If you are looking to build more efficient teams, it’s tough to ignore automation.
Platforms like Zapier and Make have destroyed the barrier to entry:
Anyone with an email address can create an account and start playing around with “streamlining” their business processes with these tools.
But whether or not adding automation will result in actual business development is up for debate.
And since anyone can spend a few hours on YouTube, learn the ropes, and then send 1,000 emails claiming to be an “expert”, the discourse surrounding automation in general is tough to navigate.
At best, you might stumble upon an actual expert and save a bit of time or get clarity on your processes.
At worst, you’ve found a relentless distraction, an endless money pit, and the ultimate “wrench in the gears” to disrupt your marketing, sales, and customer success operations..
I am not saying automation is inherently bad – in fact, I use it every day. And as your resident HubSpot guru, streamlining operations for my clients is priority Numero Uno.
What I am saying is…
Automation is not inherently good.
And adding automation to broken processes is like building a machine…without knowing what you want the machine to do.
Let’s say you run a bakery. There are 5 bakers who work full-time baking the same type of bread.
You are ready to expand the business, and you want to automate the entire process with machines, promoting each baker to Floor Manager and multiplying your output by a factor of 10.
The first step is obvious:
Document the exact recipe and process of making your bread, start to finish, in as much detail as humanly possible.
If you skip this step – defining the actual job – you can’t possibly create a machine to do that job.
That's what happens when you add automation to a CRM system cluttered with outdated or inaccurate data and inefficient processes.
Because at the end of the day, the Golden Rule of Software still applies:
Garbage In, Garbage Out.
Automation is only as good as the data it processes.
If your CRM is littered with errors or outdated information, automating will amplify these issues.
“But automation saves so much time!”
This can be true. But there are 2 sides to every argument. And the other side of this coin is not complicated or nuanced:
Automated processes based on messy data are a great way to waste a dangerous amount of time and energy.
Things become double-scary when you factor in client-facing automations:
Communication errors inside your teams are one thing – errors in client interactions are a whole ‘nother beast.
A misplaced message or incorrect automation structure on the client side is a fast-track to making clients feel like you are “phoning in” your service delivery.
Introducing automation to a chaotic environment only adds layers of complexity.
I’m not trying to be an Automation Doomer here – with a bit of preparation, adding a few key automations to your business can be a game-changer for efficiency. So long as you…
Build the correct foundation.
So before you even think about adding any automation whatsoever to your business, you need to do 3 major things to prepare:
Step 1: Define Your Processes
Burn this into your brain every time you think about opening Zapier:
“Operations before automation.”
We all know this. We all understand it.
And yet…we add automation to muddy processes.
Think about it like this:
Why would you expedite something that doesn’t work?
“The automation will make it clearer!”
Unfortunately, it won’t. It will, however, do the exact opposite. If you want long-term stability at the software level, the software needs to be informed by ironclad processes you’ve already proven out inside your business.
So before you bring automation within 1,000 miles of your team, you need to analyze these processes and iron out the kinks.
A terrible process + automation = Automatic Terrible Processes
Only when your process is 100% foolproof should you think about creative ways to add automation to the mix.
Step 2: Clean Up Your Data
Once processes are locked in, decluttering is the next move. Take out the trash.
Remove duplicate entries, correct inaccuracies, and update old records.
This step is crucial – and yes, it is by far the most painful part of the process.
But without clean data, every single automation workflow you build is a time-suck, lying in wait to destroy entire work days when it needs diagnosed and untangled.
Step 3: Set Clear Goals
Once your data is squeaky-clean and your processes are unbreakable, you need to ask yourself one question:
“What is the actual goal of adding automation to this system?”
Understanding what you aim to achieve with automation is key to actually achieving it.
Are you looking to speed up response times, improve customer engagement, or enhance data analysis?
Or do you just need your sales reps to spend less time messing around on the computer?
All are valid, but without concrete goals, you’ll be tempted to veer off-course. You might even attempt to combine processes that shouldn’t be combined.
This is a direct route to the “Automation Torture Chamber”, where you’ll be untangling 231-step workflows that should have been 10 different processes across 3 separate teams.
Clear goals. Set them. Live by them. Add automation to achieve them. And remember:
The only “automation emergencies” are a result of a bad automation, not a result of needing automation.
Rushing into automation “to save time” without doing the Hard Work upfront is a surefire way to add rage and frustration instead of efficiency.
Clean up your CRM, define and streamline processes, and decide what your actual goals are.
Build the foundation.