While it’s important to build systems in your business, running them all manually can be expensive and time-consuming. According to Chris Davis, the answer lies in automating your small business systems.
In this episode, Chris Davis — founder and Chief Automation Officer of Automation Bridge — explains what you need to automate in your small business to increase the impact of your systems.
In this interview we discuss:
- Which processes to automate in your small business
- The timescales of automating your business
- The tools to use to automate your business
Host: Josh Fonger
Guest: Chris Davis
Please Note: The following is a computer auto-generated transcript and will include some inaccuracies.
Welcome to the Work The System podcast where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less using systems. And I'm your host, Josh fonger. Today we have a special guest. We have Chris Davis. Chris is an electrical engineer, a turned entrepreneur. He specializes in marketing automation. And Chris has raised over 120 million in funding during his career. Now a sought after international speaker, workshop facilitator, and automated marketing mentor, Chris is the founder of Automation Bridge, where he helps small businesses learn to automate their own systems. Alright, Chris, why don't you give us the background? How did you become the automation expert? And how'd you start Automation Bridge?
All right, so I'm shared, I'm good. Now I am all focused on you. So it's amazing, because it was not something that I anticipated. So going forward, it didn't make sense. But looking back, it made perfect sense. You know, so I'm actually an artist, a lot of people don't know that about me. I'm an artist at heart. So that was my first love. And I thought I was going to school to become an artist. And my dad said, hey, you're, you're really good at math. You don't want to be a starving artist, go to college and do something with your numbers. So I became an engineer. And after I graduated as an electrical engineer, I worked in the corporate world for Lockheed Martin for seven years programming microprocessors. After that ended, I ended up using web development to transition into entrepreneurship, which opened up the door to learning that websites that didn't make money, were just like brochures. So what made a website functional, different? What made it what's the difference between a brochure website and a functional website, and I learned it was backend automation. So I just dove in deep and naturally took to it. And it wasn't until I was at lead pages and a buddy asked me say, Chris, what Who are you? How did you get here? You're this engineer with an MBA. But you're good at marketing, great on camera, like what? I don't get it, he can see the connection. I said, Well, he said, What did you do at Lockheed Martin? And I told him, I said, Well, I programmed microprocessors for our nation's defense technologies, like what was it called? I said, Oh, these little microchips were called auto pop. Oh, they were called autopilots. But the second I said, auto, I was like, Ah, it does make sense. I've actually been in automation this entire time, just in different fields, right, different sectors. So.
So since most of us listening to this, me included, don't have that kind of skill set or background. What should we do, right? Because I think this is definitely a buzzword to automate your business, automate your website. And people are like, yeah, I want to do that. But since we're not engineers, and so we'd haven't had that back on. Where do we get started? How do we get started with that?
Yeah, it can be very overwhelming. So let me just take people off the hook, a lot of people beat themselves up, they try to rush into it. And the first thing they think about is technology and signing up for free tools and everything. And automation in a lot of people think it's robots, robots and droids. And they're nervous, if they're a small business owner, like, Oh, I got to be authentic in my business, droids can't run my business, it's got to have a personal touch. So I always tell people that automation is just an extension of you. Right, automation magnifies who you are. So if you're great. Automation will make you greater if you're late, automation will make you later. So wherever you are positive or negative automation is going to amplify because it allows you to just put what you're doing in front of more people. So I often tell people like yourself, really, Josh, is that you're actually closer and better for getting started at automation than most technical folks. Because if you're a techie like me, an engineer, the first thing that I did was dive into the technology. I was like, there's so many tools, you know, and I'm just tech heavy. I'm just deep in it. And I didn't understand marketing. I didn't understand business models. I didn't understand the value of the process. And you do that enough to where you're on calls. And you're telling people yeah, we could use this and PHP that and then web hook this. And then this platform was sent over here to the API, and they're just glazed. I like what you're like, Alright, $2,000. You ready? They're like, Oh, wow, think about it. Right? I started to learn like that technical acumen in that speech, you reserve that, do not bring that, do not bring that to the clothes, do not bring that to the CEO. They need to understand what needs to be done. How's it going to generate the money? So with a lot of people who don't understand automation, where they get started, I tell them, do not start with the tech. Put that out of your mind, throw it in the back burner somewhere. We'll get to it. But it's all about the process. Sit down. Let's talk through your process. I've got six systems, six steps that I want people to do and I just asked Some of the questions and they're just answering them. And before you know it, I've got their entire business processes mapped out. And we're ready, we're now prepared to get started with automation.
So what are maybe you don't have time for all six, seven, but what would be some of the core processes that every company should at least explore in terms of automation?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I could go through fairly quickly. And this is specific to digitizing your processes, right. So taking a traditional process or a non existing process, and placing it online to leverage the Internet for rapid growth. So the first question is, where do you meet question marks? Where do you meet new eyeballs? Right? So once you meet those new eyeballs, where do you send them for those eyeballs to become leads? Somebody becomes a lead by giving you information. So where does that transaction take place? Out of all of the people that have come in giving you information have become leads? How do you follow up with them? Okay, and if you're following up with them, where are you taking them to? Right, what is the next step? And I often refer to that as a sales event. Okay. And that's where you make your offer. So my follow up question to that is, how do you make your offer? So out of all of the people that you've attracted, that you've captured information, followed up with and sent to an offer? How many of them decided to say, I want that product? And out of all of them that decided to say, I want that product? How are you delivering it to them with immediacy? just answering those questions, Josh, it's amazing how much information you can extract, and how many holes you can point out to say, Hmm, is this how you're doing it? Because the follow up question, after all of that, is going back through and assessing the technology that you're using for every step.
Okay, and you and I talked a little bit about this beforehand. Because I think it'd be fun to talk about this with a real example. So let's just say an example that anyone can think of, let's just say a painting company. Right? So let's just say they have 30 employees, it's all handshake deals, and cash, and checks. And since they're trying to grow, they want to open up into other cities and territories. Like what, like, where do they even? Or how does it look?
Yeah. I have to tell them, if it's a painter's company, they're probably looking at one of your podcast episodes, and it was like, No longer is it acceptable to run your business through a spreadsheet. I saw that. So I was like, hey, I fully agree. The first step is you're gonna need a CRM, a customer relationship management system. There is no way, no way that you're going to be able to serve these people at the level that matches your painting acumen and expertise without understanding who's who. You'll be able to tell who's in what demographic, right, what services are being requested, you'll start seeing trends. Hey, out west, there's a lot of people asking to paint their basements, right? Hey, out east, it's always outside, they always want me to paint outside. So now you can at least just just by putting your data, we just haven't changed anything. You're still handshaking, you're still exchanging cash, right? You're still very manual, and traditional. But just having that CRM will help you start to see trends and patterns, where you can at least be more efficient and effective at who you say yes to and when. Right. So now if we get into the process, if you're a painter, it's your local. So the world is Google AdWords is at your disposal, right? If you could just OPT simple optimization for local search and have a page just a simple landing page where people can ring your phone, I would love to say yeah, capture their emails sent out into the just let them ring your phone, you'll be amazed at how many local based businesses want their phone to ring. So that is literally what those are the two steps that I would say start with. And before you finish executing the second step, you'll probably have more business than you can handle. Now we're talking about systemising and really making sure all of those subsystems and systems are firing so that you can handle the growth.
And that was that was you got to lead into my next thought is I've got to believe that once you fix one little system, it probably brings up so much business for them that they can't even handle doing all nor do they have to do all at once. How long does it take to do and most people like me, they want the whole thing done. But how long does it take to get all of those things done? And I mean, should it be spaced out over years? So that actually works?
Yeah, yeah, I love this question Josh, because I have to tame expectations. So the marketers I mentor, I say, hey, listen, be realistic. You can be great, you can be amazing. You can be found online. But the biggest thing is to be realistic and set those realistic expectations. And the reality is it varies, but it varies by this right? If you know your processes, if you're in by knowing, all automation starts analog, right, you have to be doing something to know what to automate. You don't come to me saying, Hey, I have this new business idea. Let's automate everything. No, no, timeout, not your guy, go find some the next step, right? Because you, automation requires information. Right? That information comes from our activities, our day to day activities that help our business run, and when they start to get repetitive, yet profitable or necessary, then it's like ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, automate, automate. Like all of these signs are pointing to it, right? So when you have your processes defined, your time of execution is going to be a lot shorter. So what I tell everybody is reserve at least 30 to 60 days for planning. You have to count the costs and understand what's ahead of you. Okay, we've got this data coming in here, this data is coming in here, well, wait a minute, if they come into this, this spot and not this spot, the data is not matched. So maybe we need to streamline our data collection, understand at which points we're collecting what you know, you're, you're really just streamlining. It's almost like the bill of goods for a carpenter is like, okay, we're going to build a house, let me go get the wood, let me go get this, let me get that. That's where we're at, we're at planning, you have to commit to planning. What I teach is that you don't have to just because you're waiting to execute during the planning phase doesn't mean you can be, you can't be profitable. So what I do is I like to appeal to the CEO. The CEO wants money, they want that immediate impact. So if they hire an automation specialist to come in, or they're entrusting me with their, their marketer, and I can get them a quick win within the first two weeks, like, hey, we sent this email and we made $10,000. They're locked into the planning process. Now, they're like, wait a minute, more of that to come if we just plan for another month? And it's like, yes, so that's kind of like my secret sauce, there's get results while you're planning. And if you can, if you can identify quickly from the process extraction, where that big result can come from, that'll buy you the time to plan. So now that you're planning, the rest is execution. This is where it gets tricky Josh, because depending on your business, and your team, so if the team can't use the technology, you can't use the technology, right? So as a consultant and an expert at technology. If I say, hey, use Infusionsoft. It's a great CRM, it's got all kinds of automation, and it confuses everybody on the team. Well, that's not that's not the right tool for them. And then I say, Well, how about we start with MailChimp, where we're just sending some basic emails, they're like, I love this monkey. This is amazing. We're getting great results. I cringe I do, I cringe. But it's like, I can't, I can't prescribe technology higher than the collective acumen to execute. I can only recommend that maybe we get somebody else in here that has a higher acumen. So we can really use the tools that are necessary. So those are the factors you get, you know, so depending on how all of those factors align, but I like to tell people, 90 days for for some good results all the way up to a year, you can take all the way up to a year, but it's fun along the way, you know, with the right person, because you're getting results, you're testing stuff, you're seeing new opportunities.
When someone is making a decision to automate. It's not like they definitely would be forward thinking like they have to be thinking like, absolutely 1234 or five years in advance. And do their ambitions need to be more than, like, hey, I want to have 3% growth, or is it more or less a person who says I want to double, triple quadruple the size of my business? And this is why I'm doing it like is that part of the discussion with a CEO?
Yeah, I like that. Because the bigger the vision cast, the quicker we can get there. So me personally, and you know this Josh, when you implement systems, it's linear for a minute. And then at some point, it goes exponential, that hockey stick. And we never know where that point is. So that's the exciting part with every new business. It's just like, hey, look, keep doing the right thing. Over time, and something's going to happen. You know, it's not magic. we're calculating it because we're measuring. But yeah, if you're implementing systems and You can't get at least double the growth or double the revenue, then I'd have to question the system. You know, I like, this is aggressive, let me put my Asterix here. Other marketers, I do not recommend making this promise. But I've been able to do this consistently. I shoot for 10x within 12 months, you know, especially if I'm hands on with the business, like consulting. There's no reason I've not ever built a system that didn't teknicks like, it just hasn't happened. very meticulous, very calculated process. Boring at times. It's like, oh, more data, Chris. You know, but it works.
To get to that though, there's a certain amount of advertising spent, right? I mean, that's part of where you start. If we're gonna collect 10 leads a day, let's call like, a higher lead a day. That's part of it, right?
Yeah, sometimes you know what, it's funny Josh, because some businesses, I look at it as, you get a customer like a fruit, right? And if you've ever had a fruit and you're biting it, you're like, man, this fruit is good. But if you put that fruit in a juicer, you're like, all of that was in there. Like, what all of that water, all of that juice? So a lot of people don't squeeze enough juice out of the fruit. They just get the orange, take a slice of money, now's a good march next, you know, take a bite of the apple. And I'm like, No, no, no, no, let's get that big old bucket of apples you have back there. And let's make apple juice. And let's sell it to the people who were apples, because they love apple juice, right? So a lot of times, businesses don't have a recurring model, and they don't capitalize on the customers who have already transacted, right. So a system for just existing customers to transact again, I can get you a two to 3x, but you know, two to 3x increase, right? And now we have that system, same legion, Josh, same legion. Now, that's more profitable. Right? So by the time I push the advertising button, now, everything is just, you know, rising like that. So yeah, it could, it could involve ad spin. But a lot of times, you could just look at their existing processes, and they've got all kinds of money on the floor.
Now, with all the things you're saying, it sounds awesome. Would you recommend bringing on it as a subjective, bringing on someone to do this as a full time job? Having a consultant? getting trained, finding someone who kind of seems like they might like this stuff and training them? What is the way to solve this? Because it sounds like a lot of companies have holes in their business in automation, like, What? What should they do?
Yeah, they do. And I recommend it's best solved from the inside, you know. And the reason being Josh, is because to see the opportunities, and quickly take advantage of them requires two things. It requires intimacy. So you've got to be intimate with the business, you have to know why the CEO is saying do this, you have to see what he's not seeing he or she has not seen. And you can't do that, from the outside, there's only a level of success that you can get. So once you're in it, I call it, you know, injecting the blood of the business in your veins. You know, you think this stuff, you're always it's always on your mind, right, you've got total buy in, you're seeing opportunities, the next from intimacy is intelligence, right? So you have to know how to take advantage of it. You know, one thing is to see it. The next is how do I act on it intelligently? How do I do it in a way that produces an immediate result? The immediate result doesn't always have to be money, but it should always be positive. Right? So how do I do that, that intellect comes from mentoring, right, having the right person training and showing that person in your business exactly how to do it, because they're going to do a specific to your business, you're going to get a system built specific to your business and automated system specifically for your business. And it can only be done from the outside. There are times I've seen people outsource it. But it's like with any cookie cutter approach, you get it you get an initial lift, and then you taper off you know you don't you don't continue that exponential growth pattern.
Now that makes a lot of sense. Now, I wasn't gonna ask you about this, but I'm going to do I think your audience will like it. So I'm a tool because you work a lot of tools. Are there like the top three or five tools you think everyone should least be aware of? Or be looking at if they don't have any tool sets right now?
Yeah, every company needs what I call it marketing layer for one. This is a layer of technology that your tool sits on, that does not require your website for it to function. Okay, in This is a different the follow me everybody I know, you're just like, what was that? Where do I buy that? No, you create this and it's figuratively in a way. But if you ever have tried to implement marketing, landing pages, whatever, on your website, there is a web developer who is more so more concerned about code than leads. So a lot of times you get a lot of dissension, you just, there's a lot of head butting, because you're like, I need this page to do this. They're like, Well, wait a minute, well, I need to create it. And it needs to be this and it needs. And they break every conversion rule, because every conversion rule, because they're catering to code instead of conversions. So I like to put a marketing layer and what it looks like is either a subdomain or subdirectory. So work the system. com, maybe it's go, that worked a system calm. And in that domain, guess what it matches the brand. But I don't have to deal with a web developer, if I want to put a landing page up there, right. It's the marketers playground, they can do whatever they want to. And then you have software for pop ups on the website. So now all I have to do is give my web developer a link, don't do anything else, just put this link on that button. And then it triggers a pop up, when that lead comes in. It comes into my system all the way over here. Don't worry about it over there on the website, you keep on developing and loving your code. And now I've got this free flowing marketing experience. Right. So some of the tools again, you want a landing page tool, but I can't operate a business without landing pages. And here's what's interesting, Josh, I used to work at lead pages that built out that entire marketing system, we raised funding 37 million everything. I loved it, I love the platform. No knock against my people still at lead pages. But at that time, landing page technology had not evolved like it is now we're seeing a lot of success, a lot of success with WordPress based page builders, WordPress base page builders. Elementor is one that a lot of my marketing friends, including myself, are getting really good results from. But putting it in that WordPress ecosystem. There's so many benefits to so many things. But if you're like, no, I hate WordPress, you gotta update plugins. This isn't that one, I say you're probably using the wrong theme and don't know what you're doing, too if there's other alternatives. A lot of people like clickfunnels, I have nothing against clickfunnels. I just don't like how they capture data. You know, I like to be able to capture more than my first name and email, give me that ability, right? lead pages are still out there slower development, you know that you've got Instapage. That's more for marketing teams. So just now I just have convoluted the whole conversation of landing page technology, right? It's like, well, which one Chris? I don't know which one is specific for your business. But you need landing page software. And you need a CRM that can send emails right? I recommend a marketing automation CRM. So for small businesses, you only have four options. These are the four options that you have just listened to, everybody, don't let anybody tell you otherwise. You have Infusionsoft, Ontraport, HubSpot and Active Campaign. Those are the four options for small businesses who want to run a CRM with automation built in, there are no other alternatives. Don't let them get responses, the male champs and all of those email automation platforms pose as marketing automation platforms with the CRM, okay, that's gonna save you some money there. And then lastly, you need some form of payment system online. Okay. Um, if you're selling multiple products, you're going to need some ecommerce type, you know, where there's a cart involved. If you're selling services, you need a single checkout experience, right. And then if you're in a more proprietary situation where you're like an attorney, or something like that, you're probably going to have that custom developed because the information is sensitive. So those systems, one that I love for services, is called thrive cart. Real, really solid, a lot of people use Moonray. We're not moonclerk. That's old office autopilot stuff. Moonclerk is one that I've seen a lot of people use. And then there's, there's a plethora of other ones. And then for like a cart, Shopify has really been just on the rise. It feels like it's becoming the standard if you're doing e-commerce, and then they also have a nice automation supplement called Klaviyo, which allows you to do some automated email based on the purchases and experience there. So those are just just thoughts of all these tools that I just threw out. Josh, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Because I know many people on here have known you go and type in landing page software, it's pages. So how do you sort through all of that, so that's one of the things that I see I specialize because I play with these tools every day all day. Slight, you know my little fun time.
So what about tools where you have? maybe ask me in your CRM system, then you have something in your order form and you have something in a client record. You're trying to connect them all together. Do you use various Google products? Or do you link them together with some kind of automation, software, Zapier or something like that?
Zapier is like the digital marketers. Super Glue? Yes. Whenever things don't talk, our stick is like up, let me go get my xAPI here. And you know, you pull it out. It's this old dirty tube that has been used time and time again, it just works, right. And then I love what I do. I love Google sheets for like, data processing. So sometimes it's as simple as when a row is added to a sheet that could trigger that information being sent to another platform. And since everybody can pretty much use a spreadsheet, it works really well to kind of help people who are more manual, you say, hey, whenever somebody does this, put their name and email right here. And they do it. And then it triggers automation somewhere else. And they feel great. Like I did it, did it work over there. You know, they're sitting right next to me, I got it, thanks. Just keep putting them in the spreadsheet, you know, if it's more heavy, I'm doing the spreadsheet. I've got data coming into a spreadsheet, I've got formulas running, right filters, and then when it populates to another sheet is sent out to another platform. So those are the two primary tools that are used as as my my super glue,
Yeah well, very good. I'm sure we could talk about this all day, maybe we will, after hours, because like you you've been in this world for a long time and have the experience. And it's kind of a new world. I mean, I don't think this world existed a couple decades ago. So very cutting edge stuff. So one question I like to ask everybody, before they leave is about systems. So tell us a story about a system, or an automation you put into either your own business or someone else's business, just just so we can kind of get a context of that?
Yeah. Oh, there's so many. So the ones I've grown to love are the simple ones. Okay, right. And the simple ones for me are like routers, or like they perform this simple function. So I'll tell you about one that I call my mu fu. And it's called the master follow up. And what this automation does, every business should have a buffo is what it does is, you know, you could have multiple entry points into your business at times, especially as your marketing matures, you're probably going to have more than one offer or whatnot. So when somebody comes in, they could be on a different path or based on their actions and decision can branch off. So what the mu fu does is it centralizes those paths into one. And then it sends you down one singular path to let you know what to excuse me what to expect going forward. So it prepares you for maybe weekly newsletters, monthly newsletters or whatnot, the mopho is only there if they haven't converted in their initial flow. Okay. So again, it's centralized. But the good thing about the mu fu is it goes and checks and sees it holds you until you're done with any other sequence, because that's where the sale is taking place. Right? Right. When they opt in, you're putting the best content in front of them. So the move who doesn't want to start sending them just ongoing content, if they're already in a process where they can convert? So it's just waiting, and it's checking, Hey, are you in a process yet? Yep, still are Okay, wait, and the minute they're done with all the process, it says, Okay, you've gone through all the process you didn't buy here, and then they go through and they get the long term nature for the, for lack of a better term, to stay on top of mine. That's probably my favorite one that I've done for businesses and I use personally. And then other ones are like counters and timestamps and little utility automations that provide you the information to always be in a position to execute intelligence, right, execute intelligently. So some, some of my counters are, you know, days until they've done something, you know, a lot of my other other of my counters are okay, I could get through that. Let me share one more. Let me share one more Josh, I've got all of my follow up. All of my follow up systems now. Are Netflix enabled? I call it binge worthy. So what it does is you know, the days of the drip were like sin email, wait a day, send the next email way today. Netflix has clearly shown that people want that button at the bottom of this next episode now, right? So I put this in my follow up and saw an immediate response. Because when people want your information they want your information. Who are you? Who are you to withhold such information from them in an automated way. So what I like to do is I'll have my automations wait and listen for when they've clicked the link in email one, and it'll automatically send email to, but it won't send email until they click the link. So now it's this move at your own pace. So some people can go through my whole series, and in less than an hour. Other people may take them a week, but they get to move at their own pace. And they think I'm doing it. You're like, thanks. They’re sorry, it's taking me a week, Chris, I get these emails. They're like, sorry, it's taking me a week. Thank you for sending it. I thought that you forgot about me. I'm like, No, always thinking about you. Got the email. So it just shows you how you can be personal, you can really personalize the journey. And I guess, with everything, that's what it is. Automation is not elimination of the human element, it is enhancement. You get it, you know, like you're already automating what you do. And then it's providing you an opportunity to engage at a higher level. So there's never a 100% automated process. There's always a level of human interaction. What that mix is, is truly up to you and your business.
That's very cool. I had heard of Netflix in concept, but I hadn't thought of it in terms of emails at auto. A new one for me. That's pretty cool. I'm glad I got a new nugget there. Yeah, this has been fun. What's the question? I didn't ask you. But I should have asked you about?
What do I spend most of my time doing when I'm not looking at my computer screen automating?
So Josh, I would tell you if we would interview last week, I told you either playing basketball or my son has me on this Xbox game called Paladins. Don't ask me what it is. He just got me playing it. Yeah, as of this week, I am now an official longboarder really, it's like a skateboard. 2.0 The wheels are bigger. You don't fall off of it by rolling over a rock. Like all of the things as a child I wish my skateboard did these longboards do. So I'm like, I think I'm a longboarder. I think I need some gear and everything.
So, well I was not expecting that. What's funny, my wife and I were just talking about getting longboards for our three boys for Christmas.
Yeah, they'll love it.
Oh, very cool. Well, Chris, this has been a lot of fun where people find out more about you, your automation, your training, your certification, all the stuff you have going on. Where can they go?
Yeah, they can go to the Automation Bridge. I've prepared a special link for everybody on this podcast. If you go to automation.com/wts. What you can do is I've got a free course that you can download and you can participate in the binge experience yourself. CClick a link and you'll see the next email will come. Wait a week. Click the link and you'll see it'll be automatically delivered. But it does what it does: it just gives you the foundation of how to get started with follow up marketing.
Cool. Very good. All right, Chris is fun. Enjoy your Friday night longboarding. Thanks everybody for joining us live here on Facebook, if you're watching or appreciate iTunes, wherever you're watching this. And stay tuned next week, every Friday we try to have some shows there live. Otherwise, you catch us on any podcast player and you want a free copy of that book right there behind me to Work The System. leave us a review. We pull one name out of a hat a week, and we made a lot of copies directly to you for free. Or you can download it for free at workthesystem.com. Otherwise, thanks everybody, and we'll see you next episode.