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Why devs and marketers should jam together

business
(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel / Pixabay)

“Did you see the new functionality on our competitors’ website? We should do that too. Oh and can you also add in X, Y and Z?” - this is a scenario that may sound familiar to a lot of web devs and IT teams. Websites, once little more than a shop front or notice board are now the jacks of all trades. They are expected to market products, drive sales, collect data, enable seamless customer journeys and experiences and generally be everything to everyone. Of course, this mentality, as you will all very much know, has come with a price. Website performance is falling fast. Bloated designs, inadequate or inappropriate tech infrastructure and functionality have made the websites of many enterprise companies completely unwieldy. 

The problem isn’t that we are expecting websites to do too much, it is that, in a lot of cases, the design and development methods, alongside the infrastructure that powers them, have simply not kept up. 

So why, if websites are so important to businesses, is there such a reluctance to tackle this issue? After all, sorting out the backend will radically improve the customer experience, not to mention make updating, revamping or adapting a website so much faster and cheaper. 

The answer may be found in the paradoxical relationship many marketing teams have with innovation. Some martech is adopted rapidly across the sector, whereas other techniques and processes remain steadfastly stuck in the digital stone age. If there is a pattern - it’s most likely linked to ‘safe’ innovation i.e. many marketers are more at ease with adopting tech with clear ROI or KPIs or solutions offered as part of tech stacks from well-known businesses. As I remember one marketer said to me, “Nobody ever got fired for buying the leader in the Gartner Quadrant.”

Revamping infrastructure can seem like a daunting, expensive and risky process. It’s very easy for marketers to kick the can down the road and simply try and get their dev teams to bend their existing solutions to fit their needs.

Gateway drug

So how do we change this mentality? From my perspective, it all comes down to the creation of truly integrated marketing teams. In a nutshell, marketers become a bit more like developers or data scientists, and developers learn a bit more about marketing and so forth. In essence, there is better knowledge sharing, less compartmentalizing and more joint goals and teamwork. 

An innovative approach to infrastructure is the perfect way to create this multi-functional team because it is clearly in everyone's interest. The role developers need to play is in educating their marketing colleagues that there are new innovations out there that will make the way they work so much better. 

Personally, I can’t think of a better ‘gateway drug’ than Jamstack.

In case you’re sharing this article with your marketing colleagues, I’ll briefly discuss what Jamstack means. JAM stands for the architecture it is based on - JavaScript, APIs and Markup. It’s a term coined by Netlify and its purpose is to bring web development up to speed with modern technology and enable faster, and easier website builds and integrations. The idea is to not generate the pages every single time an end-user is accessing it but only once during a build step when content changes and then serve that finished page without the need of processing it again. This finished page can then be enhanced by dynamic content using further APIs and client-side rendering which can be used in combination with pre-rendering. Implemented correctly and the speed, functionality and stability of a website will improve markedly. 

Jamstack also opens the door to implementing serverless databases, using headless CMS, reactive search, and multi-platform notifications. Essentially, it supports a lot of modern marketing infrastructure and techniques. If your website deals with a lot of dynamic and personalized content, it is integrated into your data science or business intelligence function, or, critically, you are undergoing or plan to undergo a transformation towards a serverless model, then Jamstack may be the only adequate, futureproofing solution. 

Clear benefits for both sides

In short, Jamstack has clear benefits for both ‘sides’. By educating marketers on these outputs and, how, with a little effort upfront a much more innovative future could be enabled, a business can make a huge leap towards a truly integrated marketing approach. 

Of course, some of you may be shouting at the screen, ‘I’ve already told them about this!’. Well if that’s the case and you’ve mooted other solutions that have fallen on deaf ears, there may be two major reasons your voice is not being heard. The first is that the ROI is simply not being put in the language of marketing. Talking about APIs and Headless etc. may be natural to you, but for the uninitiated this can obscure exactly what the end results are. Reframing your advocacy in relation to benefits not features can go a long way to winning the argument. To do this well, you need to know more about marketing - what their needs really are, pressures, pain points, goals and more. 

The second reason could be that the business itself is not structurally set up to hear or seriously consider inter-departmental recommendations. This can be a hallmark of larger enterprises and is a harder, more long-term fix. One approach is to push for piloting smaller changes that involve close collaboration with your marketing department. If successful, it can become easier to win buy-in for larger innovation projects. I could go on gaming different scenarios and techniques, but the truth is that each business will require its own unique strategy. It will be up to you to decide the best way to play it.

Marketing as a profession is becoming more technical by the year and will require even more support from developers, data scientists and other groups. Poor collaboration between these teams will lead to a disjointed, expensive and cumbersome communication effort. Developers can play a major role in preventing this by engaging with their marketing colleagues to help them understand all their martech options and what they need to do to get the best long-term results.

Dominik Angerer, CEO and co-founder, Storyblok

Dominik Angerer, CEO and co-founder of enterprise CMS Storyblok.