Email Marketing

8 ways coding skills make you a better marketer

Illustration of a woman thinking about ideas

Marketing is a profession of contrasts where the creative blends with the analytical. Scope for imagination sits alongside the need for logic.

In today’s digital world, there are few careers that cannot benefit from some coding know-how. Marketing is no exception. A little bit of programming knowledge could be the secret code to becoming a better marketer.

1. Transform your mind

Learning to code isn’t just about what you can do. It’s about the way you think. There are direct benefits from learning a particular programming language, but it’s perhaps the indirect benefits that are most valuable.

Speaking from personal experience, my approach to problem-solving fundamentally changed after learning JavaScript. When a complex challenge arises, my reaction is no longer oh [expletive], how are we going to solve this. The logic-based thinking that comes with coding can be applied to all manner of situations. A calmer thought process means less stress and more refined solutions.

2. Embrace efficiency

Who couldn’t use a little more time in the day? Repetitive (but still essential) tasks can add up and chip away at the clock, stealing away time from bigger projects.

Taking a programming approach to such jobs can make all the difference. The solution doesn’t necessarily need to involve a single line of code – just a bit of logic. Instead of manually compiling reports, is there an Excel formula that can achieve the same thing in a fraction of the time? Maybe you could record an action in Photoshop to apply a branding effect in a single click. An ounce of automation is worth a pound of manual procedure.

3. Become the toolmaker

Tailoring or modifying an existing piece of software won’t always be enough to solve your problem. For unique challenges, you sometimes need a unique tool. With programming knowledge, you can be the one to create it.

A client of ours required tracking to be hardcoded on links in a very specific manner. The syntax varies depending on the URL. What descriptors have already been used? Is there an anchor tag? Are other parameters already applied?

Manually performing such a task multiple times per day and dozens per week is both time-consuming and vulnerable to human error. The smart solution is to build a custom tool to do the job. Efficient and reliable results, along with the satisfaction and mental exercise that coding brings.

4. Master your software

It’s true what they say – once you learn one programming language, it becomes much easier to learn another. Modern CRM platforms and ESPs often come equipped with proprietary scripting languages. Salesforce Marketing Cloud has AMPscript, Oracle Responsys has RPL, and so on. These kind of scripting languages invariably open up a deeper level of dynamic content than a drag & drop interface can offer.

The syntax of these languages differs from platform to platform, but the underlying logic is very similar. Everything boils down to if this, do that. By thinking in terms of procedures and variables, you unlock your software’s full functionality – and value.

5. Talk tech

As a marketer, you may or may not ever be personally required to carry out any coding work. But even if your role is less hands-on, I’m willing to bet that you need to communicate with developers regularly. Knowing what is technically possible and how it can be achieved is a major advantage. A new project is off to a great start when everyone is working from the same technical foundation.

6. Unify the channels

There are lots of specialities in marketing, including our favourite: email. Specialised however is not synonymous with isolated. A strong marketing strategy combines multiple channels.

Theory is one thing, but technical understanding completes the picture. An email developer can benefit greatly from knowing a programming language that lets them build web content or process data. A custom API can connect software systems and make sophisticated multi-channel strategies possible. Your programming knowledge can be the bridge between channels and applications.

7. Become a journey planner

Multi-channel marketing is a concept that goes hand-in-hand with customer journeys. Any decent CRM or ESP software will include a workflow-based editor that lets you funnel and personalise the path that each customer follows. These can become enormously complex, often combining drag & drop rules with internal and external scripting.

Learning programming act as a logical conditioning for the mind. Use that power to plan, analyse and fine-tune complex customer journeys.

8. Stay at the cutting edge

Digital marketing is a fast-moving field. It can be challenging to stay on top of the latest developments. But with a coding foundation, it becomes easier to keep up… and maybe even be a pioneer.

I’ve seen a number of technical landmarks in email marketing over the years. Responsive design, product recommendations, live images, interactivity, Gmail annotations, AMP for Email, AI-generated content – the list goes on. Adoption rates can often be slow. Teach yourself some technical skills on the side and you can be the one to keep your brand at the digital forefront.

Crack the code

One of the beautiful things about coding is that you absolutely do not need to know a language inside-out before you can start putting it to good use in the real world. In fact, real projects are an essential part of the learning process. With just a moderate understanding of a single programming language, you can improve yourself as a marketer and make a real difference in a relatively short space of time.

Your choice of language doesn’t even matter. Python, PHP, JavaScript, whatever you fancy. They all have practical applications and cognitive benefits. So jump in, learn some code, and power up your marketing.