32: Is the future of Martech no-code?

We’re going to argue two main points: 

  • First, no-code is absolutely the future for marketing and that it opens up exciting possibilities (aka, democratizes digital marketing)
  • Second, what really qualifies as a no-code tool is much more narrow and potentially useful than you might find elsewhere on the internet

Is marketing hijacking another development trend and bending it to our own purposes? Is this an attempt to fit in with the cool kids by being part of a trend?

Is the future of Martech no-code? Has it always been no-code?

What does no-code really mean?

Have you ever been half way through building something, a new campaign, a landing page you’re really excited about… but you hit a technical hiccup. 

“Oooh, might need a script for that” or “Damn, if only I could code”. 

As marketers, we’ve all felt this roadblock. We had a full episode dedicated to this– episode #24: why marketers should learn to code. 

No-code is not using that excuse. Can’t code? Don’t know how to build scripts? No problem, there’s a no-code solution for that. 

Is Canva a no-code tool? Did you use code to create images in Photoshop or Illustrator? This is what tripped me up in the beginning — but Canva is one of the hottest tools today and it’s absolutely considered in the same breath as other no-code tools. 

While your typical definition of no-code would look at the ability to create software applications with a user interface, I’d argue that marketing’s use of no-code is a bit looser. I’d define a no-code solution as one that lowers the barrier entry to the point that you only need to use a user interface to complete your objective. 

No way am I going into photoshop – someone tried to teach me photoshop before and it was terrible. I’m not layering stuff — but Canva, I can get something good enough in minutes. 

These are pretty murky waters for us to be wading into — but such is this fascinating trend. 

So there’s a cool difference between tools to build products and tools to sell products and run companies.

  • no-code building / app development 
  • no-code martech / selling products

Sometimes the tool to sell a product like a podcast (promoting or ads), might also be the product in some case, like us, not monetizing, just creating content.

Example, Convertkit is no-code email marketing tool, unless you know css/html and you can totally customize things behind the scenes.

Is Convertkit a no-code tool to sell a product/martech or is it building a product? Convertkit is is more than just an email marketing tool, it’s what newsletter creators use to build an audience and connect with fans, it’s an email designer, a landing page builder, a form builder and they are just diving into ecommerce.

Isn’t every marketing tool a no-code tool?

I’ve been using Marketo or HubSpot my entire career – turns out I’ve been using no-code tools my entire. But before I start congratulating myself on being on the cutting edge of this trend, I think it’s important we really sharpen our focus here.

No code isn’t about using user-interfaces to accomplish a job — I think in the marketing context it’s about breaking the dependency on technical experts as well as subject matter experts.

The idea of Canva as a graphic design tool may drive some designers crazy — but it’s borne out of a marketer’s need to get good enough now and not perfection later. 

I love this idea of breaking the dependency on technical and subject matter experts. This has been fascinating to watch in the indie maker community. Some call this the creator economy. 

Think there’s a lot of newsletters and podcasts already? Think again. Worldwide pandemics have accelerated remote work but they also motivated millions of people to become creators. More and more writers, teachers, film makers, photographers, artists all go DTC– direct to consumer. 

No code categories:

  • Workflow automation — tools like Zapier allow you to configure automation without knowing any python or how to connect to APIs
  • Web development — tools like WordPress or Webflow allow folks to create websites without getting mired in CSS or JavaScript
  • Analytics — create reports and dashboards without being an analyst or having to fight with APIs — cough cough Klipfolio

The no-code category needs to be narrower to be relevant. I see lists all the time saying that tools like Slack or HubSpot are no-code. They are awesome tools — but no marketer is coding databases and setting up scripts to send our instant messages or emails — no developer either for that matter. 

Instead, to be relevant, no code martech tools need to replace or substitute the need for technical or subject matter expertise. 

Is no-code anti-code?

The no-code movement is borrowed from development and is most certainly not anti-code. In fact, the no-code movement could be said to be pro-code!

In development land, the idea of no code is to remove redundant and repetitive tasks from the coding process. For example, if you’re application requires online payment, you don’t want to get bogged down coding an payment system from scratch. You’d just plug into Zuora or Stripe.

No-code is about reusing components that solve common problems so you can focus your development efforts on your secret sauce. I get a sense sometimes from marketers that we mix this up — no-code isn’t anti-code! You need code to build to build these tools.

Developers don’t worry about no-code taking their jobs — in fact, most I’ve talked to love them because they can focus on writing dope code instead of solving redundant problems.

Is marketing hijacking a development trend?

Marketing loves technology. The CMOs budget has grown exponentially in the past 10 years, and this trend continues. The rise of Revenue Operations puts a mission behind all this software — and imbues those operational activities with a mission — to enable revenue generation.

These twin trends supercharge marketing when it comes to getting exposed to new products and technologies. Naturally, marketing has picked up on the no-code trend and the question is whether this really applies. Is marketing hijacking a development trend?

This is an interesting question. As someone who has dedicated a lot of time to learning to code, at first I felt that — yes, marketing is borrowing a buzz word so we could fit in with the cool kids at the lunch table.

I’ve been digging in a lot deeper on this, though, and I’ve refined my perspective. I believe the no-code trend absolutely applies to marketing.

The future of no-code

Martech is definitely heading into the no-code waters. I don’t think it’s a transformative force per se, but rather a rapid evolution of applications to make those jobs to be done easier, faster, and better.

I don’t think folks working near marketing need to be worried — marketers want to spin up a landing page with a form almost as fast as they want to tear it down and rebuild it. I think the benefit of no-code to experts who support marketers is they’ll work on more interesting, nuanced projects. Don’t build a landing page — let’s build a custom product page or home page.

I do think one potential downfall is that quality may drop in some areas. You can’t replace a great graphic designer with Canva — the skills required to do this work are still important and are the difference between an Apple-esque brand and your friend’s yoga studio. But that’s the point — it allows all of us the opportunity to build and sell our stuff on the internet.

Even advanced no-code martech will still require technical growth marketers — people who can troubleshoot event logs in your automation tools, people who can think in abstractions and map out a flow chart to spot vulnerabilities, and, above all, people who know how to get different tools to talk to each other and drive revenue for businesses.


Intro music by Wowa via Unminus

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