I met a digital marketing expert last week. Nice fella. Extremely friendly. Very sharp suit.
We sat and chatted about this and that, he told me about some of the recent work he’d done and he certainly appeared to know what he was talking about.
Then our conversation shifted to the subject of technology and he began to flounder.
Whilst he had a background in marketing – 10 years man and boy – he didn’t know the first thing about the technology that makes digital marketing possible. Which I found mildly disturbing.
Now, I’m not saying that you need a PhD in computer sciences to work in digital marketing – but a basic understanding of the technology involved is, in my opinion anyway, fairly essential.
When a designer is producing a brochure for a client, he doesn’t need to know the intricacies of how the press will turn his work of genius into something that can be held, thumbed through and read but he needs an understanding of the process from Mac to press – even if it’s to inform the boundaries within which he must work.
And when working in digital marketing, surely this is even more important, what with technology being the medium you’re using to communicate with your customers?
Whilst a strategy doesn’t require in-depth technical expertise – what about the execution?
If you’re going to advise clients on the correct course of action, then a working knowledge of what is and isn’t possible (whether it’s from a purely technical point of view or, perhaps, knowing what technologies are available to make the most of a limited budget) is pretty much essential.
If you understand the technology, you understand how to exploit it. Either using tried and tested methods or, if the projects suits, in new ways that nobody else is doing. If you don’t understand the technology, then you’re leaving it to other people – geeks and techies – to put flesh on your strategic bones. And, well, whose strategy is it then?
Please don’t misunderstand this. I’m not suggesting that everybody who works in digital marketing has to be an out and out geek. Far, far from it. Being able to exploit a technology, doesn’t mean you have to understand it’s every intricacy.
Whilst I can make my Mac do wonderful things and know the operating system is based on UNIX, I couldn’t write a single line of code to make the computer do something if my life depended on it. But I understand the boundaries of what my Mac, a PC, an iPhone or an Android phone etc can do – and how the technical boundaries can be both limiting and liberating.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re doing the digital marketing for, you need to understand three things to successful promote a company, its products and services: 1. marketing (of course), 2. the industry you’re working in (if you don’t understand it, how can you sell it?) and 3. the technology to make your digital strategy a reality.
Miss any of those three and you’re setting yourself up for failure.