Programming as a marketer

I’m that marketer. I’m not by far alone in picking up coding as side-skill. There are plenty of other professionals that see the value in programming. But this article focuses on my takeaways from the experience.

How I started

You gotta start somewhere

I studied C++ in high school, then in college, where I also picked up just a little HTML and CSS. I found my skills of the past to be pretty much useless. The only difference learning some of those things in the past was a familiarity with the basic concepts. The best lessons I learned, that still help me today were drawing flowcharts and using pseudo code.

So, if you’re just starting up and have no basis whatsoever, I highly recommend you make a habit out of learning how to draw a logical flow to what you want to be building.

How I really started

When I started doing digital marketing I started with Google AdWords. That’s when I learned the importance of having an awesome landing page. Some of the key ingredients are - relevance, loading time, usability. In marketing, it’s important to enchant. How can you enchant with a page that doesn’t load fast, is lacking in some interface principles or is just buggy?

Then there was Google Analytics. Why do I need a developer every time I want to get data? What if I change my mind? There’s got to be a better way.

There are plenty of other reasons why programming is a good skill to have, but I would go forward saying that it’s fundamental.

So I started on Codeacademy with HTML & CSS, moved into JavaScript and PHP, and then into an endless series of guides, tutorials and various docs. It was a long arduous journey, but now I feel like I have some wisdom.

What you can build

Basically, you can build anything. Want to automate your AdWords campaigns? You can do that. Most AdWords campaigns are 90% automated. Want to track whatever your heart desires in an app or a website? Not hard to do.

But can you make apps? Of course. I can and you can too. Right now I’m 3 weeks into using Meteor and I highly recommend it. But don’t try it out unless you feel perfectly comfortable with HTML, CSS and especially JavaScript. Meteor lets you build apps with pretty much those skills, although you might want to consider using Jade, Less/Sass and maybe React or Angular. I reccomend React over Angular, but I digress.

What’s with all the confusing lingo?

It’s ok to be confused

One thing you need to know before considering going down this path is that there will always be more concepts than your mind can process. New libraries, frameworks and technologies come out way too fast. I’ve talked to a lot of devs and they all feel overwhelmed. I think the only way to keep your cool on this road is being sure enough of what you’re doing in a handful of environments. For example, when you first learn CSS, you know you’re ok if you can play around in your sheets and get the results that are close enough to what you expect, even if it’s only in one browser.

Let me be clear about one thing: HTML and CSS are not programming languages. Never tell a developer that they are unless you want to see how fast you will be mocked. That’s just a quick tip on how not to annoy programmers.

Now that I have properly confused you, you should know that it’s a lot worse out there. But don’t fret, reach out and ask questions. Google and perseverance are your friends.

Why it’s important to be a hacker

Not this kind of hacker

Being a hacker simply means thinking about how you can make the World work in your favor.

Here’s an exemplified list of how hacker logic works:

  • Spending too much time searching gathering information from the same websites? Why not Data Mine?
  • Making the same type of report way too many times? Build a framework instead.
  • Can’t send mass e-mail? Find a mailing server. This is not something you want to do yourself, but you can always try.
  • Estimating costs manually? Make your own calculator.
  • Wikipedia looking too boring? Check out what these lovely individuals made.

The point is simple. NEVER settle for anything and always try to find ways to improve upon systems. You could surprise yourself. I’m not promising riches here, but I am promising freedom.