There are countless valuable skills that a marketer should have, but one that is still slightly overlooked is the ability to code. I might be a little biased — especially since the word developer is in my job title — but coding and programing are only going to increase in value as our world becomes more and more digital in nature.
Maybe you are a little skeptical about whether or not you can do it or even want to do it. Maybe you have a fear of being described as a “nerd” or “geek.” No matter what, anyone can learn to code and gain the benefits that come with it. Below I have listed several reasons why I think it would be valuable for any marketer to learn how to code.
1. Greater Digital Literacy
When you learn to code or program you gain knowledge about how things like computers and the internet work. When you do not understand how to code you can only scratch the surface of the tools around you. When you learn to code you gain valuable answers to things like “how are websites hosted?”, “what is an API?”, and “why does that image look funky on my website?”.
2. More Fluid Collaboration
Tying closely to the first reason, Greater Digital Literacy, when you learn to code you decrease your friction when collaborating with other technical parties. If you work directly with product developers, data scientists, or web designers, learning to code can benefit your collaboration. You will be able to communicate on a different level with them and understand their concerns or point of view. You also will be able to provide more in-depth feedback regarding development efforts, and you will have a greater understanding of timelines and results.
3. Enhanced Decision Making
Coding has helped my decision making in two aspects. First, because of programming I see problems and workflows more completely. Coding made me practice the mental tactics of working through problems and finding the quickest or the best way. It has also made me accustomed to “If-else” logic that is prominent in CRM and marketing automation systems.
The second way that coding has helped with my decision making is in selecting new software vendors or digital agencies. When you understand how systems and programs work you are able to detect inflation in vendor quotes. This knowledge can easily save your company thousands of dollars.
4. Greater Understanding of Problem Solving
One of the greatest benefits of learning to code is the enhanced skills of problem solving. Steve Jobs said, “Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.” Instead of just accepting problems as they come you learn to methodically troubleshoot the issue. You learn to dissect the problem logically and then work through it prior to moving forward in any particular direction.
When you learn to code your paradigm is expanded. You start to think beyond standard functionality and start to realize the full potential of the digital channels around you. Instead of a boring, old email, you can have an email that is personalized and dynamic. Instead of accepting limits of basic lead attribution, you create your own rules — this is all possible when you learn to think about problems as a coder.
5. Makes Your Life Easier
When you learn to code, it is not about creating the next Facebook or Airbnb, it is about understanding and solving problems in your own life. Treehouse writes on their blog about a video producer, who, after taking a quick course, was able to write a script to help manage his folders for video organization. In my own work, I just spent a few hours writing a small program that will in turn save my fellow team members hours of work performing a menial task. Whether it is just learning how to take Excel to the next level or it is writing programs to run automations on your desktop, learning to code
can will make life easier for you and your team.
6. Help with Data and Analytics
Data and Analysis is arguably a technical role anyway, but even if you are someone who does not work heavily with marketing analytics, learning key aspects of coding will be extremely beneficial. The first and most obvious benefit would be in learning languages that deal directly with data and databases such as R, Python, or SQL. With knowledge of these languages you will be able to do things like manage databases or determine statistical relevance. In addition, learning simple functions and expressions (like DAX) will make working with tools like Excel or PowerBI vastly easier.
The other basic skill you will learn is understanding the different types of data such as booleans, integers, datetimes and strings. Understanding these are very important when setting up new marketing systems or when you are working with business intelligence tools.
7. Better the Experience for Your Customers
Paul Boag says in his blog post about User Interface Design, “If we first help a user complete their task, we will find them much more open to going on to complete our call to action.” When we make life easier for our customers, we also make it more likely for them to become our clients. As marketers, we set the initial opinion of our customers to our brand. If our websites are challenging to navigate, or our disconnected infrastructure makes our messaging awkward, our customers are going to have a poor initial opinion of our company.
Connected experiences and refined digital interfaces are only possible because of coders.
Bonus Reason: Makes You More Self-Sufficient
Especially if you work for a smaller company, being multifaceted in your skillset is important. It helps keep you from relying on expensive agencies for small adjustments you can make yourself with just a little training.
The nirvana of marketing is to obtain micro-segmentation with the economy of scale. If you can obtain this you will be able to communicate to your audience the right message at the right time. To accomplish this you will need a team that is highly collaborative, a team that methodically works through problems, a team that utilizes every piece of data, and a team that can take advantage of modern technologies. I propose that this idealistic state can only be achieved right now by writers that can code, designers that can code, analysts that can code — a team of marketers that know how to code.