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Do You Need Technical Skills to Succeed in Marketing at a Tech Company?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a whopping 22.8 percent employment growth for software developers between 2012 and 2022. The demand for developers has expanded beyond their traditional role, now designers and marketers are getting in on the coding action. Since product and marketing are directly correlated, they work together to close the feedback loop of need and solution.

The contrast of coding and marketing strategy may seem like different worlds, but an effective business strategy seamlessly plays to both strengths. What is it like to work in marketing at a tech company? Does such a marketer need technical skills like coding to be effective at their role? Marketing executives working in technology offer their experienced insights.

Sherry Chai, Marketing Director at Iterable, says that “There are a lot of tools out there that remove the need to be proficient at code to initiate changes or tests.” However, her company sponsored her to take a programming course in front-end development (HTML, CSS, Javascript) which she says has been highly beneficial, especially for updating websites and for executing email campaigns.“These skills enable me to not have to depend on my developers to get things done. I can push changes to our home page without having to ask for help!” she explains.

It is increasingly common for marketers to acquire technical skills through online and in the classroom courses, as well as on the job training. The emergence of new technology that effectively helps optimize processes through data is coming to the surface quickly, and now these online tools are more effective than ever. 

To keep pace with the new landscape of technical marketing, some may say that it makes sense for marketers to pick up new skills that were once kept in a developer’s domain. However, others believe that these marketing tools help marketers make more powerful use of analytics and save time, so that they can focus on what marketers do best: communications, strategy, and message. 

“While I don’t believe you need technical skills to be successful in marketing,” Ryan Luckin, Head of Marketing and Communications at Bluecore says, “they’re likely to accelerate your overall growth within the discipline. In addition, there are certainly positions within the marketing team that require specialized skill sets, such as web development or graphic design.” Many marketers at tech companies agree that technical skills are not necessary, yet they can come in handy. 

Natalie Edwards, Marketing Manager at sFBI, takes a harder stance for technical marketers. “I absolutely believe that you need some technical skills to work in marketing at a tech company,” she asserts. “Tech skills allows you to do what otherwise only money can buy you; and as a startup, you just might not have it.” Startups are generally more cash-strapped than larger companies, especially early-stage startups that live or die through user-acquisition or the lack thereof. A dollar must go further, meanwhile the clock is ticking urgently. Having technical skills would allow marketers to reach their goals on a budget, as it may not be necessary to purchase expensive marketing software. 

“Tech skills will help you, just as a handful of examples, create great landing pages, leverage APIs to learn more about your customers, use SQL to organize your data, send free automated emails, amplify press releases and content, use scripts to capture more email addresses, and create viral referral campaigns,” Natalie points out. Vic Panda, VP of Marketing at Findyr, agrees. “Startups typically don’t have the same resources as larger companies so startup marketers need to learn how to automate things in order to scale their business.” Small, scrappy startups tend to require all employees to wear many hats, and a technical marketer may be able to fill more roles.

However, nobody wants to be a Jack of all trades but a master of none. The rising trend of marketers who code may detract but the main goal of marketing: communicating the value of the brand to its target market. Ellen Clemons, Senior Marketing Manager at Smashing Boxes breaks it down. 

“You don’t need to know how to sew to sell clothes. You don’t need to understand chemistry to sell makeup, perfume, or cleaning products. You need to understand the problem that these products or services are solving for your target market. It is no different in tech. You do not need to know how to write code to sell software that will improve someone’s life, you just need to know what keeps them up at night.” 

She also finds that there may be misunderstandings about “non-technical” people in the tech industry. “Am I technical meaning do I know how to code?” she asks. “No. Am I technical in that I can talk about tech and sound intelligent and respectable? I like to think so. The latter is what is crucial to your success in marketing in the tech field.”

What do you think, does a marketer have to have technical skills at a tech company? 

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