How to Talk to Your Tech Team as a Digital Marketer
Learn how to get your digital marketing strategy heard when the rest of your team just wants to code.
When I got my first job in digital marketing, I was thrilled it meant I could do work I loved and still be a part of the fast-paced tech world. As a content marketer, I brought creative thinking and a knack for words to the table—something I found tech companies appreciated and were willing to pay for.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to be the wordy type on a tech team, especially if you work at a small startup and are one of just a few digital marketers. Sometimes it can feel like you’re from a different planet than your more technically minded co-workers.
And that gap isn’t just uncomfortable—communicating your digital marketing strategy is crucial, and getting everyone on board with your digital marketing plan is necessary for the growth of the business.
In this article, I’m breaking down several of the most common miscommunications that can happen between digital marketers and tech teams, and how you can navigate them in a way that works for everyone.
When Your Tech Team Has Never Heard of Digital Marketing Strategy
When you start a new digital marketing job, especially if you’re in a leadership role or are one of the only marketers at your company, one of the first things you’ll want to do is make a digital marketing plan.
But, what if no one on your tech team has heard of a digital marketing strategy? And what if, on top of that, they don’t yet understand why digital marketing is so important?
If your tech team thinks that digital marketing just means sending off a few emails or putting up ads, it could slow you down. It’s your job to communicate your digital marketing strategy to them and get them excited about it.
(Note: If the idea of creating a strategy from scratch scares you, start with a digital marketing plan template. Try one of these downloadable templates from CoSchedule.)
A few strategies for getting them on board?
Reveal missed opportunities.
One way to inspire a team to invest in marketing is to show them what they’ve lost by ignoring it. Dip into the numbers, check out Google analytics, talk to your team, and identify missed opportunities to attract new customers or sales—opportunities you could have caught with a digital marketing plan in place.
Share success stories.
If you don’t have much data to work with, source success stories from other companies to share with your team. One of the best ways to do this is to talk to your peers. Go to digital marketing events, sync up with others in your industry, and ask them what has worked for them. Then, report back to your team.
Start with a short-term plan.
If you still feel like you’re butting heads, ask your team to give you a test run. Make a digital marketing plan for just a few months, and plan checkpoints in advance. That way you’ll have the freedom to set a strategy in motion, and your superiors and co-workers will still have opportunities to weigh in.
When Your Company’s Marketing Strategy Is (Beyond) Outdated
What’s worse than a team that’s never heard of a digital marketing strategy? One that’s heavily invested in a plan that just isn’t working. How do you make big changes without stepping on toes?
Start by asking questions rather than criticizing. Ask your supervisor if you can organize a strategy session with your team to ask them about (1) what’s working, and (2) what could work better. You might be pleasantly surprised if your co-workers have some of the same thoughts as you. In that case, you can work together to make it happen.
Also, when introducing new ideas, start small. Rather than suggesting your team throw out their whole strategy for your version, suggest small tweaks and change things a little at a time.
Still can’t get them on board?
Sharing examples of what’s worked for other teams can show that the ideas aren’t just yours, they’ve worked for other companies.
When Your Dev Team Doesn’t Think Digital Marketing Projects Matter
As a marketer, it’s always a good idea to equip yourself with technical skills. Maybe that means learning enough HTML and CSS to make simple tweaks to an email template without bothering your developers. Or maybe it means learning SQL and setting up a database without waiting for a data engineer to get back to you.
But, even the most technical marketers will need to work with development teams to make certain projects happen. The thing is, marketing teams and engineering teams tend to have vastly different work styles. Marketing teams might plan out their work on a strict monthly schedule, with non-negotiable holidays dictating sales and events. Development teams, on the other hand, might plan their work out in short one- or two-week sprints that allow them to change the plan as they go.
If you need a tech team to do some work for your marketing project, tune into their project management system first. Learn when they plan their work and ask them the best way to submit requests. And don’t forget to share how your team works too. Your tech team might be willing to meet you in the middle if you let them know what you need.
And, if your tech team really won’t make space in their busy schedules for your projects? It might be time to go to the top—not to tell on your teammates, but to ask leadership to help you find a solution. Maybe your company’s designers and developers need a lighter workload, or new members on the team to absorb marketing needs.
When Your Boss Isn’t a Digital Marketer
If you work at a small company, you might be one of the only marketers on your team, or even the only one. If that’s the case, chances are, your boss isn’t a marketer.
There are pros and cons to this scenario. On the plus side, you’ll likely have a lot of freedom to try new things, since you’re the resident marketing expert.
On the other hand, your boss won’t be able to help or mentor you as much.
You can find mentorship elsewhere by participating in networking groups or even reaching out to people in your field with more experience when you’re stuck.
But, to maintain a good relationship with your boss when you’re at work, talk with them about a few important things:
- How much does your boss need to know from you? How much do they need you to explain your projects before diving in? Do they just need an estimated budget? Or a full pitch presentation?
- What do you need from your boss? Let them know how they can help you be more effective, even if they can’t offer direct marketing guidance.
When Everyone on the Team Speaks Code, Not Marketing
You know that feeling you get when, suddenly, it feels like all the developers in the room are speaking a different language? Well, if they’re talking about code, they probably are speaking a different language, but that’s not the point.
Know that your tech team can be just as confused by your marketing jargon as you are by their tech lingo. To help them speak your language:
Marketing is chock full of complicated and jargony acronyms that usually mean something simple. PPC and CPC? That’s just pay-per-click and cost-per-click. SEO? SEM? Search engine optimization and search engine marketing. CRM? Customer relationship management.
To avoid confusion, spell out those acronyms and put the term in context. Instead of saying “Can we put the CTA here?” Try: “Can we put a call-to-action button here?”
Some terms can mean something different on tech teams than on marketing teams. When you talk about concepts like leads, conversions, and users, make sure you all mean the same thing.
For example, maybe for an engineer, someone “converts” when they purchase, but the marketing team considers entering an email address a different kind of “conversion.” Or maybe marketing teams say “user” to mean “someone who uses a free version of the product,” but engineers use it to mean “anyone using the product, free or paid.”
A quick sync on terminology can be helpful before getting deep into any cross-team project.
When You Can’t Get the Budget You Need
Maybe you work on a team that understands how much your company needs marketing…but do they value it? It can be awkward to realize your supervisors support your work but aren’t willing to give you the money to make it happen—whether you need ad dollars, a budget to pay freelancers, or approval to expand your team with new marketing hires.
It’s tough. Even the most resourceful marketers sometimes just need some cash to get the results they want.
If you’re in this situation, here are a few ways to navigate it:
Do your research.
If you know your boss holds tight to the purse strings, make sure that when you ask for a budget for a project, you come prepared. Research how much the project will cost and how long it will take the company to earn back the investment. It will also build trust if you show how you’ve taken pains to slim down the budget and get more for less.
Sometimes your boss is afraid to hand out money because they don’t know if you’ve thought it through. Showing them you have can ease their mind and assure them it’s a smart investment.
Make a deal.
Talking to your boss about money can be stressful, especially in digital marketing, where these questions might come up every day. When you put a digital marketing plan in place, you’ll know some things in advance, but costs of running ads can fluctuate daily or hourly, and you may need to hire a contractor in a pinch to keep your project moving.
So that you don’t feel like you’re asking your supervisor for an allowance every single day, see if you can set up a system. Maybe for any cost under a certain threshold, you can move forward without approval. For example, if something costs less than $500, you can go for it, with a monthly cap of $2,000. Beyond that, you’ll need to pitch your boss to get approval.
This can eliminate the majority of money conversations, and allow you to focus on the real work.
Get creative…then ask again.
And if your boss still won’t budge? Get creative and do as much of the project as you can without a budget, then ask again. Once you have results to share, your ask could be more compelling.
Project when surprisingly well? Make a case for how a budget could have amplified its success. Did the project tank? Show how extra cash would have helped it succeed.