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Why Automation Is Still Out of Reach for Small Businesses

December 2017

The biggest problem with accessibility of “automation” for small businesses is scale. Many of the problems small businesses are trying to solve for don’t have the requisite scale to merit application of technology. Today, technology is applied when a human provides the insight, context and momentum to implement technology to solve a problem.

The technological future looks impressive. Self-driving cars are imminent. Two countries have legally committed to zero-net carbon emissions (Sweden and Costa Rica). There are over half of dozen private companies investing a total of more than $100B in commercial space flight. There are Hyperloop projects under construction across the globe, achieving transportation speeds in the 700+ MPH range. Computer algorithms have been 90%+ accurate at predicting sexual orientation based on analysis from a photo of a person’s face. Bio-hybrid robotics is a new field of technology that will radically accelerate the likelihood of human cyborgs as the dominant species of the future (at least until the singularity[1] occurs).

But despite the advancements in a myriad of technology, most businesses are extremely unlikely to tap into this technology within the next decade. The technology envisioned in 1984 and A Brave New World is as far from reach to the people of the 1930’s and 40’s as commercial space flight is to the average human today. There is a growing disparity in wealth globally, at the individual and corporate level. The top 1% of income earners account for 22% of all income, and in the US. Fortune 500 companies comprise 71% of US GDP. Yet small businesses employ 49% of all employees in the US. The disparity between people and revenue is the root cause behind the inaccessibility of automation.

While marketing automation is up over 11x since 2011, most small businesses are not using integrated or comprehensive marketing automation. In 2014, only 4% of employees were actually using marketing automation in their day to day work. Consider these stats[2] about marketing automation adoption from a massive 2014 study:

Marketing Automation Adoption By Company Revenue:

  • 60% adoption in companies with over $500M revenue,
  • 10% adoption in companies with $20M – $500M revenue,
  • 5% adoption in companies with $5M – $20M revenue,
  • 3% adoption in micro companies with less than < $5M revenue

As you can see, adoption rates a pitifully low for small business as compared to big business. If you are a small business looking to adopt the latest and greatest in technology, you should meter your expectations. In the meantime, focus on the basics before looking to adopt automation. You’ll only be able to leverage technology and appreciate the power of automation when you achieve more scale.

[1] Wikipedia, (2017)

[2] Raab Associates “Marketing Automation 2014 Industry Overview” (2014).


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Amplio Digital
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