Knowing When to Automate and Outsource
by Liz Adamson
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual PROSPER Show, an event dedicated to “sharing best practices and research with professional Amazon sellers.” It was a great event, full of learning and networking, and should be on the list of must-attend conferences for any serious Amazon seller.
There was a broad range of topics including: creating a hybrid Vendor/Seller strategy, driving external traffic to your listings, launching new products, channel control and even successfully manufacturing in China. The really hot topics this year were, of course, product reviews, protecting against counterfeiters and sales tax compliance.
The sheer volume of information presented at PROSPER can be overwhelming and some sellers come away realizing that there is more work to do to optimize their Amazon business than time to do it. This is common for many entrepreneurs with a growing business. Often it doesn't yet make sense to hire a new full-time employee, but it becomes obvious you can’t do it all yourself.
The good news is there are two main ways you can lighten your load for less than the cost of another full-time employee: automation and outsourcing.
Save Time with Automation
The opportunities for automation were made obvious by the dozens of software providers at PROSPER. From inventory management and forecasting to calculating sales tax collected and owed and even autofiling your returns, many manual tasks can be done with software. Almost anything that involves pulling and compiling Amazon data has a software solution that will do it for you.
I don’t advocate a “set it and forget it” strategy with any software system. You should always double-check and look into anything that seems off, but you will save more time with software automation than if you were pulling reports and running calculations manually.
Delegate by Outsourcing
There are many tasks that can’t be automated by software (at least not yet), but that can easily be outsourced. This was again highlighted by the number of service providers at PROSPER, ranging from staffing firms to expert consultants and service providers. So how do you decide what to hire out?
First, take a look at the routine tasks you do daily, weekly and monthly. Is it a repeatable process that you can write down in a way that someone else can easily follow? If so, hire a virtual assistant and hand it off.
Second, look at the different functional aspects of your business: product development, buying, importing, marketing, order fulfillment, customer service, accounting, etc. What areas are your specialty? What parts of the business do you most enjoy working on? Keep those, they are likely the reason you started your own business in the first place.
What about the areas you dislike or are pretty sure someone else knows how to do it better than you? Outsourcing those to experts who are familiar with strategies and tactics will maximize your ROI more than you would be able to on your own.
Again, when it comes to outsourcing, “set it and forget it” is still not a good motto. Check in with your contractors regularly, find out what is working and what is not, and work with them to grow and improve your business. Listen to their advice on strategy and tactics, but weigh in with your own goals and make the major decisions to ensure you are happy with the direction your business is going.
Focus for Success
Finding ways to automate and outsource will free up your time and allow you to focus your unique talents and skills and contribute to your business in a way that no one else can. Determine what parts of your business you should be working on yourself, and what can be done by software or contractors. Make your business work for you and before you know it, you’ll free up enough time to take that much needed vacation, or spend a few days in Las Vegas with us at next year’s PROSPER Show.
Originally published on May 2, 2017, updated August 7, 2019
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.