Do you know how Amazon became the largest Internet retailer in the world? Was it because they were the first Internet retailer? No. Was it because they had better products than anyone else? No – they sold other people’s products. So why did they become such an ecommerce behemoth?

Automation: Jeff Bezos knew from the outset of the company’s formation that the only way to achieve grand scale is to have a completely automated, well-oiled operation – both on the front end for marketing and sales, but on the back-end for shipping fulfillment. As they company grew, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars building fully-automated shipping warehouses where robots would go to the shelves and retrieve merchandise and put it in boxes – automatically. They built customer relationship management (CRM) software that not only kept track of the customers, but it would track their purchases and send timely reminders to them about refilling or reordering their products – automatically. It would track what they bought and then send emails to them about related products – automatically.

The keyword is “automatically”. I’m sure you’ve been part of a comprehensive CRM system. You ordered product A online and shortly thereafter you get an email that says “Hey, you bought A, so we thought you may like B, C, or D”. Or, maybe you went to the checkout page of an ecommerce retailer and then left, only to receive a “Hey, did you forget something? You still have items in your cart” email. Did they have a person sitting in front of their computer sending off individual emails to you based on your purchases. Absolutely not. The whole system was automated.

How powerful would it be if you could have that automation power working for you?

Powerful CRM systems used to be way out of the price range of wholesalers and retailers who weren’t making millions of dollars per year. Now, that powerful software is available at a very affordable price.

Here is an example of an automation process we recently put together for a newly launched eliquid product. Their sales guy talks to a retailer about carrying their juice. Based on the outcome, the sales person pushes one button to indicate what happened in that call. That one button push starts a whole series of automation on the back end. If the retailer requested more information, it instantly shoots off a “Thanks for talking email” along with the information requested. It then creates a reminder for the salesperson to call back in a few days to see if they have more questions. They weren’t interested yet – no problem – the system automatically sends an email with the salesperson’s contact info and then reminds them to call back in a few months.

Now, if the retailer is interested in a sample, here’s where the real beauty of the system comes into play. The salesperson clicks the flavor of the sample they want and hits ‘save’. They move on to the next call, while the system takes over on the back-end. An email is sent to the retailer saying “Thanks …” and then creates add the person to a batch shipping order that is sent to the fulfillment department that night for shipping the next day. Once shipped, the retailer gets a “We shipped your sample” email and a week later gets a “Did you get your sample” email. If they indicate that they got the sample, the system automatically sends them a survey to find out what they thought of the flavors. If they say that they didn’t get the sample, it triggers a reminder for the fulfillment department to follow to see why it wasn’t received. Oh … and everything is tracked on a dashboard so management can see exactly what is happening in the business at all stages.

This automation process has eliminated the sticky notes, spreadsheets and manual emails – along with eliminating the time and errors that come with those manual processes.

For an independent retail store, the same systems can be built. Automated emails that cross-sell products, reminders for people to reorder their juice and rebuildable mod parts or discount coupons based on the type of products they ordered or if they haven’t ordered in a while (to get them back on track with your business). Everything can be tracked and integrated with a powerful ecommerce website, or with a simple iPad in the store.

Oh, and did I mention that all of this can be built and running for less than $1500/month? SVBS

Jeffrey Arnold is the President of 4Spot Marketing. Having worked with Fortune 500 firms including McDonald’s, Pepsico and MGM Grand Inc., he combines nearly 30 years of business management experience with his expert knowledge of Internet marketing and business automation to help smaller businesses increase their profits. Mr. Arnold can be reached at (702) 721-9763, via email at [email protected], or via his website at