Take The Stress Out of Your Marketing and Improve ROI
Tip #4: Improve communication with your technical team
Ever heard of the book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus? Developers and marketers could use a similar guide. When highly technical people such as web developers communicate with marketers, sometimes it feels as if they are speaking a totally different language. The same goes for technical people who interpret what marketers say. Here are some tips to improve communication:
Communicate visually. Use wireframes, mockups, screen shares, screen shots, and URLs to examples or the specific page on the website that you're talking about. There's less room for miscommunication when there is a visual, keeping in mind that miscommunication always costs you money, sometimes substantial amounts. Here are some tools that can help you do all of the above:
- Wireframes: These are the low-fidelity "blueprints" of web design. Balsamiq is great for entry-level to professional folks, or even Google Draw (free) if you just need to do something simple.
- Screen shares: I love Zoom. You should, too. Otherwise, Skype works fairly well if you want a free solution. For asynchronous communication, for example if you are documenting a task or procedure for a virtual assistant, try a screen recording app like Camtasia.
- Screen shots: Dropbox will copy the URL of a screen shot to your clipboard automatically, or apps like Awesome Screenshot.
Report bugs and feature requests with visuals. You may know what "that thingy on the product specifications page" is, but it takes your developer time, mind power, and frustration to figure out what you're talking about. It's easy enough to copy-paste the URL of the page you're talking about, and provide that to the developer. Use the tools visual communication tools above when helpful.
Pick up the phone. Developers and other techies tend to prefer email, even when it's to everyone's advantage to use verbal and visual communication. Push them to pick up the phone, schedule a video conference / screen share with them, or simply use Slack or Skype and their built-in calling and screen sharing capabilities -- it's often too much of a pain to schedule a meeting, so chat + video is often ideal for getting a quick answer or discussion to happen. This creates visual communication opportunities, but also helps synchronous communication to happen that can be more productive and higher-quality than toneless, asynchronous email.
Get an interpreter. When things get technical, your tech team may ask you questions that either you don't understand or that take you a significant amount of time to parse and understand. Often the most efficient use of your time is to have a technical project manager sitting between you and the developer, ready to translate. They can work at your company, or an agency that you hire. For example, a developer might say, "We could implement your website search using Apache Solr, which would give you the faceted search and taxonomy sorting you desire, or the cheaper way would be to use a Google Custom Search." You say: "Cheaper!" The developer does what you say. The end user can't find what they need on your website as easily, and it ends up looking like a cheap search solution (and website) to your end users. You lose money in the long run, because you didn't understand the business implications of a technical decision, because you didn't have an interpreter.
Set extremely clear business goals and KPIs. You may ask your tech team for a certain feature, set of features, or even an entire website, but it may not end up doing what you want. Define what you want, clearly. It's ok to share them with your tech team. I.e. "we want conversions to increase sitewide by 20% in 3 months" – even if they're not used to hearing result-driven marketing language like that, they should be quick to learn what it means.
- Try changing how you communicate with your tech team.
- Notice the results. It may take a while for you to notice.
- Write notes or post-its to yourself in a visible place to help you learn to practice better communication habits in the long-term.
We’ve established that marketers are often under a lot of pressure to constantly outperform, stay ahead of the competition, provide endless results in terms of KPIs, and always back up their trials and errors with hard data. This can create a very stressful environment, which affects productivity. It’s up to you to find ways to ensure it doesn’t.
Remember that the best ideas flow when you’re content, or at least comfortable, physically and mentally.
In order to properly increase productivity you need to take a step back and consider what you need in your life to feel at ease. Be your own advocate within the company, and work to create a harmonious relationship between life and work.
Don’t fall victim to burnout. It’s a very real condition, a very real threat to productivity, but also an easily avoidable or curable one.
As long as you follow the tips outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to boosting your productive output… and enjoy the journey every step of the way.