YD video series: automation for agencies

Are you interested in automation tips for your agency? Watch the chat below to hear more about how we’ve implemented automation and what the process entails.

If you’d like a summary, here’s what we discussed:

  • We discussed the automation we’ve implemented at Yellow Door and for our clients, starting with automating social media scheduling using Zapier and Metricool. We also mentioned other software we cannot live without, including Airtable, Slack, Whatagraph, and native Apple tools.
  • We discussed the use of AI tools like ChatGPT in automating business processes, including onboarding clients. We highlighted the importance of identifying the best tools and software, mapping out the process, and creating a workflow that triggers the automation.
  • Dom discussed the process of automating their proposal and onboarding system, including creating a Xero quote, adding it to project management and time tracking software, and automating the onboarding process for consultants. Emma asked about the most common question in initial automation consultations, which is what kinds of processes can be automated, and Dom explained that it depends on whether the process involves information that can be accessed on a cloud-based system.
  • We discussed the benefits of automation and how it can eliminate human error and save time. Dom shared her experience of working on a complex automation project for a wholesale fuel distributor, which was successful and led to funding for the current version of the app.

Or you can read the full transcript below:

Emma Donovan

I’m excited that we’ve finally carved out some time to talk about the automation we do at Yellow Door and for our clients.

So, let’s maybe start with the very first automation that you did and why.

Dominique Sandwith 

Cool. So right at the beginning, the first thing we did was to automate scheduling our social media. That was mostly because we had quite a few clients that we had to do scheduling for and it just was such a time consuming process.And no one should have to do that manually now. 

It is possible to plan your post directly on a scheduling tool but I just find that there’s a lot of caveats there – you want to get approval from the client first, you want to make sure the content is planned per channel which we do on Airtable and then have that automatically schedule once we have approval on the content from the client.

So in order to do that I created the Zap on Zapier and once the posts were approved it sent the information through to our scheduling app which is Metricool.

It was a simple process but actually hilariously time-consuming to set up because as I did each one I found a better way to make it work and then had to go back and redo them. 

But I guess that’s all part of the learning process.

Emma Donovan

Yeah. And I mean, it’s something we’ve done probably for what, eight years now. And if you think of the hours that has saved our team, and especially our account execs and interns who typically in an agency would spend so much of their time doing that.

Dominique Sandwith 

Exactly. And also the human error that comes with copying and pasting from one channel to another.

Emma Donovan

And you mentioned Airtable, definitely one of the platforms that we live and use every day. Thanks, Uno De Waal, if you are reading this or listening, for introducing us to it. But what other software can you not live without?

Dominique Sandwith 

So many! But yeah, Airtable is definitely one of the big ones. Of course, Zapier, my favourite no-code automation tool. I’m increasingly more attached to Metricool, l just love having all of our content there in one place. Whatagraph takes care of our reporting which is really, really useful and then anything from native Apple. I live on all my Apple devices so everything needs to work together so that’s mostly the tools I use.

I mean that obviously doesn’t include the stuff we use on a daily basis like Slack and Spark and Asana and Harvest! So many things.

Emma Donovan

Yeah, it’s a lot but I think what’s interesting now that you mention them all is how some of them are internal and some clients get to be part of.

So with Whatagraph, the clients get to see all the key stats visually. And I think that that’s a game changer, having a dashboard just makes so much more sense.

That takes me to the next question which is how AI tools like ChatGPT influence the way you think about automation.

I know it’s something we’ve played with so far but looking forward, what do you think it will role role play?

Dominique Sandwith 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this., obviously it’s so relevant right now and how it applies to our business.

And it’s so broad that it’s difficult to narrow down. But I think one of the things is the processes that you have to go through when you’re thinking about automation – looking at the tools that you have in your business and identifying the best tools and the best software.

And AI just has the ability to really just give of you so much more information about what tools there are available.

So it gives you that sort of broader scope of not having to literally search for a software for CRM or whatever.

It can give you so many options. So you can also use it in the planning process to suggest your workflow and looking at a specific scenario and how it could be improved, troubleshooting issues you may have and other things like that.

And then there’s of course the actual tool itself in integrating it into your process. So for example you can set up a process where you get an email from a prospective client and ChatGPT actually then creates the response in a way that’s personalised and makes sense.

And then we can even just line up as a draft email for you to then reply immediately to your potential customers, and you can still check and personalise it further but it saves a whole bunch of time actually figuring out what the client is asking for.

So there’s that kind of thing, but as it improves you’ll get more options as we go along.

Emma Donovan

Exactly, it’ll keep evolving. I love that you mentioned potential clients because I think my next question is getting a little bit more specific about what we do at Yellow Door. So how would you go about automating onboarding?

I know we’ve done it for ourselves but if you’re doing it for a client what would that look like?

Dominique Sandwith 

The steps are the same for any automation but we can delve into a little bit more detail here.

So the first step is to figure out what processes and software are currently being used in the business to onboard clients or if they are any or if it’s all being done manually and whether there’s a better process.

And then mapping it out, so saying okay, what is actually the best way to get from A to B?

And then making the decisions about each step. So do we need all of the software that we are currently using? Do we need to minimise? Can one software do more than one thing? So you can replace a few different steps. You want to streamline as much as possible. 

And then it’s about plugging those things into your favourite automation tool. So we use Zapier here, but there is also Make – it just depends on what you prefer. 

Then creating that flow is about what triggers the process. So where in the process do people come into this workflow? And then what are the steps that they follow?

With onboarding, for example, our trigger is the actual acceptance of the quote via our proposal software, and then we create a Xero quote from our proposal with the correct billing details.

The project then gets added to our project management software, assigned to the right person, and added to our time tracking system.

So it is in all the places that we need it to be and it’s all automatic. And then the client also gets correspondence after that from us saying, we’re onboarding you now and here is anything they need to sign, etc.

Our process depends on the service we are onboarding the client for, but that’s the main route we follow.

Emma Donovan

Amazing, it’s a lot to think about. 

Dominique Sandwith 

Yes, it took me a good while in the beginning to start with the processes. I remember standing in our boardroom one day with a blank whiteboard and mapping it all out step by step and getting so excited about all of it.

And then it took a while to refine the process. It’s also about teaching the team to know what the steps are so they don’t interrupt the process or double up manually, you know, so yeah people have got to let it let it happen as well.

Emma Donovan

Yeah. And so what is next on your list to automate?

Dominique Sandwith 

You know there’s always a backlog that we would love to do and don’t get to. But right now I’m busy automating the process of onboarding consultants. We have a big base of consultants that we call on that have different expertise, depending on what services we need to offer our clients.

So it’s quite a process vetting them and making sure they all have correct paperwork signed for us to be able to give them work.

And in the beginning, this was all manual, but I’m trying to now automate this process. And basically the best way for me to do that, I think, is we get them to apply through a form and that information is then used in creating a template agreement and then sent to them automatically for them to sign.

So that’s the one process and then they will be in touch with us once they have read and signed it. And they get a confirmation to say you are now onboarded and will be in touch with the first brief to you once you have something relevant. So that’ll be next 🙂 

Emma Donovan

And if we go back to thinking about the client side, what is the question you get asked most often in an initial like automation consultation?

Dominique Sandwith 

Mostly just what kinds of things can be automated. People just don’t really understand the practicalities of it. So I think based on this conversation, we can deduce that it’s basically anything can be automated.

But it’s actually about whether the process lives on a cloud-based system or not. So any process that entails a piece of information that is accessed by the cloud or the internet can generally be triggered.

So for example, like I mentioned before, the information needs to be online. So if you’re currently sending an email with a PDF and then people fill it out. That’s not going to be useful to us and we can’t automate that process as we don’t have information living on a server or database. So it’s all about finding that information or finding a way to get that information on a cloud-based system. I.e You would set up an online based form using tools like Airtable, Google Forms, Typeform, etc.

And then any other cloud-based system can be linked to it. So like I mentioned Xero, Slack, Asana, all of those things live on someone’s server. And that means that we can access it through an API. And the API we use is often available through the Zapier system, which is built in and ready to use.

So it kind of just allows us to open up that world of software using a tool like Zapier.

Emma Donovan

Ok yeah I think that it makes so much sense. And it is one of those things hard to get your head around if you haven’t had experience with it as it’s not tangible, but when you understand a little bit more then I guess it opens up your mind to all the possibilities, which is exciting!

Dominique Sandwith 

I think so many people don’t realise how much of their business is manual and how much of that is prone to human error.

And that can all be erased, not to mention all the time that it’s taking people. Just not having to manually capture information is a big part of improving job satisfaction, I think?

Emma Donovan

And last question, what has been your favourite automation to date and why?

Dominique Sandwith 

So a couple of years ago I was involved with an MVP, minimal viable product, for an app that worked with a wholesale fuel distributor to get an opportunity for trucks to fill out their tanks at approved fill stops.

Sounds complicated, but it wasn’t really… essentially, it was just a massive project. It took months to figure out all of the integrations for this app.

I was in charge of all of the periphery around making sure the processes were automated. So the app itself did most of the work and then that information that came from the app needed to go to somewhere.

There were master dashboards for the client and then customer-facing dashboards per truck that needed to have the right price of fuel and where fuel stops were and where they’d filled up and the invoicing of all that.

It was massive learning curve and we basically had to put this whole thing together from scratch without really understanding the end result yet because it was an MVP.

And yeah, the app has now been rebuilt thanks to them being able to get funding and is very successful. And so yeah, I’m super proud of being part of that initial solution. I learned so much along the way and how to problem-solve… after many late nights and long meetings!

Emma Donovan

Amazing. I remember you being really sucked in, in a good way. You start with one thing and then you’re like, oh, wait, but I can also do this and I can also do that.

Great, thanks for the chat. We’re very excited to see what is next on the automation list and take the conversation further.

Dominique Sandwith

Yeah thanks for the chat, Em!

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