So you want to be a technical marketer. Here's how to do it.

Late last year IBM released a report listing their top marketing trends for 2019.

One of the trends identified in the report is this idea of the emergence of the technically savvy marketer, aka the martecheter.

IBM’s report has a warning for all marketers—the days of being a single skill or single channel marketer are over. The tried-and-true traditional marketing skills of “budget, tools and talent” isn’t enough. Mostly tellingly they write:

Today, the greatest marketing advantage is technical marketing talent — the martecheter.

A recent eMarketer report adds further weight to this idea. It describes data and analytics as the most in-demand technical skill for ad agencies over the next two years. Particularly in the area of data science, the demand for marketers with data skills far outweighs the current supply of available talent.

If the call is then for marketers to up their technical ability, whose responsibility is it to make the investment for this to happen? According to the IBM report companies are “investing to level up their talent”, but I wouldn’t be waiting around for this to happen. It’s up to marketers to take responsibility for their learning and development to improve their marketing technical skills.

Great. So how? What can marketers do to improve their technical skills without waiting for their company to take the lead? If you’re not a technical marketer, you can turn yourself into one, or more of one, with these simple hacks:

1. Get curious about what your tech colleagues are up to

If you work around designers, developers or data scientists, you’ve got ready-made access to a source of learning and wealth of information. Start asking more questions about what your tech colleagues do. More than that—get really curious about what they do. Why did they choose a particular design, what’s happening in the code, where did they source data from? In my experience these colleagues will more than happy to talk you about what they’re doing.

2. Emulate someone you know who’s more technically minded

You might know or work with someone with a non-tech background that’s more technically minded than you are. They’re probably really good at point #1. What kinds of questions do they ask in meetings? It’s probably worthwhile pulling them aside and asking how did they build up their knowledge. What can you learn from them?

3. MOOC it

Online courses found on sites like Coursera or edX are an excellent way to advance your learning. But they’re best suited to certain kinds of topics. A recent write up in the current Harvard Business Review magazine describes how online courses are excellent for building technical skills, like coding, but aren’t great at teaching more practical skills like leadership. For leadership skills, those are best developed and refined away from formal teaching environments, including the formal ones found online.

The best MOOC course I’ve taken recently was a series of lessons on advanced Excel skills. I wrote about it in more detail here.

4. Read everything you can on technical marketing

There are established blogs dedicated to marketing tech. Try here and here. Sign up for their newsletters. I especially like this one on email marketing.

Another tip I’ve found useful is to set up Google Alerts for technical marketing terms. I have one set up for “agile marketing”. My inbox gets pinged whenever anything is published relating to this niche topic. When I find a useful article I save it to Pocket and use the text-to-speech converter to listen to articles while I’m commuting.

5. Join Slack channels for marketers

There are robust online communities to tap into for sources of knowledge and idea. Online Geniuses (or OG) is the largest and most active network for digital and technical marketers. Their AMAs or “Ask Me Anything” are especially useful, where anyone can ask questions of a notable speaker. The AMAs from OG are beginning to attract an increasingly sophisticated array of speakers, including marketers and product owners from Atlassian, J&J and Visa.

Sarah JukesComment