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A zoological tour of automation

The robots are coming. Everywhere you turn, people are talking about chatbots and retail automation. It makes a lot of sense. 

We have data in ubiquitous supply and computers that can process pretty much anything. So why wouldn’t we automate our marketing and customer services, put our feet up and wait for the money to roll in? The short answer is, we could. But like anything worth doing, it’s not quite as easy as it looks. So before we fire the worker bees and bring in the robots, here are some animal-related watch-outs on the challenges of automation. Hunch founder Michael Goldthorpe takes us on a cautionary safari.

Beware the Arctic lemming

Lemmings have a hard time. You jump off one cliff and everyone thinks you’re a muppet. It’s not fair. But it’s also a cautionary tale. Before you follow the hype and buy an automation robot, take a good long look at your business. Is automation useful? Where is automation useful? How can automation engage with customers in a more relevant way? If you’ve got solid answers to those three questions, you’ve already avoided the cliff jump.

Automation learning: Work out what and why before you start on how and where.

Beware the squawking parrot

Ever bought wine online? We have. And boy, do we know about it. Seems like every day there’s another cancelled export order with a bunch of related offers. It’s overkill. If we were drinking wine at the pace we get spammed, we’d be very unproductive. It’s the same with travel, stationery and just about every online purchase. So rather than sit on the fence post and squawk like a parrot, it’s better to consider the customer and send relevant offers with a respectful rhythm.

Automation learning: Contact rules are the most important rules of all.

Beware the hairy sloth

If you’ve ever sat through an automation pitch, the primary sell is a reduction in staff costs when machines do all the work. It’s not realistic. The advantage of smart automation is the increase in effectiveness of relevant, trigger-based marketing. But that takes hard work and ongoing maintenance. So forget about set and forget – you can’t just hang in a tree and watch the world go by. Instead, get ready, listen, learn, remember and respond in a relevant way.

Automation learning: Getting set up is just the start – be prepared to keep working.

Beware the dancing gazelle

Having worked in automation since the early days of email, we’ve seen plenty of people pitch various magnificent new wardrobes for the Emperor. Automation tools are just that. Buying into the hype of a multi-channel, fully-responsive, automated platform is like shopping for a Porsche without a driver’s license. Some platforms are better than others. Some will be a better fit for your business. But no big cheque to a cloud-based whoever will solve every problem on day one.

Automation Learning: Take time to understand your business before buying new toys.

Beware the duck-billed platypus

Great automation is entirely dependent on great data. It’s the fuel that drives the engine. While most businesses have some data in pretty good shape, no one has everything nailed. One of the biggest challenges is trying to automate for every eventuality. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just that it’s not worth bothering. If 80 percent of your base can be easily automated, start there. But don’t spend 90 percent of your time trying to classify a warm-blooded amphibious mammal that lays eggs and has a beak. Just call them.

Automation learning: Don’t overthink the hard stuff, make money from the easy wins.

And that’s a zoological tour of the watch outs of marketing automation. There are plenty of positives too. As always, it’s not about what you’re doing, it’s all about why. And if you’ve got the smarts and the toys and the data lined up, automation can deliver on every promise you’re pitched.

That’s what I reckon, what do you think?

This article originally appeared on StopPress.

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