A skill every technology marketer needs to know
Over the past few years there’s been an effort to get marketers to learn how to code (or become more technical). As someone who started building ugly websites as a high-schooler, then built WordPress websites to pay my way through college, then learned Ruby/Rails (and spent a summer embedded in an engineering team), I see a technical understanding being an incredibly important skill for marketers.
At an early-stage startup, if you can code, setup analytics, landing pages, and be self-sufficient, you get more done, faster, and with fewer dependencies. If you can do this, very little is holding you back.
As the organization grows, roles become more specialized. As a marketer, you can’t push code directly to master anymore, and you have to let people work on the things that they are good at. You now need to let engineers do what they do best, and that’s writing code and solving technical challenges.
Does that mean your technical skills are worthless? Absolutely not. In fact, these skills may be even more valuable than before.
If you asked an engineer what they would rather be doing, the answer would most likely be “I want to work on interesting problems.” Do you know what’s not typically interesting for them? Setting up landing pages, adding tracking code, and doing lightweight marketing tasks. What’s especially not fun is being interrupted by a marketing task in the middle of trying to solve a tough engineering problem.
Clearly every person is different, but these tend to be symptoms of a bigger problem. What’s the problem?
Most marketers are really bad at working with engineers.
Here’s a few problems I’ve seen time and time again:
- A misunderstanding of the scope of work required for a particular task (marketing thinks this will take an hour, when it really takes 10 hours)
- The “I want this done now” mentality and becoming upset when it doesn’t happen
- Constantly piling requests instead of prioritizing the most important things that need to be done
- Instead of searching for an answer to a common problem on Google, constantly asking questions
- My way or the highway mentality, especially when it comes to implementation details.
I won’t lie and pretend like I don’t do these things sometimes. The difference is that I have more context than most marketers do. I’ve spent tons of time attending Rails camps, going to meetups, writing code, and being a part of their day-to-day work.
The Opportunity for Marketers
I see tremendous opportunity for marketers who want to learn a little bit about the engineering world. First, if you work on a marketing team, and you can work better with the engineering organization than all the other marketers, you’ve now made yourself an extremely valuable asset to the organization. I think of this as the following:
If you can be the a “router” between departments, you’re in a very advantageous position. You now have career leverage. I believe this rule applies to numerous departments, with a major lever being the scarcity of talent (how many people have a combo of these two skill-sets). I’ve used this exact process to differentiate myself, and I promise it works.
This should scare most marketers
Scott Brinker from the Martech blog recently posted the state of the marketing landscape. It looks like this:
The story with this image is that there’s a ton of marketing technology companies in a variety of verticals. I look at this chart, and it screams “YOU WILL NEED ENGINEERING RESOURCES TO SETUP MOST OF THESE TOOLS.” This should scare many marketers.
Think about this for a minute. If you work for a software company, the organization is built on lines of code. Don’t you think as a marketer this is important to understand, or at least be familiar with? Do you see yourself working with engineers in the future? If so, your relationship with the engineering organization could be the X-factor to your success as a marketer.
So what is this skill every technology marketer needs to know? It’s how to work better with developers.
You shouldn’t learn to code so you can build ugly looking websites (even though that can be fun), but you should learn to code so you can build empathy and understand more about what developers face on a day-to-day basis. You should learn technical skills so you can understand what parts of your jobs can be solved with a script, or how you can scale your efforts to reach more people with the same amount of time invested.
I’ve made it a personal goal of mine to teach marketers more about what engineers do. If we put in some effort, we can build more effective relationships with other departments and get more things done faster.
If you want to be one of these people who sits better with engineers, you should take my video course on learning Git/Github (get it for $25 off in the next 48 hours). Don’t know what that is? You really need to take the course then.