On Being Tech Fluent

If you’re directly responsible for marketing technology leadership, the following explains tech concepts and what we believe should be the core competencies of a digital marketing manager. We hope this helps give you a road map of what you should strive to be competent in; that is, if you are charged with leading or managing customer engagement initiatives.

In our model of the core competencies for a digital marketer there our six areas of knowledge required:

1. Advertising Networks — an entire ecosystem has emerged for digital advertising.

2. Analytics and Metrics — data (increasingly “big data”) is the fuel of digital marketing, therefore acquisition, compilation, analysis, and leverage tools are essential components.

3. Content Marketing — content is one of the most potent marketing tools available including user-generated content and the tools of search engine optimization.

4. CRM/CEM — customer relationship management is not a single app or tool; rather CRM is comprised of a group of apps to facilitate conversations with your customers including eMail services, loyalty tools, and personalization tools for tailored online experiences.

5. Social Media — The social web has forever changed how customers connect with your brand and this includes the tools of Facebook, Pinterest, Digg, Twitter, Tumblr, Tout, and their APIs.

6. Internetworking — a good basic understanding of how the Internet works, including its principal protocols that run the different services; the world wide web, its past, present and future; and web platforms, including content management, application frameworks, APIs, integration of multimedia services, plus of course, the capabilities and differences in the leading browser tools.

From these six core competencies, there are a series of specific tools a digital marketer should at least be aware of, with deeper domain expertise in at least some combination of these dozen areas:

1. Ad Bid Management and PPC — strategies and tools for pay-per-click advertising.

2. Analytics (Marketing and Web) — this includes everything from A/B & Multivariate Testing (i.e., a mix of analytics and content marketing that embraces test-driven marketing); web metrics tools, traffic analysis, (e.g., Google Analytics, Omniture, or Webtrends); and behavioral analytics and modeling tools.

3. Behavioral Targeting — audience targeting/segmentation and data exchanges in ad networks, remarketing or interest-based advertising.

4. CMS and DAM — content management systems (principally for web content), digital asset management, content delivery networks, and metadata management including information architecture, ontology, and taxonomy management.

5. Databases and Big Data — relational databases and SQL, NoSQL data stores, and related processing tools.

6. Data Mining and Analysis — tools and techniques for cleansing, slicing and dicing, analyzing, and extracting actionable information from data store.

7. eMail Automation — the services and tools of conversing with your customers, prospects, partners, and suppliers.

8. Social Media APIs — tools that enable you to leverage social media platform capabilities to support services such as social sign-on; combining different capabilities of different services, often referred to as “mashups” (e.g., leveraging Google Maps for a store locator); and extending the capabilities of your own online services to integrate with social media.

9. SMO — that is “social media optimization” where the objective is to maximize content distribution, and increase (and measure others’) influence.

10. SEO/SEM — that is, “search engine optimization” and “search engine marketing” to maximize organic rankings as well as placement and position of messaging on engines such as Bing, Google, or Yahoo

11. Web Structures — this includes an array of fluencies in [A] web markup and browser delivery capabilities (e.g., HTML5, XML, CSS, Javascript, AJAX, jQuery, JSON, etc.); [B] web service protocols (e.g., DNS, HTTP, SSL/TSL, URL management, and RESTful interfaces, caching, cookies and 3rd-party cookie constraints, etc.), [C] Application Frameworks and Development Models such as ASP.NET, MVC, Rails, PHP, etc.; and [D] Deployment Models including the rapid rise of so-called “Cloud Computing” (e.g., Amazon Web Services, Heroku, or Azure).

12. Data Privacy and Security — this is a nearly mandatory domain of privacy policies, safe harbors, EU protection, regulations and governance, and best practices.

All of these topics are related to the online world (i.e., computer and digital devices and the Internet) these are languages, techniques, and tools of the digital marketer rather than specifics of how computers and networks operate.  It is entirely possible to be competent, even a domain expert in these areas without having much of a mind for computational thinking.

Computational thinking is about understanding how computer machinery works in at least a fundamental way.  This understanding can empower or facilitate problem solving, recognizing issues and opportunities in leveraging the digital world, and a “way of thought.”

Let's try an analogy. Perhaps, we can liken it to maybe understanding how an automobile works.  Many people drive without a thought of how or why their vehicle operates.  When the car fails to operate the way they expect (or simply fails to operate at all), a service call is made.

However, for those who do have some understanding of how their car operates, there is likelihood they will get better performance and longer life out of their vehicle.  So, it’s not incumbent upon a driver to understand what fuel injection, or ABS, or cams, or turbochargers do.  But its at least reasonable to understand that there is an engine, powered by fuel (gas or electricity); which powers a transmission that uses gears to propel and sustain the vehicle’s motion; which transfers that propulsion to axels through drive shafts; and the axles hold the wheels with brakes to move and stop the vehicle. That is a reasonable level of vehicle competency.

You don’t need to be an auto mechanic to drive a car, but understanding how a car works will save you money, and ensure your car lasts longer – yielding a better return on your investment.

Similarly, we think digital marketers should at least understand, at a high-level, the components of the "vehicle" for marketing and commerce in a digital age that we call the Internet and its principal service, the World Wide Web.  Looking back at the lists above, you will find the components of this vehicle.

Incidentally, this stuff above is not just for the digital marketer -- it represents the core of our work.  This is the expertise that we maintain and continually improve here at C[IQ].  So, if you think you may be a bit short in some areas, feel free to get in touch.  We love to coach, teach, and help.


Gregory Miller, CTO

Greg has been in the tech sector as a software architect and engineer, product manager, marketing and biz dev exec., and even IP and privacy lawyer for 3 decades. He is currently on the Board of a non-profit tech foundation reinventing America's election technology, is a venture adviser in the Silicon Valley, and serves as the CTO for C[IQ] Strategies, Inc.