I'm a huge advocate of focusing on high-yielding activities and automating, outsourcing, and relegating all other things.
That doesn't mean these things are meaningless. For example, there may be a 3-step direct mail campaign that has been proven to work for you over the years. The campaign itself is invaluable. The process of keeping up with who gets what, when they get it, removing buyers from future mailings, stuffing envelopes, licking stamps --- should not be done by you or your direct staff.
The campaign itself is a great asset. The easily repeatable, duplicatable, time-wasting steps of managing and executing it are not equally valuable and can easily be outsourced, automated, or relegated.
With that said, here's a list of providers I trust to automate various areas of my business.
Infusionsoft handles everything from fully managing from the 3-step campaign mentioned above to payment processing, from e-mail marketing to customer relationship management.
I would honestly say it takes care of 80% of my automation needs from managing my various lists of prospects and customers, following up with them, taking their orders, managing declines, queuing direct mail (postcards, letters, birthday cards, gifts), and much more.
I've worked with my fulfillment center for 8 years and they are responsible for packing and shipping every product, direct mail letter, brochure, campaign, cd-of-the-month, and managing inbound returns, correspondence, and other tasks.
It all started with a visit from my mentor, Corey Rudl, who witnessed my small staff spending the whole day fulfilling orders. To that, he replied: "You don't need staff if this is what they're doing all day... outsource this immediately." And that's exactly what I did.
Since then, we've been hands-off when it comes to anything related to the post office. Sure, there are occasional questions and clarifications but for the most part, this is fully outsourced and automated. Our fulfillment center simply logs into a specially-created infusionsoft account, where they are met with a list of files to download for the day.
One file may be for the day's orders, the other may be for catalogs ready to go out (based on automated systems that queue catalogs 45, 90, and 135 days after order), the other may be for 30-day letters to last month's buyers, the other may be for 6-month retention letters to those who haven't bought since, and much more.
All organized, all lined up. My automated system is handling precisely when these things should happen (all conditionally based on my customers' behavior or predetermined intervals) and my fulfillment center is doing what they do best --- making it all happen with speed and precision.
I use Quick Sales System to handle all my sales funnels and automated webinars. I have made hundreds of thousands of dollars from these funnels. Here are a few: Song Robot | Back Pocket Band | Instant Transposer.
On the automated webinar, we've signed up dozens and dozens of new continuity members using fully automated setups like this one. While infusionsoft is the engine, I see Quick Sales System as the gas pedal that provides the acceleration you need.
I realize there are different philosophies on this but my phone system is 80% automated. Through Freedomvoice, we're able to set up dozens of mailboxes and infoboxes that share and collect information.
Upon hearing our greeting, callers are prompted to press 1 for more information on any of our products. From there, they are instructed to press the appropriate number for the product line they are interested in. They can then drill down and select more information on specific products. This leads to 5-7 minute presentations where I fully explain the features and benefits of the selected product. After listening, they can press 7 to order or return to main menu.
Similarly, on the customer service side (option 2), there are infoboxes set up to answer the most frequently asked questions, give refund and return instructions, receive inquires for usps tracking information, and others. They can also bypass any of these options and create a voicemail ticket that asks specific questions and is promptly answered by a returned phone call or e-mail.
With freedomvoice's flexibility, you can set up as many or as few boxes and extensions as you want. You can choose to have all calls picked up live or routed to automated survey boxes (that allow multiple back-and-forth interaction). I've used it since 2003 and couldn't be happier.
Call centers and answering services can be a great way to free up your time. Your calls are routed to their phone system, they take your calls, and relay messages to you as instructed. I've used domestic and international services and while I've chosen to bring this operation in-house again, it is surely a viable option for some businesses.
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