9 benefits of adding coding to your marketing skillset

Photo by Xavier Caballe

I still don’t fully understand what inspired my parents to get me and my brother this beauty in 1987. A brand new Commodore 64 — the highest-selling single computer model of all time, with 64½ kB of RAM, featuring a 16 color palette, a cassette drive and a CPU clocked at 1 MHz.

The C64 incorporated a ROM-based version of the BASIC programming language which served as the machine’s operating system. It opened up a whole new world of possibilities, where I could type a few commands and tell a machine to do whatever I wanted. Well, within reason. When my dad noticed my first promising results, he asked me to write a program to identify lottery numbers — I had to turn the project down.

According to my resume I’ve worked as a developer/software engineer for 11 years, but I’ve actually been a coder and Project Manager since I was 8, when I decided to spend my resources in developing gambling and role-playing games instead of dubious lottery-estimation software.

A coder in the Realm of Marketers

The world of marketing didn’t interest me at all for many years; it was in a galaxy far, far away. Until the Internet brought that world much closer to mine.

Most of the top companies today didn’t even exist back then, when I was unconsciously becoming a budding coder. Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Instagram… they achieved so much and so quickly with essentially nothing. None of them were built based on the traditional set of marketing skills.

In the absence of big budgets, startups learn how to hack the system to bill their companies, and do more with less. They have reinvented marketing from the ground up, rewriting its methods and throwing old assumptions and methodology out the window.

When you look at the spectrum of marketing skills, coding is seen by many marketing professionals as a simple “nice-to-have”, not too essential. The vast majority of marketers list excuses like “I’m not that technical” and seek help every time they hit a technical wall. But how long will they be able to survive in this ever evolving environment, where trends are pointing to more disruptions of the digital landscape in the years ahead?

The ability to code (and to participate in conversations around programming) is indispensable; it’s not a skill reserved for the uber-geeky. It places a marketer’s destiny in their own hands, and gives them more control. Program or be programmed!

Since I started my marketing career, my biggest personal competitive advantage has arguably been having an engineering background and the ability to be comfortable coding.

Benefits of adding coding to your marketing skillset

  1. It allows business professionals to identify and quickly resolve issues like a string of wonky HTML in a content management system, or more effectively optimize landing pages.
  2. Being able to integrate analytics tracking codes means you don’t need to bottleneck your web manager, whether in house or third party.
  3. You are comfortable consuming big data and analyzing it to understand user experience.
  4. When your company’s website requires a major upgrade due to a new digital strategy, you are able to communicate effectively with your development teamand understand their limitations.
  5. You don’t freak out when facing a new Marketing Automation tool. Software adoption is completely natural to you.
  6. Having the ability to create and modify HTML email templates. You know, the annoying “can you move that image slightly to the right?” It sounds simple, but not everything in life can be “drag and drop.”
  7. Self-sufficiency when dealing with snippets of code. From data and analytics, SEO, SEM, email marketing, and social media… we are surrounded by all kinds of snippets and embedded codes that sometimes don’t want to behave in the way they should.
  8. Being able to write your own SQL server queries to squeeze all the data out of a database, when the information provided by the DBA is not enough.
  9. Communication with the engineering team is much easier. You can talk their language, breaking the cultural gap that historically exists between Marketing and R&D.

Digital Marketing is still considered a separate discipline, but I think future marketers will have to be as digital as possible. HTML, the standard markup language that is behind over 4 billion websites, has been around since the 90s. How is it possible that it still looks like witchcraft to many marketing professional in the tech and software industries?

If you are already competent or an expert in digital marketing — why don’t you step outside your comfort zone, and reinvigorate your mind by learning how to code.

“Code literacy is a requirement for participation in a digital world” Douglas Rushkoff

Originally published at www.linkedin.com.

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