8 Conclusive Reasons Why Marketers Should Learn to Code Coding is for programmers and Engineers, not for me! That's some of the most common things you will hear across B-schools in India. And this feeling gets more pronounced in the better B-schools. But the fact is the times are changing! The best of the MBAs are learning to code. Data Science and Digital Marketing are in vogue. Here's why you should learn to code as well.

why marketers should learn to code

Why should marketers learn to code? Do you have that kind of question too?

Obviously, all the digital marketing tools & channels are running with the aid of some set of codes. Although, you don’t need to be a developer/programmer at all before you can effectively carry out your activities using these tools as a digital marketer.

But having some basic knowledge of how these systems work efficiently to deliver excellent results is what you can consider diving into.

Heck.

Even if you are not planning to do anything with Digital Marketing, you, as a marketer, should learn how to code. Why?

Here’s a quick snapshot of why should marketers learn to code:

  • The highest package offered during my year of final placements at my B-school was by Flipkart for an Analytics role.
  • The company took 8 kids, all of them who were good with Statistics and R. There interviews were all around R programming!
  • Even for a friend who went off-campus for placements, he could find a job with ease (in such a difficult job market) at a company as a Senior Data Science Manager at a package of upwards of 25 Lacs per annum.
  • Guess what. This guy had learned and worked on R.

I had already written an article on how I learned R during my MBA days. It explains in great detail which course I took and what other things I did to successfully learn R.

Here in this article, I will highlight 8 conclusive reasons why marketers should learn to code. You should be able to make a decision after this.


1. You get to know the capabilities of technology

Programmers are assumed by some marketers to be magicians. Everything they do seem to sweep you off your feet, because it's so super cool and amazing.

That is because you don't know the capabilities of technology, you don't know how far technology has gone, how far it is going and how far it can go.

Being conversant with how codes are written and what can a bunch of code does can completely change the way you think about your business strategies.

Because, when you don’t know you can do something, you can’t even imagine that you can do it.

Sounds logical?

It is. Being hands-on with technology makes you innovative, because of the new problem-solving ideas that tend to pop up in your mind.

So, marketers should learn to code to improve their problem-solving capability because programming is basically solving problems.

Here’s an example.

The Chief Digital Officer and Founder of a company that I worked for is an IIM-alumni. He is way above 50 years of age and still does most of the coding himself in his office.

That is, despite him having an entire tech and data science team at his disposal.

What helps him wit is that he came up with ideas such showing dynamic advertising banners as per user actions on their website.

What it required was some deft JavaScript skills to implement this on Google Tag Manager.

And that’s what marketers who learn to code can do.

Once you notice a task that is being done manually and which is also time-consuming, you can write a code to automate these processes and save yourself from a lot of stress.

On the contrary, if you are not knowledgeable about coding, the idea may not even cross your mind because, you don't even know if it can be done.

Again, when creating a business strategy, you may limit yourself to the available technology that you are aware of, not knowing that you can write the codes to solve some of these little problems.


2. You will stay relevant and up-to-date

Marketing also involves your ability to use present data to forecast future changes and one way to achieve this is Data Science.

Data science turns data into real value by analyzing and experimenting with it to make an accurate, data-driven forecast. It is interdisciplinary and contains elements of mathematics, analytics, computer science and statistics.

Rapidly, Data Science is becoming an integral and essential part of marketing  that every marketer must embrace - It is the future!

This is one reason why a lot of marketers learn to code.

I learned Data Science with R back in my MBA so that I could become more relevant for the job market. Moreover, I really like to skill-up. I wrote and entire article about how I learned R with a really good online course.

And trust me, R has a lot of uses in the field of marketing.

Both R and Python, for instance, can scrap needed data from the web, compile it in a spreadsheet, search for a particular data within the large number of rows and columns, and finally give a visualization of the data in the form of graphs, charts, etc.

Data science will enable you to answer questions like; What happened? Why did it happen? What will happen? How to make the best happen?

Also, data science helps with customers’ profiling and segmentation, social media data analysis (understanding humans social behaviour), advanced lead scoring, etc.

You can check the daily routine of this marketing analytics professional and a practical example of marketing campaign using big data to further understand how data science helps in marketing.


3. You get the ability to interact effectively with programmers

There are times when you will require the services of core programmers to do one thing or the other. It may become difficult for them to explain some of these technical terms if you don't have any fundamental knowledge about them.

Moreover, you do stand a good chance of being fooled by programmers regarding the capabilities of what they can and cannot do.

I had been fooled quite a few times during my work experience when I knew nothing about how a website is deigned.

Also, you might know how frustrating it is, especially when you have no idea on what you are being told about, and you just nod your head to everything they say.

For example, probably, there's a functionality you want to include in an e-commerce website to track a particular activity, your knowledge of coding will allow you to say exactly what you want in a way that the programmer will easily understand.

In like manner, when you are reading the reports of programmers, you will know why certain things occurred, why some things could not be done, etc.without them having to explain anything to you in layman's terms.


4. You become independent of programmers

The relationship between programmers and marketers is really close-knit.

You got to have pages that you need to make live, or make those minor corrections in your H1 copy. Or maybe, even just install the Google Analytics code on your new blog if you are starting out.

Marketers have consistently employed the services of programmers to get things done with written codes.

In the past, I myself, have been dependent on my programmer to do big changes on the blog. Or even at my previous job, I have frequented the technology department just too many times to get small things up and running.

But, when you as marketers learn to code, you will then be able to do things you ordinarily couldn’t have done by yourself without the help of a programmer.

For instance, you may begin to carry out simple tasks by yourself like tweak the position of the CTA button on your landing page, or to place Google analytics code in the header section of your site.

Or even to analyze your collated data using R language. The tasks that can be accomplished are endless.

If you want to start of with any programming language, I would suggest you to learn R and also know the basics of JavaScript.

While R or any Data Science language will give you a solid ground and an identity as a marketer, JavaScript will make you self-sufficient.


5. You begin to properly understand web analytics reports

Undoubtedly, one part of the tasks of a digital marketer is to analyze results of the metrics being tracked. All the results of the metrics being tracked are collated and presented to you on a dashboard.

As a result, marketers learn to code to properly understand web analytics report, especially how to analyze the data.

You may ask around and learn what these metrics are, e.g. Bounce rate, Page session, Visitors, Page views, etc. As a good marketer, you should not only know what these metrics are, but you ought to also understand what influence these results.

Or as a matter of fact, you will find it really useful to take down this data on a spreadsheet and do some Year-on Year or Quarter-on-Quarter kind of analysis.


6. You can do small tweaks which pay-off well

It's not every time that some of the tools you use a digital marketer will be able to extract or track all the needed information by default.

Often, you have to write the code yourself to extract the information.

But, this duty is usually delegated to the web developer and other relevant specialists. Well, at the point where things looks so technical and get complex, you may need the help of an expert.

However, there's nothing wrong in you understanding how these small code snippets are put together and how they work. You can even go further to be able to write and implement these codes by yourself.

For instance, Google Tag Manager (GTM) makes it easy to deploy marketing tags on a website (snippets of code or tracking pixels) without compulsorily modifying the code.

These tags may be from third party sources and not necessarily from Google, but GTM makes it possible to manage all of these tags on one dashboard.

There a couple of things you can track in GTM; Scroll tracking, Form abandonment, Cart abandonment, Events (Downloads, link clicks, remove from or add to cart clicks).

Being able to track all of these and more will definitely ease your work as a marketer. Best of all, you were able to set it up yourself without help. Boss feeling!


7. It increases your chances of getting hired

On this blog, I once talked on the benefits of being a T-shaped marketer and how it will position you in the right way and increase your chances of getting hired.

Companies are also trying to reduce their costs, hence, the reason why they prefer a T-shaped marketer to a specialist.

But we are talking about coding. And when I mention coding I am implying a person who knows R, Python or JavaScript (or any such other language).

Marketers learn to code to improve their coding skills which will be highly valued since that will be a potential reduction in the company's running cost.

These two skills, marketing and coding, means they may not have to employ a programmer full-time to carry out simple tasks that you as a marketer is already able to do.

And its true. One of my B-school seniors got hired by a company as a Data Scientist-cum-Marketer. He was really happy about the profile and the opportunities that last time I spoke to him.

I am sure he would be.


8. It saves you money

If you are a freelance marketer and not working on a full-time basis for any corporation or company, you are definitely ready to do things that will save cost without compromising on the quality of the work being done.

Involving developers, data scientists, and other specialists in your project, even for little tasks, can prominently increase your cost because of the fee they charge before working for you.

Fortunately, learning to code and solely implementing the changes you desire without requesting the services of any of these specialists is awesome, and something you can do too.

Doing those little tasks that are not too technical will reduce your cost and you will only need specialists when the project is big and complex.


Which Languages should Marketers Learn?

I would suggest to an MBA student who is aspiring to be Marketer to see this skill building exercise in two

The first stage is about creating Pillar Skills.

You should acquire the skills that will create your identity, maybe for the coming placements or generally for your long career ahead of you.

At this stage you should target Digital Marketing and Data Science.

Yes, both of them. There is no reason why an MBA student who is going to be considerably really free in her second year should not find the time to do both.

The question just boils down to which one first.

If you were to ask me, I would suggest you to start with Data Science first. It is a simple demand and supply perspective through which I am suggesting you that. Get in there early with those skills.

I wrote an entire article on how I learned Data Science with R through a really comprehensive course. Here is what I did.

Just when you are done with Data Science (or even along with it) take up a course that teaches you at least the basics of Digital Marketing. Make sure that the course is not just theory but gives you some practical proficiency by the end of it.

The second stage, which is actually a never-ending stage, is of building Peripheral Skills.

This include learning new programming languages that complement your work, but only at an extremely basic level.

And it clearly depends on the kind of industry you get in.

So, for the kind of work that I do, learning the basics of JavaScript really made my work easy. And therefore, I learned it.


Conclusion

Now, you don't have to be a full-time programmer, what you need is just the basic skill and fundamental knowledge to be able to carry out simple programming activities required in your work as a marketer.

This skill will save you a lot of time to do other necessary things, since you can automate most of the little but important tasks by yourself. 

Marketers learn to code for different reasons, but if you won’t learn to code for anything, maybe you should do it to better understand how the tools you use work.

However, if you still don’t feel like learning to code, it’s perfectly okay, as it can’t harm your career in any way whatsoever.

The goal is understand coding generally, not necessarily to be as good as a programmer.

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About the Author:

Darpan is a Marketing and Product development strategist at an edu-corporate in New Delhi. He has also worked at a multinational business process outsourcing company in their Marketing & Artificial Intelligence business. He is an engineer by qualification and an MBA from Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Udaipur.