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If You Think An Ad Agency Can’t Automate, You’re Wrong

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Accelo CEO and co-founder, Geoff McQueen, discusses ways that service businesses, such as ad agencies, can automate parts of their business they never thought they could.

There’s a certain irony to running a small business of any kind, which is that so much of your time is spent doing things that have nothing to do with why you started that business.

Whether you run a retail business, a service business, or a hospitality business, it seems as though busy work—in the form of legal matters, timesheets, scheduling and taking meetings, and a plethora of other time-wasting and resource-draining tasks—is what you end up worrying about the most.

But as Geoff McQueen, CEO and co-founder of Accelo, told Social Media Week LA this week, it’s possible for businesses—namely, service businesses like agencies—to automate the tasks that once felt unrepeatable.

Why a service business has it tougher than most

McQueen identified three main reasons why agencies have to work even harder than other types of small businesses to get their jobs done.

For one, you don’t get the benefit of true repetition and scale of what you do. “Other businesses get a lot more repeatability—for service businesses, no two clients are ever the same,” said McQueen. “Everything is like new again.”

Second is your people, because even the best people are, well, people, not machines.

“Your team is people, who are creative, not consistent, who are resourceful, not reliable,” said McQueen. “You’re dealing with a variable beast.”

And third, agencies have “the world’s most perishable inventory,” according to McQueen, and that is time. You can’t stockpile it for next quarter. You can’t pre-prepare a campaign and hope a client walks right into it. You need to start over each time.

The solution: Systemize it

According to McQueen, systems allow you to scale, improve efficiency, boost profitability, streamline operations, allow you to work on the business, and give you the information to make good decisions.

Therefore: “There’s a silver bullet, which is to systemize what you do,” said McQueen.

And that’s what a lot of businesses do for other aspects of their business. From a marketing perspective, there are lots of affordable tools out there that automate your marketing. The same goes for sales and accounting. But what about your operations—the stuff in the middle, where a lot of your actual work, your profit and loss, takes place?

Until recently, there simply wasn’t the same kind of technology to handle systemizing operations. Now, there is ServOps.

Types of service operations automation

McQueen calls service operations automation, or ServOps, a new category of technology that will systemize and automate operations for service business and teams, “doubling your profitability and letting you get back to doing the work you love.”

Today, businesses are often kneecapped by operations—and they deliver great outcomes despite those shortcomings, not because of them.

Here are a few examples McQueen brought up:

  • Workflow: You’re able to now, through connecting systems like your inbox, calendar, and contacts list, pull all information into a client-centric view. Being able to see tickets being worked on and meetings scheduled without a lot of data entry.
  • Quotes or estimates: Once a quote is made, it quickly becomes separate from the work you’re doing. Now you’re able to put a quote or proposal, once it gets accepted, it turns straight into a project.
  • Starting from templates: You can set up a template for a certain kind of project, instead of making it up as you go along—and then adjust it as many of your projects go over budget.
  • Reminders and alerts: You can have the system run the business while you’re sleeping, and send you a report when things are out of tolerance. For example, if it’s been a week since you followed up with a lead, a report will generate letting you know it’s time to reach out.
  • Real-time insights into budget thresholds: You can set up tools that give you real-time insights into whether you’re on track to stay under budget, or if you need to have a meeting with a client to discuss ballooning costs.
  • Time and expenses: “Everyone hates timesheets.” That’s because you take busy, productive people and ask them to stop and jog their memory of what they did last week. Instead, technology can auto-populate a timesheet for you based on calendars and emails, which then needs to be approved or tweaked rather than filled from blank.

“What’s going on at the office today? What’s Billy in the corner working on? Not being able to answer that question makes life quite difficult when it comes to having to make decisions about growing the business,” said McQueen. With automation, thankfully, that question goes away, and instead we are left with why we got into business in the first place.

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