When I teach the Marketo Foundation course, I often address the fear that people may have that utilizing an MA system will put them out of a job. Well, the automation part is supposed to free the marketer up to do other things that the machine can’t do and leave the tedious stuff to the processors. I think that’s still true, and will be for the foreseeable future.

While the algorithms, calculation engines, and optimization programs assist us, what they primarily do is provide us with more and better data, more quickly than we could manually parse it, so that we can make decisions and change trajectories (if needed). While the algorithms continue to improve, it’s because there are some people coding those improvements, based on the input they’re receiving both from the programs themselves and from – you guessed it – humans!

Put your thinking caps on

So what happens if automation removes the need for marketers to assess scoring, deploy programs, and optimize workflows? Do they also write the content? Create new products? Are they so integrated with other automated systems that they can assess, and even predict, the economy to know the needs we will have? In the near next decades, I don’t think so. Because, ultimately, when we market, we are marketing to people – and people have the unique characteristics of changing their minds, doing unpredictable things, and making choices that even the best algorithms don’t expect. I can tell from the suggestions made to me in Amazon that even with all the fancy programming, it has not yet worked out which books I might want to read. While that algorithm will get better, there are still people needed to do things like, well, write the mystery novels I like to read. I’m pretty sure neither a computer nor 10,000 monkeys will write a novel that captures my attention. And for the record, while watching the FastCo. video, Humans Need Not Apply, I thought “what dreadful music is this?” before they disclosed that it was computer generated.

Are computers creative enough?

As MA becomes more reliant on predictive analytics, I believe it will also become more reliant on people – for content, for customer feedback, for putting ideas together in the unique ways that humans do. We never seem to run out of people willing to say “what if”. I agree that there are many things that the machines can do – and I point this out to students. Marketing automation should alleviate the tedium (cleaning leads, counting things) and enable marketers to do things that are truly unique and innovative.

This definitely requires a different skill set – and we see this a lot. Those who can adapt to using marketing automation as a tool thrive, and those who can’t, often leave marketing or go to a very traditional company because they can’t make the leap. The characteristics of strong marketers in the future are the same as those today: innovation, creativity, ingenuity, and interdisciplinary thinking.

We’ve been improving technology for 10,000 years

Over generations, people have been needed less for work that automated machinery does more: from loom weaving to car assembly. Other jobs have arisen – but they require very different skills. Not the fine handwork of building the first radio, but the programming skills to automate the mass production of transistors – and put them in radios, which have now been replaced by our smart phones. But many of us use those same smart phones, built in part by machines, to do productive work and contribute to the world economy. Our unemployment crises come when we have trained people for one job – but we are desperately in need of skills for other jobs.

However, if the computers want to take over and do all my work, while providing me with a luxurious lifestyle in which I can pursue my hobbies and still live in the manner to which I’d like to become accustomed, I will welcome our robot overlords.