Must I Learn Programming Skills as a Digital Marketer?

What are the benefits of understanding code as a digital marketer? This is part 1 of a 2-part series exploring whether Digital Marketers should learn programming skills. Head over here to learn the essential programming languages you should be familiar with.

Digital Marketing
You Jing

Welcome to the Digital Age

Recently, programming skills have been in the spotlight as one of the most valued skills to have. This is not a new phenomenon. In fact, digital literacy is an important direction that we are headed towards. During the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) Workplan Seminar in 2019, it was announced that the government will be rolling out programs to upskill citizens of all ages.

Quoting Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran, “We want this digital transformation to be inclusive…  making sure our enterprises, our workforce and all our Singaporeans are able to reap the benefits.” Especially with Singapore’s aim to build a digital economy, it is more important now than ever to be exposed to digital skills.

What is programming?

Programming refers to the process of giving a set of instructions to a computer, in order for it to execute a particular task. This set of instructions are written in code, or the language that computers can understand.

In recent years, the demand for programming has increased exponentially. For entry-level job seekers and those looking for a mid-career switch, this is a particularly valuable chance to upskill themselves.

Should digital marketers learn programming?

In the past, traditional marketing meant looking at physical marketing channels. Printed flyers, billboards, bus wraps - all of which did not require any sort of programming skills. However, times have changed - we now live in a digital world.

According to Amazon Web Services (AWS), 1.2 million additional digital workers are needed by 2025, a 55% increase from today’s levels. According to top-level leaders, skills related to computing and programming are amongst the most in-demand skills.

Digital marketers need to grasp different digital marketing channels, and what’s behind all marketing campaigns? Code.

The organisation’s website, electronic digital mails, and even mobile applications - all of which are built using code. Although in-depth programming skills are not necessary to thrive in digital marketing, having such skills can definitely give you an edge in this competitive industry.

So in short, yes - you should learn programming skills to level up your digital marketing skills.

Benefits of learning programming as a Digital Marketer

1. Digital literacy is increasingly valued in the workplace in Singapore

According to NTUC LearningHub’s Employer Skills survey, skillsets in digital marketing and data-related skills are amongst the top 10 digital skills. In the same survey, analytical skills are amongst the top 10 most valued adaptive skills in the workplace.

Learning how to code doesn’t just hone your technical skills, but also your soft skills. Programming teaches you how to think critically and logically, and helps you become a better problem solver.

No matter what industry you are in as a digital marketer, cross-department collaborations are unavoidable. When working with the developers or the data team, having basic programming knowledge is a great help for effective communication.

2. Make work more efficient

Learning how to code helps you automate manual and systematic processes.

Think about contacting all your leads coming in from your website, social media, and referrals. For any business looking to scale its outreach, this is extremely taxing and cost-inefficient to do so manually in the long run. Having a background in programming helps you to smoothen these processes - all with the help of the computer. For instance, you could automate email replies to anybody who has submitted an enquiry on your website or send “nudges” to remind them to cart out.

Example of automated user flow, shopping cart
Example of an automated user flow, done by yours truly

Although you don’t need to code these from scratch with the power of Customer-Relationship Management (CRM) tools, you’ll need strong logical thinking skills to set them up. To develop such automation flows, you will have to map out customer journeys, with logic they should meet to move to the next interaction. Programming uses the same logical thinking process - breaking down a bigger challenge into smaller parts.

Written codes can also be exceptionally helpful if you’re in a large organisation with many Google Ads running at once. For example, it can automatically boost your bid for keywords that generated lots of impressions. We’ll talk more in-depth about this later in the section introducing Javascript.

It is likely that you do not have to write a code from scratch, given that there are pre-written scripts available on the internet. However, programming knowledge can be especially useful if you want to customise your automation. Templatised automation in customer management tools like MailChimp and Hubspot often require customisation depending on each individual organisation’s goals and user flow.

3. Expansion to a suite of skills including website design and data analytics

As digital marketers, it is likely that most of your marketing efforts are channeled to direct more traffic to your website. What are websites made of? Code. They create your headers, paragraphs, fonts, animations and all that fancy stuff to wow your audience. Having some coding knowledge can help you customise your website in a beautiful and user-friendly way.

Coding is not just useful for web design, it’s also particularly helpful in data analytics. While there are available platforms (e.g. Google Analytics) that can analyse your web data for you, they’re often inadequate for in-depth analysis or are too costly for small to medium organisations.

To get greater insights out of your data, you might need to use codes to “tag” your traffic and target audience. Think of this as a unique identifier which tells you where users come from, what they did on your website, and how much time they’ve spent navigating your website.

Many digital marketers who have no programming experience tend to tag their traffic incorrectly or inconsistently. This might interfere with the quality of your data. However, with programming knowledge, you can make sense of the analytics system and effectively communicate the success of marketing efforts.

Hatch is an impact-driven business with the mission to make digital and design opportunities accessible for all.  That's why we are committed to sharing valuable resources like these freely and openly for the community.

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