(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
Much of the news today about technology involves the rise of artificial intelligence, bots and other tools that so many are predicting will replace humans in the years to come. So is it surprising when, instead of eliminating, a technology company actually adds humans as a feature to its products?
Not really. At least not to me.
Which is why I wasn’t surprised to hear that last week Constant Contact,the bulk e-mail and marketing automation provider, announced a new service that adds a much needed feature to the software that they offer: actual, breathing….people.
Called the Marketing Advisor program, the new service will provide – for a monthly fee – a host of features that most predominantly include access to a marketing “advisor” to help businesses – particularly small businesses and non-profits – get the most out of its tools.
If you sign up, you’ll get access to a personalized “advisor” who will participate in monthly half-hour phone calls, provide strategic direction, a customizable action plan and, according to the company’s press release,“guidance for optimization activities” like data management, email design and reporting reviews. The program will also include access to private community boards, moderated group chats and other online resources.
“Even small business owners who have a good strategy and get a taste for success need guidance reaching the next level.” Kim Simone, Constant Contact’s chief transformation officer said. “The Marketing Advisor program offers the one-to-one helpline they need to generate results and make better use of their time.”
What Constant Contact is telling its customers is the same thing that we’ve been telling our clients for years: to be used the right way, some technology needs humans to be truly effective.
You don’t just install a powerful application like Constant Contact and expect it to magically work on its own, gathering and segregating the right contact data, creating messages and then taking actions based on the results of the campaign. You need people to do that. Larger companies can afford internal marketing teams for that.
But most companies (like mine) don’t have the internal resources to fully take advantage of the features that CRMs and marketing automation technologies provide. It’s like we’re paying for a car and only driving on three wheels, in the summer, without air conditioning. Silly.
Constant Contact, like many other sales and marketing software applications, can be a powerful tool to help a business grow. But, like the right baseball bat, rotary power drill or basin wrench the tool is only as good as the person using it. Call them “advisors,” partners or consultants, smartest clients I know use outside resources to help their in-house people get the most out of their technology investments.
Sure, there are plenty of technologies that will replace humans in the years to come. But then again there are some technologies – like CRM and marketing automation – that need humans to truly be effective.