I had an eye opening experience last night. It was like an orphan finding out who their parents are and then suddenly everything makes sense. It was like what you read about when people take acid. It was like finding out you have a food allergy. An "Aha!" moment. Clarity.
"What do you do exactly?"
I've been working in digital and marketing for 18 years now, having founded 2 companies, led teams within agencies, and consulted for dozens of companies. This is after my start as a graphic designer and front end developer, and getting my degree in business and a diploma in design.
Throughout my entire professional journey I have always been in this middle space between a bunch of different disciplines and I often get asked "what exactly do you do?". This is a frustrating and embarrassing question because I've never fully had a direct answer.
To people outside the industry, I either get called a "marketing guy" or a "web guy"... which is fine I guess. I think people in any industry get that. However, when people inside your industry don't always know what you bring to the table, it can be a problem. I've done a little bit of everything, so often I get called a generalist. A lot of what I do and my professional approach involves research & strategy and I also have a bit of an obsession with the customer experience - however I wouldn't fully call myself a Business Analyst, Marketing Strategist, or UX Designer as these are established job titles with significant depth. That said, I bring aspects of all those roles to "what I do" - along with branding, marketing automation, email marketing, advertising, social, and so on.
I also have done a lot of work around digital products - needs assessments, developing software, and recommending marketing platforms that customers can use. For example - a customer knows they want to collect lead information at trade shows in a very specific way based on how their sales team operates... what software do they use? Is there software that exists? Does it integrate with their CRM? Does it fit in their budget? Do they even need a technical solution? This may seem easy on the surface but we've all used software that falls short of the sales pitch and companies can make expensive mistakes when going through this process.
As you can see, answering the question of what I do is a bit of a mouthful.
Getting it... but not quite
Co-workers who I've worked with over the years generally understand what I bring to the table although nobody else has summed me up either. They just seem to know. One of the best developers I know has called me "the only account guy I've met that actually gets it" - which is an awesome compliment but doesn't actually describe what I do.
Clients that I've worked with over the years seem to get it as well. Especially after the job is done because the end result is something that makes sense. I've gone through many meetings with clients where they can seem tedious as I try to dig in to how everything works within their organization and with their customers. "I just want a website" they say to themselves, or sometimes out loud. Then the site launches and there is a big "ahh - I get it. I see why you wanted to know that.".
One of my clients had once complained to me that the website we built for them was making his customers "dumb" because it was doing so much for them that they turned off their brain. This was a non-profit client were we were able to drastically reduce their reliance on volunteers and automate critical functions within their organization so that their limited staff could focus on their core responsibilities to the community rather than administrative tasks. Suddenly it made sense why it is so important to go through the tedious discovery meetings... a website can be a lot more than a brochure, and a lot more than marketing. Of course it doesn't have to be more than a brochure but it should at least serve a specific purpose.
A catalyst... then BOOM!
So last night I was reading a thread on a closed Facebook group (so I can't link to the source) and somebody basically says "I've been working in communications since 1997 and I'm sick of taking pictures, posting videos, and writing content. However at my work I'm the guy who figures everything out and I want to pursue that. What is that job?". Most people didn't know, but there was one along the lines "maybe an audio/video technologist?". Then a few more that mention the word technologist.
Cue Google. > "Role of a Technologist". WOAH!
I showed my wife and she was as pumped as I was... that's a pretty good explanation for what I'm all about.
Back to Google. > "The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist" and "Chief Marketing Technologist Blog"
Oh wow. So I'm a Marketing Technologist and not only is there a name for what I do, there's more people like me! Why didn't I know about this!! Going back to the orphan analogy - this is like finding out where you come from and then finding out you have siblings. Huzzah!
Good for you. Now what?
I'm currently in the process of wrapping up a long personal project and have been charting my next big adventure. I have a couple of things percolating but am open to take on any challenge where I can add value and learn a lot. Being able to describe myself in 2 words is a game-changer. Labels matter, it turns out.
I feel that my background will allow me to be a leader in this relatively new field and, as I dive in, I plan to share my thoughts and what I learn here on this blog.
So... if you or someone you know needs a Marketing Technologist or working with marketing technology, please get in touch. I would love to learn more about what you're working on and maybe I can even help!
TL;DR: I'm a Marketing Technologist and didn't even know it.