Hi there. I'm Matt. Don't hate the player. Hate the game.1

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Jan 25, 2009 | Comments

When I took marketing courses at business school, I learned few technical skills. Professors focused on marketing frameworks, like the 4 P’s, 5 C’s, STP, and SWOT. This is great if you work at McKinsey. But if you’re at a small digital agency or are an entrepreneur, you need hard skills to get things done. Few start-ups can to hire four employees to develop a marketing strategy, draft the creative, write the code, and measure the analytics. An excellent online marketer is one part Seth Godin, one part Chris Pirillo. Our generation’s marketer is a digital Ben Franklin.

So what skills are markerters lacking? A ton: CMU (Drupal, Joomla, WordPress), MySQL, PHP, Javascript, Ajax, Analytics (Google, Omniture), online advertising platforms (AdSense), SEO, A/B optimization and testing, web standards, Adobe CS, APIs, e-mail marketing, streaming video, web hosting, video editing, and so on… (note: I didn’t make this list up; it’s compiled from the job requirements section of online marketing postings).

Where do you start? Most marketers have never heard of above subjects. Let’s start with MySQL.

Storing Information on the Internet

Are you familiar with Excel? You probably use it to store data. When you connect multiple spreadsheets together, it creates a database. Many websites, such as Yelp, use databases to store information. Yelp’s database, for example, likely has a table (spreadsheet) devoted to restuarants. Each restaurant has a row with information on the location, price range, and hours. It probably looks like this:

Besides Yelp, sites such as YouTube, Craigslist, and even this blog handle data in exactly the same way! Like Microsoft Excel, there’s a “brand” of databases for storing information. The most popular for online marketing is MySQL.

Displaying and Editing Information

Programmers invented special code (PHP, ASP, we’ll cover this in the future) to request information from the database. If Yelp wanted to create a web page with information from the above table on Per Se, they would write a bunch of code that requests certain cells from the table. Those cells would be output and formatted so that it is readable and user-friendly in the context of the web page.

Suppose you wanted to edit the information? Imagine editing a spreadsheet remotely, where you could change a cell by typing text into a field on a website:

MySQL is dynamic; so Yelp and its users should be able to easily edit Pe Se’s information (i.e., the Per Se table). Check out this page Yelp created to do just that.

In Short: MySQL is a brand of online databases. An online database is a bunch of spreasheets connected and stored for access on the Internet. Websites can retrieve and edit stored information easily.

This covers the basics of MySQL–I’ll go deeper in future posts. If you would like to get started, check out this tutorial for MySQL; it gives a great overview and a short example.


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  1. excellent post matt – i’m looking forward to reading future articles on using technology to enhance marketing.

    just curious, do you have any side projects that you work on? the stuff you discuss is spot on!

  2. thanks for the feedback, man. I emailed you directly with thoughts on side-stuff.

  3. It always shocks me when smart marketers of one discipline or another decry each other.

    New media marketers think all other media is dead.
    Brand/awareness marketers think every product acts like a mass-market CPG.
    Direct marketers think that if they can’t measure it against their database, it doesn’t matter.

    It’s my opinion (and I think here, yours) that the best marketing mashes everything up and chooses the right tool for the right job. If you don’t know what a wrench is, screws look a lot like nails and you’ll probably hit them with a hammer.

    So it behooves every marketer of every discipline to learn every tool… at least to a basic level.

    Awesome Matt.

  4. Did I just claim you put in screws with a wrench? OK, I’ll just stick to marketing.

  5. Thanks for your comment Josh.

    I recently had a discussion about just this–do the rules change among direct, online, and CPG marketing? My hunch is that the general branding principles transcend the medium. But to your point, the tools are so different, and it frustrates me when I see MBAs propose/launch another windex microsite/social network.

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