this conversation is going quite swimmingly isn't it, Anthony? you must be pleased you went to all the trouble, decorating and baking..
I work on a team of four marketers at a startup. I'm by far the most technical of the four of us, but I don't know that it makes me a better marketer in and of itself. Here's what I mean:
Yesterday, I wrote a python script that takes an event list with first name, last name and company name, then compares it against our entire database, pulls out the account ids, contact ids and email addresses for everyone we already have (as long as the account name match is 95%+ and contact name is 85%+ match). For anyone who doesn't exist, but the account does exist, it figures out the most common email convention in the account and builds an email address for the contact with the same convention. That gives us about 75% of any conference list we get without emails. Then we send the rest to mechanical turk. Does that make our team much better than we would otherwise be and allow us to schedule significanlty better meetings with people at events? Definitely. But does that make me better at marketing than our event marketing manager who is coordinating the entire event? Nope. Different skillsets. She crushes me at putting on amazing events.
I completely agree that having a technical marketer on your team makes the entire team massively more productive. But does everyone need to be technical? Not by a long shot. Get good at what you're good at. If you're a content producer, figure out how to get very, very good at producing content. If you're an event marketer, run the best damn events you can - and continue to master the nuances of very good events. If you manage the website, well you'd probably start working on your technical chops (and then use those chops to help the rest of the team).
But, don't take my comment to mean that you can simply ignore the technical side of marketing. The more you understand, the better you understant what's possible and what's not. But it doesn't mean you need to build your own in-house sql server to do segmentation of lists. That's what good marketing automation software is for. Only go past that when you have a problem that really justifies it.
LOL, see my comment. Jinx, Jinks, you owe me a coke!
Nice timing! It definitely feels like the best way to leverage multiple skillsets. Technical skills can definitely be a massive help in certain places (we've taken generating one style of report from taking ~40-60 hours down to 2-4 hours using a few scripts I wrote), but being 'technical' doesn't solve marketing. There's a ton that's not "technical" in nature that you've got to be good at to have a solid marketing organization.
I think the problem lies in "marketer". Marketer of what? In what situation? In what industry? What type of marketing? The word is too broad to then say ALL people need to x.
All animals need to breath through gills. No they don't, only most fish do. But "animal" is fundamentally too broad to say "all animals should x".
I wouldn't hesitate to say at all that "all SEO's should be technical" or even "social media marketer should be technical" but is a copywriter a marketer? I wouldn't say "all copywriters need to be technical".
If it was "Some Marketers Should Be Technical" that would be more accurate IMHO;)
Note: that I DID very much like the article, and perhaps the title is easy to take 100% literally, but I don't think it's wrong to say there's exceptions to everything.
I think Dan hits this one out of the park.
I agree that marketers, pure play 'marketers,' do NOT need to be technical. Technical acumen within your chosen career vertical is always beneficial, but the way 'technical' is being used in this context, technical in terms of a proficiency or understanding of technology, is not, in my opinion, a requirements for marekters to be successful.
I know plenty of marketer's with gray hair who are very successful and VERY good at what they do (world's better than I could ever hope to be) due to their understanding of human nature and human needs - and how to package ideas and products to be both tangible and desired. These folks have never spoken the word <div> or ever looked at a stylesheet. It has no effect on the net impact of their campaigns.
Howard Schultz (Starbucks)
Thanks for the shout out Anthony.
I don't want to beat up on that post particularly, there's been a lot of talk from the learn to code/don't learn to code camps over recent months. There are two very obvious points to make around the idea "every marketer should be technical"
First of all, how do you define "marketer"? If you're talking about somebody who does SEO 100% of their time then I'd be inclined to agree that they should be technical. But then I would disagree that this person is a marketer, they're an SEO (and that's another debate)
Second of all, as you suggest, "How technical"? I mean, I used to be a programmer back in the day (not a good one) and to me that's pretty technical. On the other hand, I dropped a pivot table into excel the other day and people were like "Woooowww, that's crazy" (seriously) so it's completely relative.
If you're a "digital" marketer than yes absolutely having some technical knowledge, enough to ask the right questions at least is an asset, but it's not a must
Whilst I thought that post was really interesting I struggled to figure out to what degree I agreed with it.
I can certainly see advantages for marketers being 'technical' enough to run tests like Jamie suggested in his post; but I guess it depends on whether or not you think there's something tangible that you're sacrificing for that sort of technical ability.
There's only so many hours in the day - are you better off developing a more rounded, generalist skill set, or becoming 'expert' in a narrower set of skills?
It occurs to me that perhaps it depends on the sort of company you're working for?
I can certainly see the appeal for hiring those with more rounded skill sets particularly in start ups; however in Enterprise companies I could imagine that whilst a rounded skill set might be seen as added bonus; chances are there would be little need to make use of those additional skills. As such it could be argued that an individual's time would have been better spent honing a narrower skill set.
"It occurs to me that perhaps it depends on the sort of company you're working for?" Agreed Hannah.
If I have the technical skills available to me in house I don't need to know. If I'm a freelancer then being technical could be vital.
Personally I think that the more technical knowledge I have (combined with marketing) the better and more useful I am to whoever I'm working for.
Working on a post on this as we speak with David Cohen...
see shameless #Sebald plug above :p
Blast - hit submit too quick accidentally... I was going to make the point that I'm extremely glad this is getting some attention.
When it comes to SEO, there's a huge technical side of things we need to understand and be able to apply, but there's another side that requires a social approach that could be enhanced or polluted by a technical mind. I guess it will depend on the person, I've met technical SEOs who had a hard time relating to people, but I've also worked with technical guys who didn't have that problem.
I think the important thing would be not to lose sight of our role, marketers communicate, educate, and build bridges between consumers and brands. There are tons of technical skills we could add to our toolkit, but we should never ditch our foundations. I've studied PHP and MySQL, and from where I see it, web development is a different animal.
I think every modern marketer needs to figure out what their value-add (or superpower, if you grew up on the X-men like I did) is, and work to develop that to a world-class level.
For example, some folks are marketers that code. Their power comes from matching marketing abilities with technical mastery, and often being able to do things by themselves that normally require a team. They can also look at new technologies (like the HTML5 spec, or new social API specs) and understand how to use these technologies to achieve marketing outcomes.
That's great. But I think to say that's the only marketing superpower available is silly.
Some marketers are truly gifted at building amazing brands. Some marketers are world-class copywriters. Some marketers can create partnerships and develop ecosystems around their businesses. All of these people can add tremendous value to organizations without being technical.
I think marketers should understand and develop their superpower - and if that's being technical, that's great. But there are many superpowers, and all of them have a lot of value.
I asked Gaz and iPull a 'how technical' question related to this post last week on Moz:
Mike agrees, practitioners should be technical. Gaz disagrees. I would like to know peoples' thoughts, but please be concrete in 'how' technically advanced/limited one needs to be.. purely opinion obviously.. thanks xoxo
- content muse
Being 'technical' and knowing how to actually talk to human beings are mutually exclusive. One of those abilities makes a great marketer and the other simply gives you the potential to be a great marketer. But I'll leave that up to you to decide which is which.
Hey, I've got a crazy idea: What if you have people who are technical working side by side with those who aren't? And if they like each other, they will make an effort to understand and play off each others strengths. We are a tiny company, but we always work in teams of 4.
1) Technical: they can typically "build things" and code, just like the person that was described in the original article.
2) Social: They've got the resources to see how to promote this awesome thing that we are building.
3) Content/ Editing Review: Sometimes that thing we are building is an awesome piece of content. Typically this person will ensure that what we are doing is top notch
4) Client Facing: Since they've been talking to the client from the get-go they make sure to get buy in, approval, as well as necessary resources like white papers, internal research etc.Some of these overlap, and I'm leaving out design as part of this, but you get the idea. I know that this is complicating what is essentially a simple question, but why not leverage everyone's skills instead of trying to turn it into an either/or question?
To follow up on Cody's point - I don't think that everybody needs to be incredibly technical to the point that they can all write code but I think a lot of the time individuals would benefit from being a little more aware of what's technically possible.
When you're working in a small team perhaps this is less relevant as everyone is likely more aware of each others skill set. But in larger teams, you can end up with team members working very inefficiently because they simply aren't aware of how to improve the task with technology.
You see this all the time in big offices - people using unwieldy spreadsheets as databases because they don't know how to use Access. Manually formatting or inputting data that could be done with a few fancy formulas etc.
In these instances, having someone more technical within the team is incredibly valuable. Sure, you've always got the IT department but typically they don't interact with other departments enough to learn about issues that could be improved with technology.
"everybody should be exactly like me."
I believe marketers should have an understanding of all the "tools" they can use, so that they actually know what can be done and then delegate. To be honest the list of resources corresponds to what a well-rounded SEO should know!
As Gaz said, it all depends on context. When I'm hanging out with content strategists, their mouths drool from the site: operator (really? seriously?). When I'm hanging with data analysts, they have much more to teach me, and appreciate the more complex analytics activities.
Many of the more technical crowd are ex-programmers, developers, and/or web designers (as many of the previous comments reveal) and as an-ex designer myself, I find it extremely valuable.
I liken it to the race car driver who used to be a mechanic, versus those who were taught only to race. Neither one makes you a better driver, but the technical knowledge helps you visualize/operationalize the implementation of a strategy.
Nice to see this conversation going on & I'm very with Gaz that an SEO can't be a full time technical. As myself, I don't have any technical knowledge, when I read something about coding, python, ajax, js, RegEx etc. my eyes bleed & brain doesn't work.
Yes, but when sometimes when a developer doesn't know some SEO friendly coding OR how to do it in a friendly way, I do help him by providing blog post on SEO friendly coding. Also, I agree that we should have atleast a tidbit technical knowledge in a way which could help us in SEO.
As, SEO is evolving & we can see many faces of SEO like as Mr. Gianluca Fiorelli said in this post http://www.iloveseo.net/who-is-an-seo/ one can have many specilizations in this industry. Technical SEO is one of them & you can specialize in that if you are from technical background.
I don't think "all" marketers need to be technical at all, it really does depend on the industry / situation and company. If you can work with technical people then you will often do a better job, than trying to do everything yourself, however if you can work with a technical person who knows marketing then that will give you an advantage and the same is true the other way around. If you are a techy and the marketing person you work with understands some technical concepts then it can be a great advantage.
As someone who is certainly far more technical than marketing but knows and works on both I must confess that I find David Cohen's comment of "Being 'technical' and knowing how to actually talk to human beings are mutually exclusive" hilarious. Sure, there is a stigma that technical people can not talk to humans but this is simply not true and is an attitude which needs to change. If you find the technical people who you work with "can't talk to you", you are better off looking at yourself and seeing if you are not helping the situation.It's true that some technical people can be overly focused on the technical side and can loose track of business requirements and aims as they like to aim for the best technical implementation which may not be the same thing as the best business / sales / marketing implementation. However this tends to come down to poor communication between both sides.Anyway back onto the subject, having skills in both areas is a bonus but not needed as long as you can communicate well with the other party and plan and play to your/their strengths
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