Talk It Out Tuesday: Coffee Chat
The Unicorn of the Online Business World: Automation
Grab your dark roast + join us as we show you how automation is literally the unicorn of the online business world. Wouldn’t YOU want to do the work once and reap the benefits for the rest of forever? Forever, ever.
Episode 30 Coffee Chat Replay
Episode 30 Podcast
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Lauren Dragon-Cook: How the heck are you!? Good morning to you all. Let’s get started. Let’s jump in.
Today we are talking about automation and workflows and how it is going to make your life a whole heck of a lot easier if you know how to implement automations into your business. Nobody wants to be strapped to their phone 24/7 or trying to remember to send our questionnaires for timelines. All of those things. I am going to do a basic automation 101 today.
We are going to be chit-chatting about workflows and systems so you might be thinking, “Well, Lauren said we were going to be talking about automation today.”
Well that is kind of what a workflow is. A workflow can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For me it is an automated set of tasks and to-dos that happen without me even having to worry about it or think about it. It can be all rolled into one.
We are going to chat a bit about how to actually map out your client process, how to create templates for yourself, and the heart and soul.. .how to automate all of this stuff. No one wants to worry about whether or not they sent out a thank you or how many people actually remember to ask for a review once the job is over? I know I wouldn’t. There is just too much stuff going on in life. Systems are all the guidelines and processes, everything you do with a client from start to finish. It can start as soon as someone inquires, sends you an inquiry form to you and all the way through til the end of a job. What does this look like for you? What are the steps you take?
Let’s dive in!
No Systems in Place?
What does it look like if you don’t have systems in place? What does it look like if you are just trying to do everything all at once and not remembering anything at all? You are going to be starting from scratch with every new client. You will be doing so much extra work for yourself and so much more time than is needed. Lets say a potential client contacts you. Then the email sits in your inbox until you remember to reply to it. You write an email from scratch lettings them know the first steps in working with you. And then you write another email after that because you completely forget a detail you were supposed to send to them.
Does that sound familiar to anybody?
That is how chaotic it can look when you aren’t using a system or automation.
With Systems in Place!
When you are using automation and workflows within your business a potential client contacts you, you have an automated email response with everything they need to know that get sent out within 15 seconds after they’ve inquired. You don’t forget anything important. They can easily set up a consult call with you and on the consultation you have a set of questions you can go over and things to talk about because you have it all ready to go for yourself.
Doesn’t it sound so much better?
Why would you want systems? Why would you want automation? Why would you want workflows? Well you are setting the foundation for each new client. Again, you are not starting from scratch. You have the same process. You make sure nothing gets left out. You are keeping things consistent. That way maybe you forgot to send someone an email requesting a review, but then you asked another person who maybe wasn’t your favorite client anyway. Delegating gets a whole hell of a lot easier. This way you know what sets of tasks can’t be automated when you are working with a client. You know what you have to do yourself.
And you look like a Rockstar! You look like a professional badass. All of these things are being triggered for you, but to the client you look like you are on top of your game and you have it all worked out and you know what you are talking about. They are thrilled that they hired you.
Mapping It Out
What I tell all of my one-on-one clients when they are working with me to try to figure out their workflow in particular and what they can automate themselves… you need to take out a pen and paper. I don’t even care if you are completely digital. There is something to having to write it out that is triggering every task in your brain and in your memory what you should be doing.
I would suggest go back to your very last client. Try to remember every single step that happened as you were working with them. When someone inquires with you they are essentially asking one of two things: 1) are you available on my date or 2) what is your pricing? Maybe you don’t list your pricing online. Those are the two main questions that everybody asks. Everyone wants to know, unless they for some reason are able to see your calendar and see you are open on their date.
What you can do is generate an email that says something like this…
Thank you for reaching out to us. I am thrilled to talk with you more about your big day and answer any questions you might have. I know this isn’t a personalized email but you can expect one within the next 24 hours. If you haven’t had a chance to see our pricing you can do so here…”
Maybe you link to a PDF or show a hidden link to your website that has your pricing information on it. If that is something you wanted to do you want to make sure google isn’t able to crawl at or index that. If they do that and have this hidden page with all your package information if someone were to type in “LDC price” that page will show up. Just make sure that page isn’t being indexed by google.
You can link to many things in this email. That way you are doing two things. You are not only buying yourself time in order to respond to them but you also are going to look like you are a Rockstar professional because they are receiving something immediately. Maybe every other person they inquired with it took them 2 days to get back to them. But here you are... even if it is an automated response because it has your voice in it. It doesn’t have to be this robotic thing.
That is the start of thinking how your workflow works. I’ve given you an example workflow to help jog your memory. If you are a wedding planner, portrait photographer, or a wedding photographer you can actually download completely free workflow over on my blog. If you search at the bottom for wedding planner workflow… that post will pop up and that is where you can download the PDF that maps out different tasks and what not. For the wedding photographer, I think there are 55 steps. And the wedding planner something like 44. Definitely worth looking into.
So here is your workflow:
- Client inquires
- Respond to email with informational PDF
- Arrange phone date
- Where you cover pricing and the process of working with you
Do you want to call someone? Or do you not want to? For me, I’ve found my biggest success is when I did hop on the phone with people. They could actually hear me and your voice is going to signal a bunch of different emotions than an email would.
If they then say to you, “yes I want to hire you”, great! But what do you do then? That is a major step for so many people because now it is real. Now they have to know what they are doing or at least seem like they know what they are doing.
- Send contract/invoice
- Follow up with thank you card
Make sure to send them a thank you card or a welcome package. Having an automated email go out when someone does pay the deposit. That way you can say
“thank you so much for making my deposit. I look forward to working with you guys.”
- Add client to CMS (client management system)
If you don’t have software like Dubsado or Honeybook or 17 Hats, that is fine! However, what I will say to that is you are doing more work than what is necessary. You are doing so much more of the tedious crap that literally if you had a program you wouldn’t even have to give it a second thought. Make sure all their information is added. Another suggestion I have is add those clients to your address book. How often do you see you know where the venue is but you don’t have time the day of the wedding to look at the address or where the venue is… it is easy! You have it handy.
I also in my phone I have a different label for the fiancé’s name. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten the fiancé’s name. But now when I enter in the contact information I put that name in there. That way I can reference it easily.
- Establish to-do list
- And other necessary documents
What are things and particular times you want to make sure you are doing? Any other documents you need to have should go out!
- All the elements you walk a couple through
Do you send them a checklist? What do you send them that they need? Just something to think about as well.
Please create templates for yourself. And for the love of God, if you haven’t already created email responses, if you haven’t already created client forms for yourself, if you haven’t’ already created stuff like that… do yourself the favor… hop on over to the shop and just get them. Buy them for yourself. The 65 email templates, canned responses, client forms, timeline questionnaires, blogging questionnaires… if it is not your strength don’t force yourself to try to create something like that right? I wish I had those forms in the beginning. Once you have your workflow down you need to actually start putting in the actual PDFS and forms.
What templates do you need? A lot of people get really distracted by the word “templates”. Let me break this down really quickly for you. A template is something you create with the intention of sending to your client and instead of needing to recreate that same document over and over again, you save it once and use it from then on out. That is it! I have so many people call me “what is a template? What do you mean?” This is what I mean!
Just a couple of the different things that are in the shop.
Let’s Get to Automation
This is where the magic truly lies. I didn’t want to just dive into this part especially without giving you a little context if automation is completely new to you. It saves you so much freakin’ time! Time you know, time is worth its weight in gold. It is more valuable to me than money. I don’t care who you are, I would much rather have an hour for myself or an hour sitting at the computer responding to emails that could’ve taken me 5 minutes if I had just pulled up my templates. Right?
You’ve got resources such as Dubsado, Honeybook, 17 Hats… and aiseplanner.
Aisleplanner… is fabulous but it is not an automation client management tool. Yes, it helps you to be a Rockstar and if you have a particular client that maybe you would rather chew your foot off than have to talk to all the time (we’ve all had them), it allows you to take a backseat. It provides your checklist and budget and the area where people can enter in their guestlist and seating chart. The list goes on. However, when I actually started with Dubsado, Aisleplanner had yet to come up with an invoicing tool. It just didn’t exist. No contracts or forms within aisleplanner. So I joined Dubsado and it was the perfect marriage of two worlds. You need something where you can actually track the other to-dos… sending out things in a specific set of times, your invoices, all of those things… your book keeping! It is super helpful to have.
Aisleplanner, again, I’ll be writing a blog post all about the differences between Aisleplanner and Dubsado. I get this question once or twice every few days. Be on the look out for that blog post.
Wrapping it Up
That is just the basics on what automation can do for you and your business. One quick tip I have for you guys, especially those of you who are super new… if you use Apple Mail or Gmail (maybe outlook too), instead of having a signature like “Lauren Dragon Cook with email and website”, put every single canned email response as a signature. Create a new signature for every single response and name it. You can name it wedding inquiry. So next time someone inquires, all you have to do is go to your signatures, find wedding inquiry, and boom! There it is. You’ve saved yourself like 5 minutes!
What area in your business sucks up most of your time? What area are you asking for a robot to do? Can it be done automatically? Do I have to do this for the rest of my life?
Are there areas in your business right now where you are asking yourself these questions?
I think that wraps it up! I absolutely love chatting about this stuff as you can tell. So next week is our last official weekly episode. From that point you might see some changes. I’m still processing those changes but at least know next week is the last official you can count on it no matter what coffee chat within Facebook and everywhere.
From there we will shift into how things will look moving forward. I hope you have a fantastic rest of the week. Try your best to ride out some of these waves we are all feeling in some way, shape, or form. Know it will be over eventually.
If you have any questions as always contact me, reach out, DM me on Instagram. Reach out wherever you are a creature of habit on and thank you! I hope this was helpful in some way. I will talk with you guys soon.
Q + A
Q: Instagram posts are so draining!
A: Oh yes girl! There are so many resources out there to help though. What I like to do… I have a folder in my Google Drive (you can do this in Dropbox or any cloud storage) and you want to create a folder you just dump photos into that you know someday you want to use. So for my stock photos that are on point for my brand, in this folder. Photos I did from a wedding, when the photographer sends you the gallery… pick your favorites! Don’t download them all and have it take up all that space. Then what you can do is easily access those photos. One other tip I have when it comes to Instagram. Your photos don’t have anything to do with your caption. Nothing! It can be a picture of a coffee cup and you can be talking about weddings you had last weekend. It doesn’t have to be all about the same thing! That is one hang up I find a lot of my clients have. They feel they have to be talking about whatever they are showing. You just want to be focusing on resonating with your ideal clients. You want to be focusing on what problems they have and are you able to answer them.
Q: I am so tired of answering messages from Facebook.
A: That is absolutely where “ManyChat” would be a fabulous alternative for you. One of two things you can do… I did do a video awhile back and it talks all about “ManyChat”. I walk you through how to set it up and what to say. So if you go to my website you’ll find it. All you need to say to people that are inquiring on your page and its getting real old… and then you have emails and texts and Facebook… no no no. Keep that shit all in one place. Otherwise you are going to drive yourself crazy. I know I did. What you want to do in an automated message that goes out to any person who messages on Facebook:
“Thank you so much for writing to us. Our Facebook messages are a hot mess and we rarely check them. (Be Honest) the best way to reach us and get in touch is through email. You can email us your question here…”
You are saying to these people I take my business seriously and I want to keep track of your message so do it here. But you are also saving yourself the headache of trying to manage all these different things. If you don’t want to us “ManyChat” (it is a free service until a certain number of stuff), you can create a shortcut in your phone. So in settings on your phone you can go to “general” and then to “keyboard”. You want to click on “text replacement” and push the plus sign to add a new one and then type out whatever it is you want to say. And then in the shortcut option all you want to do is type in something that will trigger your memory. So like “fff”. Anytime you type “fff” that message pops up. So that way you don’t have to ever worry about actually typing the whole damn thing out again.
I use this trick a lot on my computer with Alfred. I don’t know about you guys btu I use a lot of emojis and for me I do most of my writing on my iMac in my office. So I don’t know about you but having to go into my keyboard every single time and find the emoji I wanted to use… got old real quick. With Alfred you just need to type in the word “snip” and you can say heart or unicorn and the emoji will pop up. It is a beautiful thing!
Or if you have URLs you write ALL THE TIME. Or your email address, you feel you are writing it every other sentence… in Alfred all you need to do is “option and space” and he pops up and you can start to type in “!wbl” and for whatever I had it set to it would pre-fill. So you could do URLs or your email or package information.
Q: It is important to track client payments and notice when they are received. We are still on mailed checks.
A: If you don’t use an automated system, I would suggest having one folder on your desktop and that is where you have your contract template, where you have your proposal template… where you keep all of your canned emails. And then I would create a spreadsheet. If you are using a payment processor, like Wave or Stripe or Square, you can use Zapier on your end to connect the two. If you are using a payment process in Zapier you can connect to that payment processor to a particular Google sheet so anytime a payment is made it is the middle man and will push the payment to the Google sheet. That way you have a record of what the heck is going on. It automatically gets updated. That way you can easily see who is doing what and where people are at.
If you are new to using a payment processor… they all charge a 2.9% transaction fee. I would highly encourage you to incorporate that into your pricing. At the end of the day it might add up to $50 or $100 over the life of working with a client, but bill that into your package. Don’t create that as a separate line. Don’t say “credit card processing fee”. Do not do that. I see so many people do that and no… you don’t need to say that to them.
Q: Any way to send canned email automated replies for the 100’s of random client emails?
A: You could do a couple of different things. You could go through those emails and see if there is a common denominator or a universal word that shows up in all of them. If you find a keyword you can set something so it triggers that word. That might be kind of difficult to do. What I would do (as crappy as it is) is unless you have a chat bot redirecting people to a different place, I would have something where you have a word shortcut on your keyboard. Maybe make that the very first thing on your client packet like “I love questions but feel free to send all of your questions here”. Or set up a different email entirely and pool them all into one place.
I’m Lauren, your wedding business visionary! I educate wedding pros on the behind the scenes of their businesses through practical knowledge and intuitive strategy. I incorporate my intuitive gifts with solid business strategy to maximize my clients' progress and success.