We get hit up by software vendors daily who promise automated nirvana.
Connect their tool and it can then do all the work for you– meanwhile, you sit on the beach with your arms folded behind your neck, watching the profits roll in. Your pina colada is in your left hand, while on your right hand is your phone with charts that “go up and to the right”– in real-time with “Agent Smith”-level AI.
Then you awake from your dream abruptly– realizing you’ve been had, because the truth is- “robots” just aren’t that smart.
No matter how many graph databases, machine learning, AI, or proprietary algorithms you throw at a business problem, you can’t completely automate marketing with just a tool. There are 4 things that must happen prior to a tool help you: Plumbing, Goals, Content, and Targeting.
The tool cannot set up your plumbing for you— to get your analytics, various pixels, and conversion tracking in place.
A tool can validate it, pass through conversion values, and generate reports galore.
But only a human can connect these dots right now.
The tool cannot set goals for you— only you will know what revenue figures, ROI targets, and cost-per-whatever you need to be happy.
A tool can calculate what your historical efficiency has been and project forward.
But only you (not even an agency) can set business goals.
The tool cannot create your content— especially when it comes to creating video, coming up with an interesting tagline, and determining your WHY.
A tool can make video collages, generate nonsense, and eventually collect customer feedback.
But only you make authentic content and interact with your customers in a personal way.
The tool cannot solve targeting for you— only you will know why customers buy and the underlying associated needs and personas.
A tool can create custom audiences, find related keywords, and create lookalikes.
But only you know why your business exists and why certain segments are delighted with what you provide.
As much as I’m a fan of automation and want to believe these breathless salespeople claiming to make my life easier– I’m not going to buy blow-up dolls to replace the interactions we have with customers or with the customers of our clients.
Sure, the robot (by whatever name you give it), can fetch the status of my order, automatically drive me to my favorite places, and beat me at Starcraft.
But robots will not be able to drive my strategy (defined as my goals, content, and targeting) any time soon.
We need people, process, and platform working together to make our businesses run efficiently.
The smartest consultants cannot overcome a lack of process.
Likewise, the most intelligent software cannot replace a dysfunctional organization and overcome political challenges.
The VC-funded companies in the marketing technology space are not dumb.
They know that all of us are overwhelmed with our workload and would love to sign up for magic software that will do our jobs for us.
But if you don’t know what the problem is, the best calculator in the world can’t solve it for you.
And while it’s easier to write a check for software, some issues require people– more resources and better trained.
There’s a lot of snake oil out there, my friends.
You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit-take, is something I say often.
If you don’t have the right ingredients for your meal, the fanciest machinery will not turn ramen into steak– no matter what that sales guy says.
I’m not afraid of robots any more than the blender that makes my smoothie.
Misuse it by sticking your hand inside while operating, and it will slice up your fingers.
And I still need to know what I’m craving for.
Sean Callanan from SportsGeekHQ.com isn’t afraid of the robots either, and had this to say:
I use tools to build efficiency in my business but any tool is only as good as the person using it. As a digital marketer I am a terrible carpenter as I have no skill in using carpentry tools and how to best use them. As a digital marketer you need to know so much of the why – why people buy, why people like, why people want. It is so important to step back and decide how to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for and decide which tools that can help you get to your goal in an efficient manner. Tools alone won’t get the job done.
Tools are only as good as the strategic (GCT) knowledge of the tool user.
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About the Author
Dennis Yu is the Chief Executive Officer of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company that partners with schools to train young adults. Dennis’s program centers around mentorship, helping students grow their expertise to manage social campaigns for enterprise clients like the Golden State Warriors, Nike, and Rosetta Stone.
He’s an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook Marketing and has spoken in 17 countries, spanning 5 continents, including keynotes at L2E, Gultaggen, and Marketo Summit. Dennis has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, CNN, Fox News, and CBS Evening News.
He’s a regular contributor for Adweek’s SocialTimes column and has published in Social Media Examiner, Social Media Club, Tweak Your Biz, B2C, Social Fresh, and Heyo. He held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines and studied Finance and Economics at Southern Methodist University as well as the London School of Economics. He ran collegiate cross-country at SMU and has competed in over 20 marathons including a 70-mile ultramarathon.
Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org