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06

Oct
2015

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In Advertising
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Career

By Phil Murphy

Marketer? Why You Should Learn to Code

On 06, Oct 2015 | No Comments | In Advertising, Blog, Career | By Phil Murphy

Uggh.. I don’t do that technical stuff he says… I am a Murketer! Well sonny this just happened, the beautiful people from Mad Men and the IT people got it on and the result is a modern day marketer! A modern day marketer needs to still know his CPA from his impression volume but now you will also need to know how to setup, deliver and manage email marketing campaigns, publish content on websites and…know how to deliver a basic level of coding.

Many marketers work solely over the web and mobile applications, using email, SEO, and social media to sell products and services. In this world which is predominantly created with code, more and more marketing experts are beginning to ask themselves “Should I learn code?”

While most marketers have their own teams, including web developers specializing in code, available to handle coding of any kind, learning it for yourself is becoming an increasingly practical decision.  Code is the backbone of the web, mobile, and even the interface which we use for computers, and is behind every app, program, and feature that we use as marketers. Most of the web, including marketing tools like Socedo, BuzzSumo, or VWO are all built around JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, while apps are built around code languages including Java, C++, HTML5, and similar. Understanding how code works, and how to use it yourself can only be a good thing.

Learning to code is definitely a trend, and this can be seen in the many code and programming classes around the web, and which are now becoming common. For digital managers and marketers, code is also a valuable skill to add to your resume, and to your work skills.

Should you learn to code? While it’s a personal decision for many, my vote is for yes, and in my experience, it’s a valuable skill to have, especially when you’re already working in digital.

By learning the basics of JavaScript and HTML, you can increase your understanding of how the web, your products, and your product development works.

  • Professionalism – Learning code allows you to approach more areas of your job with a professional attitude, and level of understanding. Knowing how code works allows you to approach projects involving it more intelligently, understand pricing better, and perceive your developers issues and problems. Recognizing whether or not code looks right at a glance is also a huge benefit. Coding skills also look good on your resume, if you’re confident enough to list them there, because it tells potential clients and employees that you’re an expert in digital. Even if you’re at a long-term firm, taking the time to boost your skills makes you that much more valuable to the company.
  • DIY – Calling developers for making tiny changes to your website is a hassle, and can cost you as much as an hour of work for something as simple as fixing photo alignment. Learning the basics allows you to do these things yourself, even if you’re not an expert. If you’re working with WordPress, you can learn to make easy updates and layout changes using HTML. Even for everyday usage, such as properly formatting a blog, formatting a newsletter or email, or marking up a web page, code can allow you to save time and money by doing it yourself.
  • Make Better Decisions – If you know what’s going on with your code, and why, you can easily make better decisions. Whether that’s on timelines for creating content or products, on delivery, or on how you want to implement your product code, knowing what’s going on behind the scenes can help you to choose the best options for your needs.
  • Communicate Better – Whether you’re talking with developers, trying to explain issues or the process to the board, or planning, understanding CSS, HTML, JavaScript, or any other code ensures that you can discuss it properly. This allows you to communicate what’s happening, and also allows you to convey your wants and needs more clearly to developers. Managing a website is a very common responsibility for marketers, so learning how to speak the language can be immensely helpful.
  • Understand Your Marketing – Many marketing techniques including SEO and Email Marketing all require basic use of HTML or JavaScript. For example, creating a sitemap, optimizing links and setting up canonical URLs, or even organizing and utilising metadata all require code.
  • Check the Competition – Competitor research is nothing new in marketing, and understanding code allows you to take that a step further. Which web host/CMS/platform are they using? How are their pages and apps set up? Why do they work? You wouldn’t be able to answer most of these questions on your own without insider knowledge, but understanding how to read code makes it as simple as viewing the source code. You’ll be able to see where images are hosted, metadata, and website information, which can be invaluable.

Learning code can be hugely beneficial to your role as a marketer, whether you’re working agency or client side. Of course, learning code isn’t something you should take lightly either, it takes dedication to master the basics, and chances are you’ll never be an expert, unless you have a lot of free time. The good news is, you don’t have to be. I think, simply understanding the basics is all you need to better understand your products, the capabilities of your developers, timelines and cost estimates, and even allows you to do small things, like making CMS updates in HTML or CSS  on your client’s website, on your own.

So, where do I get started?
There are plenty of places on the web that offer free coding lessons and tutorials, but not all of them are created equal. A free tutorial I found, is a great way to get started because it allows you get a feel for the work before you pay for it or commit too much of your time and resources to learning.

Free places to learn include General Assembly’s Dash, Code Academy, Khan Academy and Udacity

If you prefer mentor led tuition, there are no free options, but there are plenty of choices. A few providers worth checking out include: Bloc, which is expensive but I know one of the trainers and he is one best devs on planet earth, the Code Institute a recent Irish startup which I haven’t experienced personally, Treehouse and the one I used, Thinkful. If you try out a few free options first, you can get a feel for what kind of learning you prefer, so that you can make a better decision when choosing a paid version.

 

W3 School – Is great to use as a reference or dictionary of code after you’ve learned the basics or get stuck.

Learning to code isn’t going to happen overnight, not even if you’re a fast learner or if you work with a mentor. Like learning any language, it’s tough and at time frustrating as f$ck, but with patience, practice and study you will see the benefits in your role very quickly.

Taking time to learn to code increases your value as a marketer, makes you a hone your craft, allows you to solve many of the day to day minor challenges on your own, and makes it easier to communicate with developers.

#jfdi

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