As marketers, we have been forced to become more technically adept as we are on the verge of another major shift. As our CMO put it, “Marketing has changed more in the last five years than it has in the last 500, and will change more in the next five than ever before.” With the emergence of new technologies, we now have to be able to look at data, understand it, and use it to make decisions about our marketing campaigns.
While I feel pretty good about my “technical” skills, when I have to deal with teammates who are engineers, web developers, or other really technical folks, I sometimes feel like a babe in the woods. Having had the opportunity to work with plenty of these techy types over the years, I’ve developed my own personal list of do’s and don’ts for working with them. This list isn’t rocket science. All of these do’s and don’ts for working with technical teammates are simply practicing good interpersonal skills:
1. DO Bring Your “A” Game
This is all about respect. You want your technical teammates to respect you, not look down on you as one of those “fluffy” marketing types. Don’t be afraid to show them what you do know. I recently went through the Google Analytics (GA) Digital Analytics Fundamentals online course with the goal of eventually getting certified (still working on that). When I was reviewing our web data with our analyst, I let him know I was familiar with GA and pointed out some of my observations from looking at the data. For example, I noticed visitors were dropping off on our pricing page at a higher rate than I expected. This led to us having a conversation about testing changes on the page, including CTAs, form placement, and content, to encourage more of our visitors to engage.
2. DON’T Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Ever had that feeling in a meeting that everyone else is speaking a foreign language you don’t understand? I had that experience just the other day when I was sitting in a meeting with our engineers who were talking about software integrations. I had to decipher the language if I wanted to get my job done, so I started asking questions. “What’s a connector?”, “What’s an API call?”, and so on. My colleagues happily answered my questions, and I slowly began to make sense of the discussion.
Asking questions doesn’t make you look stupid. Not asking questions when you don’t know something does, and it can negatively impact your ability to do your job well. Besides, everyone likes to be considered an expert on something, so by asking questions, you allow your teammates to demonstrate their expertise as they teach you.
3. DO Really Listen
While you do know a lot, you don’t know everything. Be willing to really listen to what your teammates are saying, especially when they’re explaining something technical to you. It shows that you’re interested in what they do and respect their expertise. And you’ll probably learn something that’s both interesting and useful. I find that I usually do.
When I deleted something from our website’s content management system (CMS), I noticed that the content was still showing up on the website. When I asked our web developer about it, he explained that we had different time delays set for flushing the cache on various pages on the site based on how often the content typically changes. Not only did his information help me understand why I was still seeing deleted content on the website, the information was valuable for me going forward since I can now plan changes to the website around the timing of the cache flushing.
4. DON’T Say “I Can’t”
If your technical teammates ask you to do something technical, don’t say immediately say “I can’t.” First (here’s where my inner cheerleader comes out), you can because you’re smart and a quick learner. Second, you will earn your teammates’ respect if you’re willing to try and give it your best effort. The more you learn about the technical work your teammates do, the easier it is for you to speak their language and know exactly what to ask them for when you need help.
When I worked on my first web project, I didn’t know how to work with the CMS. I didn’t let that deter me. I asked lots of questions, listened to the answers, and jumped right in. Now, I am very comfortable working in a CMS. For marketers to be successful today, we need to be generalists with both a breadth and depth of knowledge. Who knows? You may discover an aptitude for a technical skill you never knew you had. In addition, being exposed to and learning new technical skills is a bonus for you and your career. Learning something new makes you that much more valuable to your company. Plus, it keeps you interested and engaged.
5. DO Always Say “Thank You!”
This is the most obvious of all my do’s and don’ts, but it’s amazing how often people forget this simple courtesy. Everybody likes to be appreciated. Telling a teammate “thank you” for showing you how to do something, going out of their way to explain something to you, or helping you get your job done goes a long way in building good working relationships. I find that these two simple words make people more willing to help me the next time around. And, they make working with my technical colleagues (or anyone for that matter) much more pleasant.
As marketers, we have lots to learn from our technical brethren. So, embrace your inner nerd and reach out to your technical teammates. Have any do’s or don’ts of your own to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!