To err is human, ergo marketing automation


Is human frailty costing business business?

As carbon-based life forms, we are prone to making small mistakes which can have big consequences for our businesses. According to a report referenced by Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, the NHS could afford to hire 60,000 more nurses if staff cut out basic mistakes which are costing £2.5bn a year.

It gets even tougher for business when you include the 131 million days lost due to sickness absences in the UK (Office of National Statistics 2013). Among that total are the millions (according to a report in the Telegraph) of lies told to bosses by staff going awol: the top two being, “I dropped a can of baked beans on my big toe” or “I was swimming too fast and smacked my head on the poolside.”

According to the paper, Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence authored by Dame Carol Black and David Frost CBE, the combined cost to the economy of genuine sickness and falsified absence is estimated at around £15 billion per annum. The loss of production or output and the other associated resourcing costs is not helping the UK economy.

running cyborgs


Should we let machines run the show?

The first Industrial Revolution marked a turning point in human history. Over a 70 year period from 1760 it heralded a transition from a rural, handicraft and agricultural orientated feudalism to a predominantly urbanised and industrialised civilisation. The movement of  people from a world of tedious, monotonous and often dangerous manual labour in the field to a life of even greater tedium, monotony and danger amidst the clattering machines and smoke stacks of the city left much to be desired.

In time (circa 200 years later), health and safety improved as did the lot and the lives of the working class, but not the tedium and monotony for the masses who remained welded to production lines as little more than organic cogs in the machinery of mass production. Fast forward to 2015 and the majority of people taking sick days are in low paid manual labour and manufacturing jobs due to a range of factors including boredom. Even in the fresh young world of digital marketing, many jobs are little more than bread and butter tasks that require little more than consistent diligence from relatively low-paid and not surprisingly unenthused employees. Workers already looking forward to happy hour oblivion even before they sit at their computers with a fist full of morning zeitgeist – a skinny Starbucks latte. I

It is time to set us free from the tyranny of the tedious

Smart, perhaps even intelligent, machines that automate our less demanding tasks could actually set us free to think about information rather than focus on storing it in exactly the same way our smartphones, apps and Google provide us with instant access to cloud-based data, knowledge, insights and wisdom of the ages via the all singing and dancing internet.

I have an app called IFTT that automatically scans through my Gmail account on the hunt for Amazon invoices, picking them out and transferring them into a Dropbox folder ready for the VAT run at the end of each quarter. The process allows you to create simple connections between products and apps. These processes are known as recipes. IF Recipes run automatically in the background by cooking up statements, you set them up at the press of an icon:

If this then that

Once you set up the first recipe you can simply keep adding in automated tasks with a single click and let the system take more and more of the strain. This delegation of simple tasks to autonomous technology does two things for me:

1. reduce my workload

2. reduce stress levels.

Imagine applying this degree of delegation to our marketing work practices? Reduced workload. Reduced stress. It all ads up to increased productivity and perhaps, dare I say it, wellbeing. Moreover, the benefits are repeatable and sustainable for just about everyone in the organisation. Mind you, it is not a benefit that The Nobel Prize winner, journalist, playwright, author, philosopher and French anarchist, Albert Camus would agree with. His take on the subject of collective human efficiency is, “Whoever today speaks of human existence in terms of power, efficiency, and “historical tasks” is an actual or potential assassin.” Individuals in the digital age are empowered by interest, access and engagement with information and tools that provide new forms of freedom in their life/works.

It’s up to you now

Anyone in a position of influence in the marketing business of the future which will be driven by micro-communications, needs to start setting the thinking element in their business free to think while the programmable doing-part of the business gets on with the tasks that can be predicted, triggered, managed and optimised at arm’s length in real-time. The thinking element being the collective power of the carbon-based life forms who can model and score customer means, motivation and opportunities to acquire the things they want, be that content, products, services or community.

Living the life of a marketing automation assassin

It is not my intention to see people losing their jobs to machines. I am more concerned with creating new  jobs that are safe from the coming denouement as clients shed agencies and value chain networks in search of a more immediate connection with audiences and greater cost-benefit return on marketing investment and increased profitability. We owe it to the descendants of the farm workers who left the fields for terraced houses and factories in the 17th century to prepare them for the challenge to jobs and livelihood in the software and service of the IoT, nanotechnology, alternative energy systems and genetic engineering age.

Graduating Students silhouetted

To me, spending £40k on a University education to end up manually optimising sites, landing pages, PPC ads, display ads, email campaigns, social posts, mobile and POS campaigns when systems exist that can automate the entire process at the most granular level, is an exhaustive exercise in futility.  As intelligent beings, we should spend more time thinking about what we do than we do doing it. In the world of hectic multi-channel schedules and impatient audiences, getting a job out the door is often a matter of expediency and compromise rather than efficiency and impact.

You would be hard pressed to find manual labourers lifting chunks of metal on a production line for eight hours a day, six days a week without the support of a robot that mimics their thinking process and movements while reducing the chance of injury. The manual labourer of old is now a programmer and a maintenance operative.  Human thinking is too valuable to be wasted on the everyday. It is time to let the machine take the strain. And there is still a great deal of manual labour that is about to be replaced in  every form of marketing, including: brand, direct and digital. My advice, is to take every opportunity to explore the basics of marketing automation.

The future belongs to the go-to individuals who take the time to follow the thoughts of the essayist I quote most often, Alvin Toffler, who claimed the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write but rather those not prepared to learn, unlearn and learn again. In other words, don’t let your silo be the death of you. Everything that can be automated will be. Agency influence and income will decline. Client’s will take work in-house and create real-time communications with customers that, by necessity, will be automated. When that time comes, you want to be the one setting up, maintaining and optimising the thinking behind the automation system.

Get the latest digital strategy, innovation and training insights here…