I’m a Digital Marketing Pro; I Don’t Work in IT!

After more than a decade in this business, my wife still thinks I work in IT. It’s unbelievable.

As a digital marketing professional, it bothers me every time somebody thinks of me as a techie, not as a communicator. Yes, I get excited by the latest gadgets and almost cried when I got the iPad before most people did, but my technical prowess does not stop me from being able to effectively and strategically communicate an idea. In fact, it gives me an edge in today’s wired world.

No offense to people who actually work in IT. They have all my respect for always being so meticulous and analytical, and for having the laser sharp ability to focus on one problem at a time. But sorry guys, you don’t have the best reputation as communicators.

Information technology gave birth to this exciting industry 15 years ago during the dot-com boom. The euphoria of technology took centre stage, leaving us in awe and afraid at the same time.

Most people are still afraid today. Many clients and partners have told me over the years that they were hesitant to embrace digital marketing because they did not understand technology. My reply to them has always been “don’t worry, because you understand communications”.

Digital marketing is about communications, not technology. Too often too many people get too caught up in the technical mumbo jumbo. The objective of communications has always been about generating awareness, creating engagement, driving action, and fostering loyalty. In a sense, nothing is new, and nothing has changed.

What has changed, however, is the heightened emphasis on approaching communications holistically as a result of the democratic effect information technology has on it. When advertising (banners), direct marketing (email), PR (social media), branding (brand site) et cetera can be done relatively easily in digital, there is a tendency to want everything, and thus everything has to be thought of carefully, holistically.

This means an awareness campaign alone is not enough anymore. You must also include a targeted engagement programme, an activation strategy to drive action, and a CRM (define) framework to drive loyalty, for example.

The ability to think holistically is the prerequisite to embrace digital marketing, not the ability to understand technology (though it doesn’t hurt!). It requires a change in mindset, not skillset.

If you are building a digital marketing team, look for people with a holistic mindset; if you need to revamp your digital brand presence, put your marketing team in charge, not IT.

If you are still a little bit afraid because you don’t think you are tech savvy enough, take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions: do you play with your phone when you commute to work? Email aside, what else do you do with your computer at work? What is your main source of news? Do you still line up to buy movie tickets? How many “friends” do you have? Chances are, you are a lot more tech savvy that you realise.

I probably get too excited about new technologies in front of my wife. Instead of telling her what they are, I should focus on telling her what they mean, and what effect they have on the way we communicate. (This will make it easier to get her approval on my next purchase of the next great thing.)

My name is Patrick Tam. I am a digital marketing professional, and I don’t work in IT.

This column was originally published on Sept. 16, 2010 on ClickZ.Asia.

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