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Why Marketers Should Learn Coding Basics

Jake Gibbs | August 24, 2015 

If you moved to China (or any foreign country), imagine your experience if you didn’t know their native language. Everything from navigating and buying groceries to having a casual conversation would become extremely difficult, if not impossible. Eventually to survive and thrive, you would have to learn the native language or live an unideal lifestyle.

Because business schools rarely provide technology and computer science courses as an integrated part of their curriculum, most talented, well-educated marketers end up lacking literacy and skills in the technologies that make today’s complex marketing world go round. From websites and databases to queries and automations, marketers find themselves working with equally skilled techies and coders on important marketing and technology projects. In other words, marketers find themselves living in a foreign country without knowing the native language.

It’s perfectly ok to not become a code junkie (focus on what you do best), but if you’re completely code illiterate, you can’t work as effectively as you can with your tech team. Understanding the basics of how code works and what code can do will help you to:

  • Think more logically and analytically when solving problems
  • Know what is possible with code and what is not
  • Understand the scope of technical projects
  • Understand what code is doing and why it is structured the way it is
  • Improve literacy and communication with tech team

What Should Marketers Learn?

As you seek ongoing education and challenge yourself to learn the basics of the most important coding languages, you’ll become a much more powerful marketer, even if you never actually code on projects.

While your goal shouldn’t be to become a master coder, as you seek ongoing education and challenge yourself to learn the basics of the most important coding languages, you’ll become a much more powerful marketer, even if you never actually code on projects.

Try learning one or more of the following:

  • General coding principles: Understanding how code actually works should be your starting point. Learning what variables, functions, logical processes, and operators are will go a long way in helping you think like your tech team.
  • HTML: Websites and nice emails rely on html as their framework and structure. While html alone isn’t pretty without css, html is a starting point in terms of its practicality and its ability to help you get rid of your fear of code.
  • CSS: CSS controls the positioning, styling, and often times functionality of html elements. Learning css will help you understand structure and style and how they interact. It will also help you think more like a designer, which is an added bonus.
  • Javascript: Mainly used on websites but growing as a popular language for other applications as well, javascript controls functionality as diverse as a popups to a contact form. It is a great starter language for learning coding due to its less complex nature than some other languages and its ease in testing on your local computer.
  • One backend language: Databases are everywhere. From your email inbox to purchase data and folders on your computer, databases run pretty much everything in the computer world. Languages like PHP, Ruby, Python, and .NET will help you learn how databases are structured and how they work.
  • SQL: What good is a database unless you can do something with it? That is where SQL, a language for database queries and manipulation, comes in. Since databases are at the heart of every marketing automation, personalization, and strategy, understanding SQL will help you understand how to get the most out of your databases.

Where Marketers Can Learn Code

Most likely, as you explore the exciting world of coding, you’ll struggle, just as someone learning Chinese for the first time would struggle. Don’t worry. Your goal shouldn’t be to master the languages, but to become proficient in your understanding of how code works and what is possible with it. This will allow you to work with your tech team more efficiently.

If you want to grow as a marketer by learning the basics of coding languages, make a list of the languages your company is using most frequently and take free or inexpensive online courses. Strive to influence your company to create a culture of ongoing education, but if your company won’t pay for courses, take some of your own here:

Happy coding!

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Jake Gibbs

Jake Gibbs | Design Specialist

Jake Gibbs is a Design Specialist at ListEngage and an expert at designing and building elegant, cross-platform compatible, mobile responsive emails and landing pages on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. From brainstorming and ideation to polishing the final product, he loves the creative process. Jake has worked with more than 60 clients since joining ListEngage in 2014. Some of his projects have included L’Oreal, Vanguard, Carhartt, Harvard Business School, RCI/Wyndham, Huggies, and Planet Fitness.