The rise of data-driven marketing and the complexity of the marketing technology landscape has increased the need for marketers to work with developers. While some of our customers have developers dedicated to the marketing function, it’s more often the case that marketers need to steal valuable time from an already overburdened dev team to fix a problem with an integration or deliver some critical data.

Despite the need for the two groups to work together, this relationship between marketing and development is often contentious. Here’s a couple tips for building a healthy relationship with your development team.


Come with problems, not solutions

Developers, as a group, are amazing problem solvers. 15 years ago we were printing out directions from MapQuest before a road trip. Today, we’re on the verge of autonomous vehicles thanks to some brilliant engineering. Engineers live to solve problems and they are tremendously good at it. Too often, asks are made in the form of solutions instead of problems:

  • SOLUTION: I need you to write code to sync a list of users from our database to our DMP every night
  • PROBLEM: I’m trying to increase the number of people who sign up by showing them an ad on Facebook if they’ve downloaded our app that day. Can you help me figure out how to do that?

Approaching with a problem vs a solution has several benefits:

  • You are taking advantage of their best strength, solving problems – Even if a solution seems easy, it doesn’t mean it is (maybe the API for the DMP needs a bit of data that the developer doesn’t have access to, maybe the user list is an expensive query). Pigeon-holing the developer into a single solution removes her ability to find another possibly simpler way of solving your problem (and increasing the likelihood of actually getting it done).
  • You open up possibilities – Maybe that it’s only slightly more work to create something generic you could reuse to push other audiences to your DMP. Bringing the developer into your world a bit gives them license to think more broadly about how they can help.
  • You develop trust – Everyone’s job seems easy from far away but almost everything is complex when you zoom in. One of the classic mistakes is assuming a development effort that seems simple actually is and nothing is more off-putting than having someone trivialize your job. Explaining what you are trying to accomplish and why it’s important without prescribing a solution sets the right tone – I really need your help and I respect that you have a hard job.

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Be specific

I’m always a fan of having an ad-hoc conversation up front but you want to make sure you follow up with exactly what you want (and don’t). The devil is often in the details and if you are lucky enough to get some time from a developer to help you out, you want to make sure you hit the nail on the head. In the example above, if you only want to sync that list to your DMP if they haven’t yet subscribed, you better make sure it’s clear! More detail when writing up a ticket, the better.

Leverage your product team

The product team typically owns the roadmap so you’ll often have to get their buy-in to get developer time. They are also trained to boil requests back to first principles so they fully understand your need. This can be useful in helping you craft the conversation with developers.

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