What Marketing and Tech Can Learn from Each Other

Last month I attended the Women in Tech Summit, a gathering of fellow developers and digital strategists. Throughout many fascinating workshops, panels, and presentations, one theme stood out to me personally – the striking similarities between the tech industry and the marketing industry.

There are distinct parallels between what creates success in technology (such as app development) and what creates success in a marketing (such as re-branding). For example…

Communication is central.

In the opening keynote address, Rear Admiral Elizabeth Hight shared stories from her leadership experiences in the United States Navy.

At one point in her career, she was working alongside various specialists who were struggling to achieve their goals because of an inability to clearly explain technical requirements to one another. Because her broad technical knowledge was combined with empathetic communication skills, she was able to serve as an intermediary, turning ideas into action by communicating them clearly – and she was recognized for her contribution as a catalyst.

The lesson, she said, is that “The most important thing you can do as a technologist is to communicate.” Anyone can build something, but to achieve a larger vision you will need to communicate those ideas clearly and convincingly to enlist the support of others.

At Marstudio, I often overhear our Chief Marketing Officer say, “Marketing in its purest form is communication.” As with technology, you will have a competitive advantage in marketing if you are able to express the essence – and the value – of what you are trying to achieve.

Iteration is necessary.

“Launch early and iterate” is common advice for startup companies, especially in the tech industry. What it means is that it’s better to do something than nothing, because even if you fail, you will learn something about what works and what doesn’t. That is information that you wouldn’t have if you felt the need to perfect your product before releasing it to the public.

This concept came up in a panel discussion, as an analogy for personal and professional development. In other words, treat yourself like a startup – take risks, see what works, adjust accordingly.

But it reminded me of conversations we sometimes have with clients at Marstudio. When we recommend a strategy to our clients (such as running targeted advertising, or starting a blog to improve organic search ranking), some clients are hesitant to proceed because first they want to confirm that this is the very best possible action to take.

The truth is, there are always many options for how to promote a company. Through experience, we have an understanding of which strategies are more likely to be effective for which clients, but each situation has unique variables that affect the final result.

By choosing one logical strategy and seeing the result, you can make adjustments to achieve greater success moving forward. Iteration is unavoidable, so embrace it!

Confidence has a big effect.

The closing keynote by Grace Killelea was part personal history, part social analysis, and part pep talk – with a focus on the effect of confidence, and its particular importance for women in technology.

“Confidence is being aware of what you know how to do, and putting it on the outside,” she said.

This is exactly what we tell clients who are too humble to pat themselves on the back – or simply unsure of what they alone are able to offer. But let me break it down further.

In marketing, why is it important to be “aware of what you know how to do”? Before beginning any marketing initiative, we need to understand the client’s own unique value proposition – that is, what they offer that others don’t. Only then will we be able to focus their messaging in a way that sets them apart from their competition.

And in marketing, what does it mean to “put it on the outside”? Marketing is a way to show the world who you are and what you can do, using various tools from print to web to multimedia.

But note that putting your expertise on the “outside” isn’t the first step. Before that, you have to understand it on the inside. In Grace Killelea’s context, the “inside” is your own heart – but for a company, the “inside” is among your leadership, staff, and marketing agency (if you are working with one).

At first it surprised me that many of the women I met at the event started in a different industry (such as art or communication) before transitioning to careers in tech. I fall into this category myself, as designer-turned-developer with an eye on the variety of ways digital technology can benefit marketing.

But reflecting on the parallels above, the dual focus begins to make perfect sense. 

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