Do We Depend Too Much on Automation?

Automation is a very good thing. From streamlining our workflows to speeding up client interactions and accepting payments, we are living in a time where the right software packages make running our business much easier. However, blindly trusting that pieces of software are doing what they're supposed to do can lead to financial losses or worse. A few days ago, I found this out the hard way.

A Touch of Background

Back in March, I moved to North Carolina from Colorado to be near family. Up until then, I'd been mostly cruising by with my photography, shooting part time. I saw this move out east to be as good a time as any to really start to step up my marketing game and, when the time was right, go full time. I invested in a new WordPress site (better for SEO purposes) and launched a couple of Facebook ads, pointing to my website. Then I waited. And waited. Crickets.

These Things Take Time

I knew that introducing myself to a new market would take time. I didn't expect the world, but I figured I'd get a few bites to tide me over and get my name out there. Nothing. I was still getting some response from my in-person networking, so I didn't think too much of it, and I figured the next time I ran an ad I'd tweak it for hopefully better results. 

That next time came a week ago. Before I launched the ad, I had a little tickle in my brain telling me to check out the contact form on my website. I sent a test message to myself.


I waited and sent another. Nothing.

As it turns out, for the last five or six months my website contact form hasn't been working. Although it worked when I initially set up the site, something must have changed server-side to knock it offline. A quick Google search and I had the problem fixed with a workaround.

The Cost of a Lack of Diligence 

I ran into a wedding planner at a show the other day who mentioned they'd been trying to contact me. That's when it hit me: How much business have I lost because of this? How many times have would-be clients attempted to contact me and have now written me off as a flaky photographer? How many hundreds and thousands of dollars in revenue have I left on the table? And Why? Not because of WordPress, although my first inclination was to blame them. It's because I handed the reigns of my company to a computer and didn't check up on it.

Don't do what I did. These systems we have in place are amazing tools, but they need the boss to make sure they're doing what they're supposed to be doing. Be the Boss. It's your business, not the software's. 

Has anything similar happened to you that people should know about? Or do you want to share your own lack of diligence so I don't feel like such an idiot? Sound off below!

Lead image by Jez Arnold used under Creative Commons.

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Michael Comeau's picture

This is a great post.

I have worked in online marketing for years with lots of automation.

EVERYTHING has to be tested. Online marketing platforms and tools are more buggy than you might think, and everything has to be tested before it goes live.

Even if you clone something (like an email sequence or landing page) that is working perfectly, you'll be shocked at how often things just fail for no obvious reason.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Good insight! Technology is fantastic, but with so much complexity comes many more potential points of failure.

Oh wow, reading this horror story makes me almost be grateful of the spam I get via my website contact form. At least this way I know it is still working.

Did you manage to get a way to find the older emails sent to you?

My tips would be to add an extra layer of security. for example, let people know your email address underneath the form. Or just ditch the forms. A lot of people, at least in Belgium, prefer to send you an email from their standard environment like Gmail or outlook instead of a form.

Hans Rosemond's picture

I'll definitely add my email address to the page as a backup. Unfortunately, in order to log the messages, i needed a plugin. Of course, i didnt know that. Live and learn! Where in Belgium are you from? I have an uncle in Tongeren.

These days you are expected to be tech aware if you wish to have online presence, especially hosting a website. WordPress is a complex beast and sometimes, the plugins won't work due to an automated update, or another.

If your site is plug-in heavy, it's good to test the most critical features once in two weeks to ensure they are working properly. Or you could learn a bit coding and do a bit of site reliability engineering so that the WP will restore the malfunctioning feature restores itself or you could ask someone to setup an auto-mail feature to send you notifications when some of the critical features stops working.

In our mind, when it comes to automation, we think of google-like automation. But google-like automation is expensive and not found everywhere.