Time to get (a little bit) technical

The closed-shop phase of web programming is coming to a close – rather quickly. It’s the combination of universal adoption of open source frameworks and platforms such as WordPress and the wide availability of cloud-based services to manage everything from web-hosting to SEO reporting that is driving the shift. It is, however, presenting a challenge for traditional marketers and agencies alike.

To be blunt, most are simply not up to the task and revert to type by hiring agencies who, in turn, are not up to the task. The answer is pretty straightforward: Marketers needs to get (a little) more technical. They need to understand the core elements of a digital strategy and be able to contribute, collaborate and drive these along. Not as experts, but as knowledgeable generalists (see foot note)

It’s not hard to grasp the basics, fast forward 5 years and it will be the norm for marketers to know a little bit about all aspects of their digital offerings. Much in the same way they are expected today to be able to use Powerpoint, good marketers will become digital marketers and understand content strategy, advertising, social, front-end code and databases.

What are the key areas to understand?

  1. Traffic. The raw fuel is people that arrive on your site, by whatever means. Includes understanding PPC, banners, SEO and natural traffic.
  2. Conversion. The calls-to-action and functions on the site that turn visitors into data, the acquisition of enquiries, leads and sales. This will entail understanding what works, best practices and the importance of testing.
  3. The post-conversion process. Once converted into data we need to build relationship with the consumer. This covers email marketing, data mining and relationship management.
  4. Reporting on key metrics. How success is measured and what targets we should be chasing. A basic understanding of Google Analytics is fine, deeper understanding needs to be balanced against the time cost.
  5. Content strategy. What content is needed and how should it be structured to engage visitors. Planning the rolling our new content as well as reviewing and updating existing stuff. It needs planning and delivering, probably using non-marketing folks to reduce the occurrence of “marketing speak”.
  6. Sharing and collaboration. How we best leverage social media, trusted review sites, Google Local and forums as well as the traditional world of Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.
  7. User experience and flow. How the site operates on different platforms, how rich is the experience, how accessible is information and how relevant is the content to consumers. This has been greatly simplified but the appearance of curated frameworks such as our VNX Platform.
  8. Technology. What are we going to use? Is it future-proof, open and easy to migrate from in the future. The marketers worst nightmare is being trapped using legacy tool and platforms as the world moves on.
  9. Management. Who’s going to look after the whole thing, can we do this in-house, what skills do we need. How do we manage the project and with what tools. Do we understand what agile means, or MVP?

You notice that I’ve made no mention of design or brand. This still lies outside the remit of most marketers, branding and vision is a complex process that needs a certain type of individual and the last thing we want as marketers who think they are designers. Eeek!

It might look like a lot to learn but find the time, say 10hrs a week, and you’ll knock off the basics in a month or two. The transition is arguably the toughest time as marketers still need to operate in the old way and learn the basic skills.

Don’t know where to start? There are lots of resources, eConsultancy, CodeAcademy, TED, LinkedIn, conferences and even your current Agency (make sure they’re good, though).

The end-point is having the skills to become self-sufficient and be able to adapt quickly to opportunities and challenges. You may elect for operational delivery to be outsourced (probably a good idea) and you’ll want to work WITH your various suppliers and not just order them around in a knee-jerk fashion (ring any bells?). Happy learning.

Over the years, as a WordPress Development Agency, we’ve walked lots of clients through the process and they’ve benefited enormously. Their end point typically was the migration away from a cumbersome legacy website to an agile, open-source digital offering that adapts quickly and simply.

Maybe you could talk to us to get you started. We eat what we cook – for example, anyone in the sales team understands HTML and responsive design.

Footnote: do not confuse knowledgable generalist with guy I met down the pub. Pub advice is and remains the worst sort of digital knowledge. Seek advice and knowledge from credible sources only, misinformation in the digital world is about as dangerous as it can be.