal sales campaign — trust us, you’ll reap the benefits from just some basic planning.
What’s the simplest way to do this? Think in phases.
To make the most of your campaign, we’d suggest moving through five interconnected stages, but feel free to pick out any individual ideas that you think would work for you.
Phase 1: Engage your audience and find new leads
Before you start slashing your prices, take the time to ensure that you have a receptive audience.
Have you been engaging with them lately, or have you let that slide a little bit?
The easiest way to do this is to shift your thinking to your customer’s perspective. It’s not only about the promotion you’re willing to offer — what about the type of promotion that your audience really wants? Before you lock in your strategy, ask your followers what types of promotions they’re hoping for. What products would they love to see on sale, or in their Christmas stocking this year.
Try polls, “This/That” posts, or asking your audience to share wish lists and gift guides. With the prospect of a bargain in sight, it’s a great time to get some good data on what products or services are most in demand.
Now is also a great time to generate new leads. The prospect of an exclusive deal, or early access to a great sale, is as good a reason as any for somebody to sign up to your mailing list.
It’s also a smart idea to target this mailing list with particular focus since these are amongst the most likely customers to act on a promotion as they’ve already expressed some interest in your brand.
If you’re going to put time and energy into your promotion and offer a fantastic deal that will activate engagement, it makes sense to gather the largest possible audience you can in the days leading up to the main event.
Remember, this is a two-way conversation — not a company broadcast.
Actively gauging your audience’s interests by chatting with them builds your brand in their eyes, makes your seasonal promotion more desirable, and ultimately makes an impact on your bottom line.
Phase 2: Hype it up
Once you’ve established the kind of seasonal promotion you’re running, it’s time to gradually build anticipation. To do this, you should stagger announcements strategically, not bombard your audience constantly, otherwise they’ll quickly log off — or worse, unfollow your account.
Instead, start off by announcing the promotion on your social platforms. An email to your mailing list is also a great idea. And why not update your website headers while you’re at it? Make it unmissable.
Perhaps offer a sneak peek, or gradually reveal elements of your special offer.
If you’re offering multiple deals, you can start announcing these one at a time. Whether you sell products or services, consider building packages that offer a great incentive to make a bigger purchase. Perhaps smaller discounts build up to a much bigger one on Black Friday itself?
If your promotion is a big deal, let it infuse your brand’s identity for the campaign period. That’s the difference between a campaign and a once-off promotion — a campaign can take on an entire look and feel of its own, as it has its own unique identity.
By taking some time to design your series of posts, you also infer a certain presence to this promotion and in turn to your brand. If it looks professional and well considered, we’re more likely to trust it amidst the selling frenzy.
Crazy bargains aside, it’s still essential to project yourself as a brand that will follow through with all its promises.
As we mentioned, be wary of over-hyping to the point that your audience becomes immune to new messaging — or even annoyed.
Each announcement should add some new, updated information. Avoid reposting the same content — keep evolving.
Don’t only highlight the special deals either. Make customers aware of your general offerings, with price lists and featured products/services.
If you have very popular items or packages, or have recently restocked a bestseller, let everybody know about it while you’re doing the work of drawing more attention to your brand.
It’s still a good time to gather new leads and engage your audience, so continue to do this with posts that elicit responses or sign ups.
Anybody who pauses long enough to like, comment, or visit your site via one of these posts has more than likely taken note of your promotion.
It might be worth diverting some marketing dollars into a paid ad during the lead up to your promotion, since the return on your investment is an audience guaranteed to extend well beyond your reach of existing followers, letting you get quite specific as to who you’re targeting.
And our final tip here: Don’t underestimate the power of video in this crucial stage, where it’s more important than ever to get your content noticed.
Moving images will always give you that little edge.
Phase 3: Sell, sell, sell!
As you approach the big day(s) of your sale, competition, giveaway or special event, draw as much attention as possible to the limited time offer. A deal like this doesn’t come every day, remember. Cut to the chase: This is a time for some hard selling.
Flash sales are a great device to limit the window for decision making, and get folks pouncing on a once-in-a-lifetime deal.
People love a bargain and a little urgency is a great way to cut through contemplation. After all, nobody wants to miss out.
This is a rare opportunity to really activate your customer base. Many might have been sitting on the fence for months, even years, and your promotion is ready to convert them from a fan into a customer.
With the hyping and teasing done, it’s time to lay bare what you have to offer.
Put your product or service front and center, publish menus and price lists, and make your sale prices visible.
Design is your best friend here, in the pursuit of eyeballs on your content.
This season we’re loving the use of old school discount stickers in digital form. There’s no easier way to highlight a discount or call-to-action (CTA) than with one of these incorporated into your design. As complex as the human mind is, it’s still hardwired to notice these bright pops of color and associate them with a special offer of some sort.
Make it unmistakably clear how to activate or redeem your promotional offer.
The number of steps it takes a customer to finally get their hands on what they’re after is directly proportional to the number of potential customers you’ll lose along the way. Make it simple and foolproof. Anybody who needs to puzzle through your promotion mechanism will quickly lose interest and spend their money at the online shop next door.
Don’t forget the (less sexy) administrative side of running a successful promotion.
Make sure you cover the basics like posting holiday operating hours, delivery windows, terms and conditions and any other relevant notices you need to share.
During the active period of your promotion, use your more ephemeral platforms (like IG and Facebook Stories) to post regular reminders to book, purchase, or otherwise take advantage of your seasonal deals.
It’s worth giving that extra bit of steam here.
Phase 4: Seal the deal
The promotion is still in play until your customer is smiling, product in hand. Follow through is vital, so keep this in mind before you’re stuck with too many orders to fulfill or a delivery service closed for the holidays.
But if delays or complications with fulfillment do arise, make sure you post this info and communicate with customers.
Your packaging is also an opportunity to sprinkle a little more joy on the experience of doing business with you. Consider thank you notes, stickers on the packaging (or inside as free gifts), and personalized messages to your customers. All of these can be created in GoDaddy Studio, using your campaign identity.
See this as an opportunity to thread the needle of your full campaign, using the same design look and feel all the way from announcing your special to the unboxing moment.
That kind of follow through leaves an afterglow of professionalism, increasing your odds of return business. It also adds that personal touch and spirit of connection — something we’re all seeking more of these days.
And don’t forget about sowing the seeds for re-engagement, encouraging customers to share their experience as soon as it lands.
In the next phase we’ll look at how to do that, but it’s much easier to get customers to respond in the midst of their excitement or delight than days or weeks later.
Phase 5: Re-engage your customers
The initial experience of your product or service is the best time to garner positive feedback from your customers.
Unboxing the product, using it for the first time, trying on the outfit/accessory for the first time, experiencing your service real time (spa, tour, meal, haircut), or the immediate post-satisfaction (freshly cleaned house, post-massage bliss, makeover glow-up, new tattoo) all present a window of opportunity to get happy customers giving you the best kind of advertising that money just can’t buy: word of mouth.
Try out incentives to activate customers during this moment.
Perhaps you can have some kind of competition for showing off your new dress, or haircut, or a creative moment with your product? Maybe trade a review for a discount on their next purchase.
It’s a win-win situation: Already-satisfied customers stand a chance of gaining something extra, and you get some extra reach to new potential customers in their channels (make sure you make it obvious how to tag you though).
Testimonials are another form of pure gold you can mine during this period. We all know how valuable these can be when deciding whether or not to trust a new product or service, so always follow up with an email asking for feedback after the sale — you can use this as marketing collateral later.
Crucially, you’re engaging your audience on the back of your promotion, using that momentum to keep your business moving from strength to strength, instead of simply sitting back and waiting for next year’s big sale. This “after party” stage could last for a couple of days or even weeks — just enough time to bridge the gap between the next phase of your ongoing content strategy.