Time is of the essence. Time is money. Time is the only “thing” that’s irreplaceable. And time is what you’re spending by not using smart tools to automate your business or site.
We’re not talking about alien concepts or becoming a hacker. Although, after we’re done, you might very well feel like you’re up to the task.
We cherry-picked some of the best business automation software, services, tools and solutions that can help in simplifying aspects of what you do, day-in, day-out. Giving you back those bits of time you kept wasting up to now.
Shall we proceed?
Our brain works an auto for the better part of the day, without us realizing it. Whenever you say “thank you” to someone, it’s something that happens “automatically” without a second thought.
SumAll allows you to inject the same level of automation into your digital interactions with others. And then some. Instead of having to say “thank you” to everyone who “followed you on Twitter,”SumAll can do that for you.
And also send them emails with your new updates or products. Or send you a weekly email with your predicted sales.
There are just too many small business automation scenarios you can choose, that we could dedicate a whole series of posts to them. What we’re sure of is that, among them, you’ll find more than one you’ll end up using.
- Web-Based – accessible from everywhere and any device with a browser and web access
- Knowledge base Video Tutorials
- Summary of social media activity
- Timeline view
- Connects multiple social media, advertising, and e-commerce platforms
- Simple to use with step-by-step solutions
- Clean and beautiful interface
- Fully free (as long as they’re in “soft-launch phase”?)
- Restricted number of options – both as far as the number of “connectable services” and the way to “manage” your data go.
The service currently comes with zero cost. According to its creators, “it’s free since they’re still working on building great products for small businesses – think of this as their soft launch”.
Like SumAll, Buffer is all about automating your social game. The twist with Buffer is that it doesn’t connect to dozens of different services to bring you grand-scale insights on your social performance.
Instead, it supports a select few social services: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest (the last one only with Pro and Business Plans). And it’s all about “pushing content to them”.
Unlike SumAll, Buffer doesn’t feel like “a lite IFTTT for social media and marketing”. Consider it a business automation service that gives priority to the posting and scheduling side of things.
With an interface that helps you craft content for each service, it then schedules it to be auto-posted at an optimal time.
- Can work through a browser extension – no need to visit any site.
- Supports the most popular social media services
- Offers full-fledged, feature-rich Android version
- Useful analytics on social performance (paid tiers only)
- Planning collaboration (paid tiers for collaboration feature scheduling over 10 posts)
- Free for personal use (up to 3 social accounts, 1 user, 10 scheduled posts)
- Very easy workflow – “push content” with the extension, schedule it through Buffer’s dashboard
- Offers varied paid tiers for different needs and business sizes
- 3 account / 10 posts limit quickly feels too restrictive
- “Only” supports five of the most popular social networks
- The free tier doesn’t excel in anything compared to alternatives
Free for personal use with basic features. Paid tiers starting from $15 for Pro version and up to $399 for “Large Business” plan (monthly).
MailChimp is the evolution of the mailing list, a business automation service that allows you to bulk-mail thousands of subscribers with one click.
Its features allow different ways to automate your marketing campaigns, targeting specific (groups of) contacts, and scheduling when they’ll receive an email for optimal results. And they’re dead-easy to use: by choosing “scenarios”, like “Welcome new subscribers”, you can choose the type of procedure you want to automate and have it active and working in mere minutes.
And yes, just like many other online tools, MailChimp, too, can “integrate” with many other services – from Accelo and Airsquare to WordPress and Zapier.
- Automation based on scenarios employing “triggers” to activate on different occasions.
- Connects to dozens of other services.
- Pre-Built campaigns
- Smarter targeting
- Reports analytics
- A/B testing
- Mobile app
- Easy to use
- The free basic plan doesn’t feel (too) restricted feature-wise
- Helps in improving mailing campaigns, optimizing results
- The free basic plan does have restricted reach (2000 subscribers, 12.000 emails per month)
- Pricier tiers get even more expensive when you start adding more features to them – like advanced Marketing options.
Free basic plan (7 marketing channels, 1-click automations, basic templates, Marketing CRM).
Expanded feature set on three gradually more expensive plans, Premium being the most expensive – and feature-rich – at $299 (per month).
Unlike other business automation tools in our list, AutoHotKey is not an online service, nor does it offer specific tools to automate your business processes. There’s simply no other tool like it that allows you to “program” the Windows Desktop itself, creating your own automation scenarios from scratch or recording and replaying your every move.
And also create your own Windows automation tools.
AutoHotKey is, at its core, a scripting language combined with a runtime parser. You write scripts in a simple, understandable language, that allow you to automate keystrokes, mouse movements, and clicks.
Or create abbreviations that expand to words, phrases, sentences or even full articles.
Or, thanks to its integration with the Windows Desktop, create Graphic User Interfaces that allow the entry and manipulation of any type of data. Plaintext Productivity has a nice collection of tips on how to use it as an auto-corrector and text expander.
We could add many more sentences starting with “Ors” but, really, with AHK – as AutoHotKey is usually called, the sky’s the limit.
The best part is that you don’t have to learn scripting to enjoy a lot of what it can pull off: members of its huge community have already created and posted online their scripts, pre-made automation solutions that can do pretty much anything, from auto-learning text expanders to blog posting tools.
- A full scripting language that binds with the Windows Desktop allowing its manipulation
- Can move the cursor, replicate clicks and keystrokes. Even in complex, multi-step scenarios.
- Can create GUIs and simple programs
- Can manipulate data on the fly
- Can automate complex procedures like auto-filling forms and gathering data from sites
- Huge number of ready-to-use solutions made by its users
- Extra tools allow easy creation of scripts by recording the user’s keypresses mouse moves and allowing their replication, turning them henceforth into an automated task.
- Hugely versatile language allows the automatic replication of almost anything the user could do himself with a mouse and keyboard.
- No actual interface – you have to learn its language to create your own detailed automation solutions. Except if “auto-recording your key presses mouse moves” covers you.
- Larger, more complex scripts tend to run slower.
- You have to Google to find solutions made with it – no central directory/repository or anything of that kind.
A leaner, meaner alternative to MailChimp, SalesHandy shifts the focus more towards the “mail” from the “campaign management” side of things. Unlike having to somehow cram it into your daily workflow, SalesHandy integrates itself into two of the most popular eMail solutions, Outlook and Gmail.
Depending on your needs, this might be liberating or severely limiting. SalesHandy doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. That means that you might have to rely on even more tools if you want advanced features that help in managing your campaigns, need more granular user targeting or to set up some truly complex business automation tasks.
- Activity Dashboard
- Automated scheduling
- Outlook Gmail Tracking Plugins
- Great interface
- Affordable pricing
- Email Templates
- Competitors may be more complex, but also have more features
- Not optimal for complex automation scenarios (like multiple auto-replies)
Free basic plan (unlimited email tracking), from $7 for “regular” up to $40 for the best business automation “Enterprise” plans (prices per month).
With a name that, if you don’t know it’s an acronym, sounds like a Klingon sneezing, IF This Then That is a web-based automation tool that covers a lot of different bases. Useful to both the individual user and the multinational conglomerate, IFTTT allows creating tasks that can connect different apps, services, and tools. And thanks to The Internet Of Things, even light bulbs and “smart home appliances”. Like Alexa.
Its use is based on the core logic of every programming language: “IF This happens, Then Do That”. But in the case of IFTTT, it’s all a matter of choosing recipes, connecting boxes, clicking, to bring together different solutions for one common goal. With scenarios like “IF I get an email with THIS in the subject line, THEN tweet THAT link from our blog. Or turn off the light”.
As a bonus, you don’t need to be in front of your computer to take advantage of it – you can access and activate any of its recipes on your smartphone – as green dot shows in this guide.
- Simple user interface
- Can be used to connect both services but also many internet-connected devices
- Mobile version
- Has support by, and for, many companies like Amazon, Bosch, and Samsung
- Open API
- Allows the combination of numerous apps, services, tools, and smart appliances.
- Hundreds of pre-made, ready-to-use “recipes”
- There really is a recipe that allows “turning on the lights when the pizza delivery guy is approaching”
- You can easily get lost due to the sheer number of available options
- You may find the occasional “broken” recipe
- Doesn’t allow much more complex scenarios than “this event triggers that result”
- Doesn’t allow multiple services connected to a singular trigger event
Free for users, developers building applets. Varied monthly plans available for business partners, offering analytics and insights.
Microsoft’s Flow is one of the more versatile tools of its kind, since with it you can set up both simple and complex scenarios, connecting many services or applications under the same “flow”. As expected, a Microsoft product would excel when interacting with other Microsoft products, giving Flow the upper hand if you use solutions like Outlook, Office 365 and Windows in your business.
That doesn’t mean it’s restricted to Microsoft’s products, though. Initially, Flow lacked support for many “external” services but today it allows “connecting” solutions from Adobe Creative Cloud to YouTube and from Asana to Zendesk and creating complex workflows between them. Like creating a purchase agreement from a template, converting it and sending it for signing, as Plumsail show in this extensive guide.
- Multi-step workflows
- The Best integration with Microsoft products out of any similar solution
- Options for both fully-automated and user-triggered scenarios
- Automated decision-making based on conditions
- Mobile version
- Creation of versatile scenarios with multiple steps combining over two solutions
- Large set of pre-defined, ready-to-use templates
- Supports many “connections” (to other services)
- Complex interface
- Multiple-service complex workflows may sometimes time-out
The free plan offers unlimited workflows but restricted runs per month and extended duration between checks for trigger events (15 minutes). Paid plans increase those limits.
Zapier is another alternative in the Codeless Automation game, but the fact we mention it after IFTTT and Flow doesn’t mean it’s a lesser option.
Quite the opposite, Zapier allows you to create complex interactions between multiple services after trigger events. Yes, that means that, unlike IFTTT, with Zapier you can have a single trigger activate multiple actions, on different services, at once.
Placing itself right in the middle, Zapier also doesn’t get as complex as Microsoft’s Flow. It’s neither as powerful, but that’s because its makers probably realized that most people think loops are better in a bowl with milk (when a fruity cereal), or in code (when “logic loops”), than in their automation solutions. This post by Inbound Now shows you how to automate twitter with it.
- Over 1500 “Apps” to connect to
- Multi-step “Zaps”
- Conditional Logic
- Collaboration Tools
- The largest collection of “connections”
- Almost as easy as IF TTT, as powerful as Flow.
- Good collection of predefined “Zaps” can have you up and running in no time
- Limited free option
- Expensive plans
- Almost as easy as IF TTT, as powerful as Flow. Emphasis on “almost”.
Free for up to 5 zaps, with up to 2 steps. Starts from $20 to increase the number to 20 Zaps and get support for multi-step Zaps and Premium Apps. “Teams and companies”, less restricted and more feature-rich plans, up to $600. (Prices per month. Don’t include “usage-based extra charges”).
What started as a relatively straightforward client that primarily allowed posting at multiple Twitter accounts, has grown into a social media powerhouse used by hundreds of companies of the Fortune 1000.
HootSuite has expanded its reach, supporting over 20 different social networks. It’s not just “a posting client” but also an Analytics solution that can monitor your brand’s performance and offer helpful insights. Plus, they offer great information and blog posts that help you upgrade your marketing game and reach a larger following.
But at its core, HootSuite remains one of the best tools for small business automation, allowing you to manage your social presence by scheduling posts on multiple networks from a single convenient dashboard
- Content Curation
- Team Management
- Mobile version
- Automatic scheduling
- Bulk scheduling
- Content calendar
- Restricted free plan
- Pricey extended plans
Free for a single account, 3 social profiles and up to 30 scheduled messages. Less restricted plans start from $29 and reach “contact us for pricing, the number didn’t fit the page” levels.
Ah, Tusker! An ancient game on the Commodore 64 that has absolutely nothing to do with Tasker, the premium task automation solution for all Android phones and tablets. But they do have something in common: they’re both “too retro” for the average user.
That’s because Tasker’s interface feels, due to its very nature, complicated. It really isn’t, but the huge number of options and sub-options hidden in menus and sub-menus, that allow you to automate almost anything on the device, can cause a migraine.
It’s not just a business automation tool. It’s a life automation tool, that will allow you, for example, to answer or mute an incoming call by “flipping” your phone upwards or downwards, to run the default camera app when you rotate it in a 100 degree semi-horizontal angle, to show a specific business-related note when That Important Contact tries to reach you.
- Hundreds of triggers based on time, active app, location, events and more
- Single-trigger, multiple-action scenarios
- More than 200 in-built actions, plugin support for even more
- Loops, variables, conditions
- Allows transmutation of automation scripts to standalone apps
- Standalone “offline” app, no need for an internet connection
- Can automate almost anything on an Android device
- (Ridiculously) cheap
- Old-school, bare-bone interface
- Lacks full-fledged guides and a central library of pre-made scenarios to ease getting into it
No automation, no cake
The tools in our list are considered the best business automation software, services and solutions anyone can find today. By not using them, you’re doing a disservice to yourself.
Yes, to take advantage of them you’d need to invest some time to set them up to do your bidding. But that would be time well worth spending, for you’d get every second back. With interest.
Think of automation like this: it’s like having your own personal digital assistant (actually, more than one of them). Even in an ideal situation, you would have to spend some time to tell them what you want, how they could help you. Same thing.
The time you’ll “waste” to set those solutions up will end up saving you thousands of clicks, button presses and time spent micro-managing your business (and personal life), when you could be spending your time on the grander – and more important – aspects.
Like planning your vacation to Mêlée Island.
So, what would you want them to do for you?