Partner @ LaunchTeam
In 2015, I had the chance to work closely with the CMO of a $100 million company. As CMO, this individual was an extreme “performance marketer”, leveraging SQL and database skills to drive metric-driven performance to clients and his company. If something wasn’t backed by data or metrics, it was dismissed. It was my first taste of technical digital marketing.
Sitting in a building 10 minutes away was the CMO of a sister-company that was also growing and achieving success. The difference was that this CMO was a charismatic creative, leveraging her personality and penchant for design to create “softer” campaigns. She was a frequent speaker and later recruited to join a reputable regional venture capital fund.
I remember discussing the differences between the two with the CEO of the latter company, who shot down any attempts I made to compare the technical nature of one to the other. His breakdown was simple:
They are different and can’t be compared, but are equally important.
Nearly 5 years later, I am in a much better career situation, largely driven by my ability to both sell and deliver on “softer” marketing services. This includes writing, public relations, content, copy, speaking, and other “non-technical” skills.
I find myself still in awe and somewhat envious of hardcore technical marketers. So much of the online world, from landing page optimization to web scraping and data mining, is centered around data and analytics. The best growth marketers I know tend to also fall in the technical category. Most are trained engineers by either education or early profession.
Channeling my inner Gary Vee, I have come to realize that both buckets of marketers are completely necessary and marketers should embrace what they are good at. No offense to engineers, but they are not the best communicators generally speaking. Similarly, tell a copywriter to query a SQL database and watch what happens. They are simply different.
There are the rare breed of marketers that are proficient in both. While definitely an asset, I would argue it is not necessary to be a successful marketing leader. The role of a CMO is to hire and manage various types of talent, as well as set the larger marketing strategy for the company. Like any other business, you don’t need to know everything.
One of my biggest realizations as a young aspiring entrepreneur was that some things can simply be outsourced. For example, I always found accounting to be terribly boring. I could have forced myself to major in it, given its practicality, or simply go hire one of the 650,000 CPAs in the United States when I needed accounting help.
Keep in mind, that marketing as a profession and skill has been largely comprised of the social sciences, although marketing is often considered a business study more than a social science itself. This includes understanding people, consumer decision making, human vulnerabilities, and more. The importance of this has not changed.
What has changed, is your assumptions are now proven to be right or wrong based on the data extracted from testing various assumptions. Tweak, test again, and repeat until you have a winning outcome. You see where I am getting here.
Both types of marketers working in conjunction is where the magic happens. Not to mention, if you are running a lean operation, there are a ton of tools and resources to help fill these gaps on both ends. Check out ProductHunt and go to town testing everything from content optimization to more technical tasks. Additionally, there are companies now dedicated to simplifying technical tasks for non-technical marketers.
Lastly, there has been an increase in technical marketing snobbery prevalent across social media and “valley” crowds. If you see this as a non-technical marketer and get discouraged, don’t worry about it. Find what works for you and double down on your strengths.
Get inspired from creatives that have found ways to get millions of eyeballs by doing something as simple as printing out AirPod stickers and placing them in the streets of San Francisco. Creativity is a highly valuable asset here.
For each category of marketers, don’t look at the other group as your enemy, subordinate, or superior. They are simply peers, offering complementary skill sets to help reach a broader goal. The broader goal should always supersede ego. Continue honing your craft and learning everyday. Marketing is ever-evolving, but the underlying fundamentals won’t change.
One of my biggest goals at LaunchTeam is to create networks of marketers and communities that work together to build awesome stuff. To do this requires cooperation, humility, and getting excited over the fact that you can continuously learn and grow by working with new people!