Are Marketers Technically Illiterate? Marketers Need to Get Technology and Development

July 8th, 2011 No Comments

Being called a computer geek before I ever worked professionally, I am sometimes shocked by the clashes between web and software and hardware developers, and marketing. In my mind, they both need to work together in order for the company to achieve its goals. I assumed developers understood the need for a clear message, and, like me, I thought marketers loved technology and computing.

Bored at WorkIn this first post, I will discuss why marketers need to be technically literate and understand developer and tech speak. In my next post, I will discuss why developers need to understand the language of business.

Marketers need to speak the language of technology – particularly their own, like web technologies, and their target products’, to craft the right messages, and position their products in the proper market niche.

Marketers need to get digital platforms: today’s core communication channels. In the old days of print, this may have been unnecessary for traditional marketers, with graphic designed easily outsourced. With the requirements of e-commerce affecting nearly all businesses, even service and physical stores, digital platforms have become essential touchpoints that need frequent adaptation – even minor – which require, at a minimum, basic web development and simple graphic design skills.

While the basic rules of strategy hasn’t changed, technology has always been a core component in formulating market strategy, and strategists need to develop a plan that makes sense when implemented in the real world. If it’s based on a misunderstanding of how the web works, a fancy obsession with the latest new toy, or a Luddite aversion to technology, that strategy will fail.

Technological literacy is becoming a necessary requirement for marketers, whether they are selling software or sofas. Whether purchasing online or just researching, platforms such as a website, blogs, mobile applications, and email, purchasing decisions take place over technical channels. The sales funnel happens online. Marketers need to understand this in order to develop and carry out correct strategy.

At a minimum, this means that marketers need to have the technical literacy and competency to know web development – at least the capability to handle basic tasks like content updating in a CMS, understanding the basics of SEO, which includes issues like clean code, web server load time, and page redirects and social media. They also need to know basic website management, even if the heavy lifting is handled by your web developer. With marketers that have a print background, the focus was on the final look of the deliverable to the viewer. With digital platforms, effectiveness isn’t just how it looks to the end-user but also the technical infrastructure on which it’s based on. If your website looks pretty, but can’t be indexed by the search engines, how useful is it?

This is true regardless of your product.

When selling hardware or software, technical literacy is even more important.

The role of the marketing strategist is to develop the market position. When selling technical products, the marketers need to have an understanding of the product, the position it belongs in, and the problem it is intended to solve. It’s the marketers that create the communication and messaging. They can’t derive messages or build a brand for something that they don’t understand. If the target audience is a foreign species, how can they craft an effective message and communicate authentically with them?

A thorough technical understanding of the product can also help find more channels to help promote your product. A few weeks ago, my company launched its first product for Linux. I’ve used the Ubuntu Linux distribution for several years. I’m not a Linux guru or a top sysadmin, but I can make my way around the command line when needed. In fact, I’m writing this post in Linux. This knowledge of Linux assisted in helping to craft a message that will be perceived as authentic to the Linux audience – coming from a Linux user itself – and identifying and locating more media outlets and channels to promote the product, which has already lead to increased product awareness.

Of course, marketing isn’t responsible for developing the product and development is not responsible for marketing the product.

Hence, the two sides need to work together and bridge the gaps.

In the next post, I will write about how software and hardware developers also need to understand marketing.

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