Mar 212012
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The team down at Austin-based Marketing Automation Software guide Falconry Group Marketing Automation Blog Postasked for my commentary on one of their blog posts. I’ve been meaning to write about this topic anyway. So I’m happy to oblige.

Before I start, bear with me on a couple of points:

1) I’m going to make one or two contextual jumps from marketing automation to the general (mis)use of automation in our culture.

2) I may get a little “aggro” about this stuff. Now, I rarely launch into angry screeds on this blog. I’m more of a blue-sky, happy-talk, it-will-all-work-out-in-the-end marketer. So if I offend anyone, please give me a get-out-of-jail-free pass this one time. Or give me hell in the comments section. :)

Ok. End of preamble.

Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD, posted this gem last week: Marketing Automation ROI: Myths and Facts

Gray nicely summarizes the soaring hopes and earthbound realities companies experience when deploying marketing automation (MA) software. And he outlines several smart strategies marketers can adopt to increase their odds of success.

Gray’s straight talk is refreshing. Because much of the chatter in the MA space is influenced by MA software vendors. In the past, I have been critical of these vendors’ marketing and sales practices. I also believe that (some of) these vendors are (partly) responsible for the unrealistic expectations Gray notes in his piece.

But responsibility and blame are two different things. As Bono once sang, “If you need someone to blame // Throw a rock in the air you’ll hit someone guilty.”

The MA software vendors operate in a highly competitive, fast-growing space. In reality, they are only doing what they feel is required to grow revenues and create shareholder value. So I’m simultaneously aware (I’m a Gemini – it’s what I do) that these criticisms (a) are pointless, and (b) ignore a much larger reality in our culture.

Folks, we have got to put down the automation crack-pipe. It is killing us.

No, this is not yet another Quixotic lament about the quickening pace of technological change. I love everything that technology does to benefit humanity. But I H-A-T-E to see it used to de-humanize human relationships.

A poorly designed sales process is far from the worst offender. There are many others, like political robocalling, commercial robotexting, robo-foreclosures, and [insert your example here].

And now here’s THIS ridiculous news story, which befouled my laptop screen yesterday morning.

“Employers ask job seekers for Facebook passwords”

Yes, I realize the story isn’t about a failure of automation. But if “give us your login” becomes a mainstream hiring practice, you know there’d be an app for that!

The request to inspect an applicant’s Facebook account is a symptom of the same disease that we (wrongly) treat with marketing automation software. That disease is the belief that we can insulate our corporate and personal assets from the unpredictable nature of human relationships.

The truth is this: recruiting — like marketing, sales, management, or anything else in business — is like life itself. It involves uncertainty and risk. And, natural disasters aside, most of that randomness involves other people.

People – dang them! – don’t always do what we want them to do. So we build and operate systems to help us understand their behavior. But no machine can out-human a human in anticipating, and tending to, another human’s changing needs. That day may come. But even then, it won’t come cheap. This is why we attract, hire, and retain great recruiters, marketers, salespeople, and managers. And we outfit them, when necessary, with labor-saving software.

This topic relates closely to the name of our business: The Falconry Group.

The falcon and falconer in our logo are like any two people in the business world. We each have different talents (or talons) and abilities. We all have our own stuff going on. And we’d all like to believe that we don’t really need each other to survive.

On some days, in some ways, we’re right about that. And if a poorly designed business process pushes us together against our will, a broken wing or a clawed-out eye can be the result!

But sometimes, like the trend line in our logo, we choose to work together. And when we commit the time and resources to do it right, the results are, predictably, amazing.