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Help! I'm a Marketer Not an IT Expert

by Stacy Bouchard | Jun 17, 2016 10:00:00 AM

marketers-learn-technology.jpgCaptain’s log, stardate 69926.6 It appears our small B2B marketing team has been brainwashed. I believe recent visitors from the nearby planet of IT are responsible. I’m having trouble communicating with them. They’re speaking a language not native to marketers. For their own safety, I have them isolated in the conference room.

Anyone else feel like that is what has happened to marketing over the last several years? I know I do. Marketing has always been a mixed bag of tricks. In the past, it’s been part creative, a lot project management and coordination, some business savy, definitely communication and maybe, a tiny bit of IT…the kind of IT to help get a PPT projector to work with any laptop.

But today? Today that marketing skills and capabilities mix has changed…changed into something alien to many marketers.

Did you know that Gartner Research estimates that by the end of 2017, marketing will be responsible for purchasing and managing more technology than the IT department. That’s like 18 months from now!

Doug shared a post earlier this year about the importance of the sales and marketing technology stack and making sure your technology strategy is as well thought out as your overall strategy. Let’s face it…that can be overwhelming…especially if IT or technology is not your area of expertise.

In recent years, new marketing roles have emerged especially in large companies. Positions like Marketing Technologist and Marketing Analyst are becoming staples of marketing teams.

But what if you’re part of a small marketing team for a small to mid-size B2B company? Chances are resources aren’t available to hire a full-time marketing technologist. So what can you do to become enough of an IT expert to manage this changing landscape? Here are five places to start.

1. Follow the experts

There are a lot of really smart people out there who share their knowledge through blogs, podcasts, social media, etc. They offer a lot of great information for free. The only cost to you is your time.

Do some research. The experts aren’t hard to find. Here’s a list of 30 that I found through a quick Google search.

30 Marketing Technology Experts to Watch

Follow them on social media. Subscribe to their blogs and podcasts if they have them. Learning about technology can be easy…it’s up to you to make the time to do it.

2. Consider attending a conference or two

Conferences can be great experiences and there are many to choose from. In addition to learning by attending the sessions, conversations with peers can be even more beneficial.

Attending can be a significant investment as well as very intense. However, there is nothing else that offers the same type of learning opportunities in one place at one time.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend HubSpot’s annual conference Inbound for the last two years. It is three very intense days packed with learning and some fun. I am unable to quantify what I have taken away from those two experiences. Attending has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Other conferences to consider are MarTech and Content Marketing World.

3. Develop new skills…or at least vocabulary

Marketers are good at figuring things out. Over the course of my career, I’ve had to teach myself many things in order to be more effective at my job. One of those things was Excel.

It is crazy to me how many marketers can’t use Excel and are totally afraid of it. Back in the day, Excel is how I managed every list I had. It is how I reported results. I used it to make charts and bar graphs. I learned how to use it for complicated calculations. I thought it was kind of fun. Today, I’m glad that I was forced to figure it out.

If I had to do it again today, I’d go to Lynda.com. I have found Lynda.com to be an unbelievable, affordable resource for learning the types of technology that impact marketing today.

For example, in my last job I needed to edit video. I had never edited video so I took the Lynda.com course for Adobe Premiere Pro and learned to edit video.

If you’re serious about learning technology, then you have to expand your skill set. As I researched this post, I found this presentation called Technical Skills for Marketers. It provides a list of skills the author recommends marketers, who are serious about technology, should have.

There are skills on the list that you may not have time or interest in learning but consider at least taking an introductory course on the subject. As a marketer, you have to learn to speak the technology language and understand it well enough to direct decisions that will impact your organization. After all, how can you recommend for or against adding a new technology if you don’t even really understand what it does?

4. Keep the focus on results

Learning about technology can be really fun and exciting. There are so many marketing technologies available today that allow marketers to do some very interesting things.

That’s why it’s important to keep your focus on results. Long before you even consider a new technology, be clear about the results you’re hoping to achieve. If the technology doesn’t bring you directly closer to achieving those goals, skip it.

Marketing technology is not about keeping up with the Jones’ or showing off shiny, new toys. It’s all about results.

5. Change your mindset

If you have been reluctant to embrace technology and its role in marketing and your position as a professional marketer, it’s time to welcome it with open arms.

As Doug has said, technology will not be the reason you are successful but it could be the reason you fail. If you want to be successful in your role, you need to embrace technology and learn as much as you can.

Technology is now firmly entrenched as part of the marketing world. It’s time to make friends with that alien.