Automating Your Success
Automation sounds like a term of the future, when really it's one of the present. Though some businesses hesitate to embrace the technology and others fear it will replace jobs, the truth is - it simply maximizes efficiency.
Recently, our CEO, Stacy Jones sat down with an expert in the field of automation to discuss the function automation plays in marketing, when and how it should be used, and what you need to know for the future. In this blog, Hollywood Branded learns how to drive your business through automation from the expertise of Will Christensen, the founder of DataAutomation.
A Little More About Will
Will Christensen is the co-founder of DataAutomation, a company specializing in software automation and integration processes for e-commerce sellers. He additionally leads business development for RoundSphere, a tech incubator dedicated to developing new opportunities through software. Will's passion is tinkering with cutting-edge technology, apps, and systems to create innovative solutions to both common and unusual problems across business and marketing.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: I would love for you to share how you got to where you are today, leading DataAutomation, quite frankly, something I'm fascinated with, that I am trying to have take over our entire company. But people actually call you the Tony Stark of software. So can you share with us how you've gotten to where you are today?
Answer: I'm a huge Marvel fan, so that helps. So watching Iron Man and the way that he just seems to be able to pull together and make things out of nothing or create random stuff, I've always been fascinated by the idea of inventing, always been fascinated by the idea of creating something new, creating something from nothing. It's always been something that I've wanted to do. I'm that kid who loved to take things apart, and I wouldn't always put them back together. I have always wanted to know why and how things worked. And so I kind of dug in to kind of see how the world worked. And when you combine that curiosity with what I would call drive... My wife might call it laziness... you combine those two things, that curiosity for making the world a better place or for figuring out how things work with a drive to do things in an efficient way, you kind of naturally spin out and become someone who is basically driven by automating processes and looking at the world through a lens of what if. What if we could just make it so that you never had to manually key in that order again? Or what if we could make it so you never had to fill out that form again? Maybe it would just automatically fill itself out.
I've always been fascinated by what could be done. And so through a lot of digging in and finding different situations or coming up against manual problems that people would give me, a manual task. My grandfather gave me the unique opportunity to go out and well, it wasn't that unique to shovel the walk for his apartment business. And I shoveled and shoveled. I mean, it was endless. We live in Utah, so in the wintertime, we get a fair amount of snow here. As a landlord, you have to keep those walks clear. I really didn't like shoveling the walk. And I had seen somewhere... This is back in 2002, I think, something like that, maybe 2000. No, it would've been a little after, 2005, something like that. I had seen somewhere that you could build your own website. So this was 15 years ago. I thought "well, I'm going to teach myself how to do it." I went in, and I told my grandpa, "Hey, how about you pay me the same hourly rate that you would pay me to do this, and I'll build you a website instead." He said, "Do you know how to do that?" And I said, "Well, I've done it for some classes in college, and I've done some stuff, but I'll figure it out."
I probably spent 80 or 90 hours teaching myself how to use a very rudimentary version of a CMS. This is before WordPress was really... I mean, WordPress was out there, but I mean, there were no real estate plugins. There were no anything. So I taught myself how to just get in there and do that.
You asked me how did I get here? A lot of tinkering, figuring out how to look at the world. So I didn't want to shovel walks, so I went to my grandfather and pitched him on, "Well, instead of shoveling walk, how about I build you a website?"
Question: I am an all believer in data automation. But not everyone actually embraces data automation right now, do they?
Answer: Nope, they don't. And it's interesting to see, I mean, the ones that do and the ones that don't. I think a lot of the ones that don't, a lot of the reason I think people run into that is they don't actually see the pitfalls that come from not recognizing where data automation can be a powerful way to change the way that things are going on, or they tried it and failed. It's not the most simple thing in the entire world. There are specific ways of going about it that will help you overcome some of those challenges. I mean, automation at its core is what a lot of business are about.
We actually started our own podcast as well called Automate, Delegate, Eliminate. And we chose the name Automate, Delegate, Eliminate because we find that most things in the world are kind of in one of those three facets, automating, delegating, or eliminating. And that's how we create value. You create value by taking a process that was manual and automating it. You create process value by delegating that to another individual. Or you create that value by eliminating a process that's slowing the company down.
So it's such a powerful thing. And if done incorrectly, it can be a really disastrous, frustrating thing. I still have things sometimes that I'll get into and be like oh, there's got to be a better way for this. I mean, a good example of that, have you ever tried to find an app out there that will help... So if you've ever heard of this trend. There's a no-code trend out there right now where they're like hey, if you want to, you can create an app, like an android or IOS app, and you can do that with no code. There's a bunch of solutions out there that'll help you.
Question: What are some of the issues that are stopping marketers from doing this?
Answer: You have to look at a problem and say okay, how do I get the word out about this solution? And most of the time that means thinking outside the box or thinking. I think the longer we go in the world we're in, the more creative you have to get because the traditional way of reaching out to people... I mean, think direct mail. Think about just a straight old email. Those two methods of communication are so overused by people that aren't creative, that if you're not going to be creative about it, you might as well just not reach out. So what I've found is it's important that when you decide to automate something, when you decide to look at those pieces, you have to realize that that creativity is not something that a computer can do. Computers can't just come up with a new creative idea. That's one of the things, one of the God-given things that we have, is the ability to create.
And so the comment you made about people not automating because they're worried about getting rid of jobs, if you have someone who's job really is going to be replaced by a robot, that individual needs to step it up a notch and use that brain they were given to create value. There are definitely things where checklists must be followed. And thank goodness we have people who are willing to follow those checklists. I don't mean that you have to find somebody who always colors outside the lines.
But having somebody who can follow a checklist and use that human intuition to go through there is powerful. So what I tell people that are concerned about well, I don't want to automate. One of the reasons I've found that people don't automate is because they're the low men on the totem pole, and so they feel like their job is going to be replaced. So speaking to that individual who's in there, if you can find a way to take pieces of your job and build a system that's renewable and you find the right boss, the right employer, they're going to share that wealth with you. They're going to share that opportunity. And if they're not, go find another employer because they are out there. There are people out there who are willing to reward you for creating that sort of value inside a company.
Question: How can someone find a good data automation company to work with? I mean, we'll share your information obviously, but what are some of the things someone should be looking for in a company to figure out whether they would be a good fit if they know their stuff or maybe not so much?
Answer: if you're familiar with where you can find freelancing help. Upwork is a fantastic place to do it. There's another company out there called FreeUp that's recently come to the playing field for that sort of thing as well. And what I tell people is when you're writing that job post, answer those three questions in the job post. Where is the data now? Where does it need to go? What needs to happen to it in between? And put that in your job post. If you'll throw that in your job post, nine times out of 10, you will come back with a much, much more solid quote on what's being done.
I would recommend point blank asking, "Have you automated in X, Y, Z system before?" Or, "Have you automated in CRMs before?" So there are categories. Some people come to me and say, "Have you ever automated inside?" And they'll name some really random CRM I've never heard of. And I'll say, "No, but I've spent hundreds of hours inside CRMs." And when you're talking about a deal, an opportunity, a contact on an account, there's only so many ways that you can display that. And most of the time I can help you, unless it's a very customized, specific CRM.
So dig into the industry experience with the type of software, the type of data you're trying to look into. Ask them point blank. And don't just be satisfied with, "Oh yeah, we've done that before." Ask for specifics, like, "Oh okay, how many times?" "Oh okay, but with CRMs? Specifically CRMs? Tell me about some of that."
You find that as a salesperson, one of your jobs is to say yes. And so when you get a yes from a salesperson, get specific. Ask, "Okay, great. I hear that you said yes to that. Can you be more specific? Can you give me a couple of examples of ways that you've done that?" And I find that that helps you get past the resume level or the surface level stuff that you get from people. You can really start to find out okay, what's really behind this? And where does it go?
So one thing that I've done is I've hired two companies at the same time, and then I have them vet each other. So you get two or three people to work on the same project, and they'll start to use vernacular. And you'll say, "Okay, so what makes you awesome?" And they'll name off three things, like, "Oh, we're fast," whatever it is. You take those same three things, and you go ask the other company, "How do you do these three things?" Then you say, "Anything else? What makes you awesome?" You take whatever else they said, and you go back to the first company and say, "Well, how do you do this?" And so you can start to. And then the other thing I've done is I've actually had them review each other's work. So I take a milestone on a project, and I say, "Go ahead and do this." And then they'll do it. And then I'll say, "Okay, now, your next milestone is to review the work that another freelancer did who did exactly what you were supposed to do as well. And they did it differently than you, and I want to hear why you think they went about it that way."
So there's a humility aspect to this, where you have to find somebody who's willing to be humble enough.. And they'll get it, and they'll look and be like, "Wow. He did a better job at that than I did." And here's why I'm more likely to hire that guy than the one who gets it and like, "I'm not looking at that. That's somebody else's work." They're too prideful about it. So there's a lot of different ways you can hire people to do things that you don't know to do.
Question: With data automation, what are some of the unique things you've seen people do and have success at? Because it's just turning a spreadsheet into something that can step it up. What else can you do?
Answer: The crazy thing is with the technology that's out there today. It is possible to automate all sorts of things that you are not currently automating, that you are not even thinking are possible. You can build a chatbot on your website that'll actually make sales for you. You can build a chatbot on your website that'll push individuals one way or another. You can automate phone systems that are actually very easy to create a very custom phone system that texts you when anybody presses one.
That question is so hard because there's all sorts... I mean, just to give you an idea. I'm not going to say I use a different keyword than Alexa, but I have an Alexa at home, and I have an Alexa that I can say, "Alexa, trigger Alex home," and it will shoot a text message off from my phone to our neighbor, who often has my daughter over at her house and say, "Hey, can you send our daughter home?" Well, you could just be like, "Okay Google. Send a text message."
It's endless in terms of what's possible for what's there. So I like to tell people don't get stuck on what can and can't be automated. Learn to use Google in a way that you're going to find what can be automated in a very, very fast way. So learn to speak Google, is probably the way I would say that. Learn to figure out how to phrase it like the masses phrase things. Watch for what Google is suggesting when you type something in. Go read through the suggestions on the bottom of that list and say oh, that's probably a more common way to ask this question. Click on it. But use that. Rephrase your question until you find out how everybody else is asking it. Somebody's probably done something with it already.
Check Out The Podcast!
Will has a LOT of great information from his experience in automation, check out the podcast below to learn more about how to drive your business with this technology!
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