Should Marketers Learn To Code?

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How I learned to code as a marketer

Did you know I can code?

You do and you want me to shut up about it?

Well you’re in the wrong place cornpop, because that’s pretty much all I do here, besides trying out weird nicknames on my beloved readers.

I am infamously (let me have this) a marketer who started teaching themselves to code in 2018, and very quickly had a gazillion hours with which to practise due to the worldwide pandemic threatening to wipe out humanity, and in the case of toilet paper shortages, humanity’s ability to wipe.

The reason I began learning to code was a case of me facing my fear.

I worked at a marketing agency, and broke out in hives whenever I had to work on a client's Google Tag Manager, as the code spooked me like a wayward bronco, and my manager would have to spend the afternoon leaving sweets in a line across the office to coax me out from under my desk and trap me under a laundry basket.

Really had my Weetabix today huh?

Anywho, my coding skills and my marketing skills soon merged, and I was able to help out so much more with client work as I had a deeper understanding of how websites and tracking pixels actually worked.

I now use my coding skills almost on a daily basis in my marketing tasks, so I wanted to write a blog about the ways learning to code can help out marketers, and enable them to better execute campaigns, and who knows, maybe they can create their own blog where they ramble incessantly, further polluting the internet.

Reason to learn to code #1: Better analytics

This is by far the biggest impact of my learning to code on my marketing ability.

Websites can suck to track. 

User actions are confusing, and some Hotjar recordings make it look like a user is using their keyboard to kill a fish.

In-depth knowledge of how websites operate and function has meant that I can implement conversion tracking that wouldn’t be possible with the basic prebuilt options in Google Tag Manager. I even managed to build a very simple lead routing system with Google Tag Manager once, which I then presented back to my team with a 1000 yard stare, smoking and uttering phrases from the Bhagavad Gita.

Also, sidenote, the ability to code gives marketers a crazy advantage when it comes to any form of Google marketing, be it organic or paid. 

The Google suite of products can all be linked with their scripting language Google AppScript. 

This has meant that marketers who can code can create any number of interesting marketing tools like a demand generation tracker, custom HTML email blasts, competitor web scrapers, email alerts for SEO or website changes and a whole host of fun goodies that would either cost a tonne of money otherwise or simply not exist. 

Reason to learn to code #2: Custom tooling

This is my favourite one.

I’ve built a ridiculous amount of internal tools using my coding skills, and that’s not a brag as much as it is a sign of an underlying neurological issue.

The list of tools for work I’ve created include:

A lot of the time in marketing, the tools you are using are out-of-the-box and may not be suitable for your specific needs, in which case, it’s incredibly valuable to be able to create your own tools to help with workload, and it's fun to whack on the black turtleneck to unveil your little project like Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone.

Reason to learn to code #3: Ease of communication with dev teams

I love dev teams.

I was lucky enough to be part of the Thrive dev team for one day a week, and seeing the amount of work and efficiency those folks deliver was eye-opening.

As such, I never want to be the marketer annoying devs during a DDoS attack by asking if we can make the red on the homepage a happier red and to give our ToS page a bit more “pizazz”.

By learning to code, I can more accurately portray exactly what marketing needs from the product side to create compelling campaigns, more accurately describe and promote integrations and even borrow things like Agile methodologies to use in my marketing work.

Approaching your website how dev teams approach product is probably the biggest learning from my career over the past few years, right behind not using the office microwave to heat up sardines like Jerry from accounting.

How can I learn to code as a marketer?

Now, I’m not saying you have to go away to become Mark Zuckerberg (no one has time for all the jiu-jitsu), but even just learning the basics of how web pages work can be incredibly helpful.

I used a bunch of completely free resources to teach myself (and one paid resource, a giant book that doubles as an uber efficient way to kill spiders), which I’ve linked below to help you get started, and if you ever wanted to book in a call to discuss and have me give you pointers, feel free to drop me a DM or leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!

Coding resources for marketers

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