First Steps Towards Thinking About Automation in Marketing

For many of us in marketing technology, a “one-off” task quickly becomes a standard, and if that one-off task is labor-intensive, we end up creating a lot of work for ourselves. How do we avoid creating unnecessary work? The answer lies in a mindset change, from “how do I do this?” to “how can this be automated”? After all, if it’s valuable, someone will likely ask us to do it again. Thinking like a machine – algorithmically – helps us design and build marketing that scales.

This is the mindset of the folks who work at companies like Google, folks who focus on algorithmic solutions to problems rather than single-instance uses of people’s time. Every process they automate permits them more free time as well as greater scale.

If we don’t have a background in programming, development, or high tech, how do we cultivate this mindset?

Is There An App For That?

The easiest trick is one that’s often a joke punchline in tech circles, but can legitimately begin to alter our thinking towards an automation mindset. Every time we face a repetitive task, ask if there’s an app for that. For example, I was going to sync up some folders on my Mac. Is there an app for that? There is – it’s actually built into the Mac, a command-line app called rsync. Typing rsync -rtv /sourcedirectory /targetdirectory at the command line (obviously substituting your own directories where indicated) will sync up two folders.

By starting to think of problem solutions in the context of pre-built apps that could solve our problem, we change our thinking from one of labor (how do I do that) to one of automation (someone must have written a piece of software to do that). That begins to make processes more repeatable, more scalable, and more reliable. In the example above, I would no longer need to waste my time or someone else’s time making sure two folders had the same contents. I’d just run that little program as often as needed.

Eventually, we’ll learn to start copying and pasting little scripts and programs from sites like Stack Overflow, Stack Exchange, and Github. In turn, we will begin to adapt other people’s code to suit our needs, and one day evolve into writing our own code. While it won’t happen overnight, it will happen if we’re diligent about continuing to ask if there’s an app for every repetitive task we face.

Some things don’t have apps. Some things shouldn’t have apps. But for the majority of repetitive tasks, asking if there’s an app for that is our first step towards building more scalable marketing. With scale comes greater impact, more free time, and more results generated. Start asking if there’s an app for that today.


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