Have you noticed how many of the new marketing tools for businesses have more in common with IT than Marketing?
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time (thank you, if you have) then you’ll know how I’m always banging on about how there are a raft of new tools, technologies and processes that help you get your business value message out there – better.
The issue is, unless you’re reasonably adept in IT, many of the tools look about as inviting and user-friendly as North Korea.
Let me give you some examples.
Web 2.0By and large, static HTML based websites don’t help grow your online presence easily. Unless you’re a web guru (or have one to hand) updating static HTML sites is a pain – which is probably why so few companies bother. A site based on a Content Management System (CMS), on the other hand, gives you control, flexibility, easier SEO optimization (for non-SEO geeks) and the ability for anyone with permission to create and publish content to it (from wherever they are).
OK, that’s all well and great. But while the developers of popular CMS platforms such WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have made great efforts to make installing, administering and managing sites easier, it’s still not the sort of thing that many people weaned on using “traditional” marketing vehicles would be comfortable doing without some sort of training.
Optimizing for MobileHaving a site that allows for a good experience when viewed on a mobile device is probably the biggest marketing push for 2012. Apart from understanding terms like “responsive” (which, even though it’s only February, I’m already nominating as the Buzzword Of The Year) there’s content localization, multipurposing for tablet devices, QR Codes (yuck…), Near-Field Communications, and goodness-knows what else. How many marketers understand the basic underlying technologies – what’s possible and what’s not? I’m betting that there’s not many.
Social Media AutomationTwitter, Facebook, Google+, whatever – give companies the opportunity to reach new potential customers. Most companies have a presence on more than one social media channel, However, many times content is relevant to certain channels, but not to others. All of a sudden it’s a major pain-in-the-proverbial to manage content and broadcasting to the most appropriate channel – which is where social media automation tools come in. But how many marketing professionals are leveraging such automation tools, or are even aware of the benefits of using them?
The IT-fication of MarketingDo you see where I’m coming from? Marketers today need to have at least a rudimentary understanding of skills that most would more associate with IT – basic HTML (or even CSS) understanding, scripting, network administration, video production (knowing your H264 from your 720p), UX/UI design, and so on.
And if your answer to the IT-fication of Marketing is to throw these responsibilities at the feet of your company’s IT department – don’t. It means the marketing team will have zero control over the important marketing assets. It means that they won’t be able to make intelligent feature requests. Or diagnose potential problems with search, conversion rates, etc.
If your IT department is like most IT departments, IT staff get dumped on from great heights with work that they shouldn’t even be lumbered with. The laser printer’s out of toner? Call IT. Battery-operated wireless mouse not working after your 2 week trip? Call IT. No toilet paper in the washrooms? You get the idea.
As a result, IT folks build fortresses around their beloved infrastructure to stop tech-newbies from hurting themselves. Once you give IT control of (for example) the company website, IT becomes the roadblock. Simple marketing-related tasks are taken away from your control to stop you breaking something and giving them extra work. As a result your requests get placed in the queue – behind every other even vaguely technology-based help call.
Applications to edit website “title” metatags take three weeks. Changing page descriptions for better SEO now takes months – and even then end up being edited incorrectly. Each web landing-page is now a separate project requiring a Gantt chart, resource allocation and budget approval. The whole process becomes about as agile as continental drift.
What’s the solution? There’s isn’t one – apart from learning the new tools of the trade. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be 100% self-sufficient. I remember one time thinking that I was capable of editing an .htaccess file without adult supervision. A keystroke or two later and I was in a world of pain – the site was down and I hadn’t a clue how to fix things. It would have been easier finding the Higgs Boson particle. Today I am clued-up (and battle-worn) enough to know where my limits are, and when I need to call in a geek.
Marketing professionals have always been responsible for driving new, innovative methods of communication, awareness creation, engagement and support – that’s what they do. It’s just that, today, many of those methods involve technologies that were previously the remit – and control – of someone else.
You don’t need to understand the ins and outs of fuel injection, power steering or automatic transmissions. But you should at least be able to check the oil level, fill the windshield washer bottle, or change a flat.