What is a T-shaped marketer, and how can you become one? Find out what it takes to break out from your specialism and get equipped with wider marketing knowledge.
There are so many marketing specialisms these days – content marketing, demand gen marketing, creative marketing, the list goes on. Recently, though, there’s been a call for marketers to have more generalist knowledge, and to understand marketing channels and disciplines other than the one or two they have solid expertise in. That’s where being a T-shaped marketer comes in.
What is a T-shaped marketer?
A T-shaped marketer is someone who has basic knowledge of many different marketing disciplines, like social media marketing, email marketing, and paid search, and has deeper knowledge of one or two disciplines that they specialise in.
Here’s a visual example of T-shaped marketing from DigitalMarketer:
If you’re a T-shaped content marketer, for example, you’ll have a lot of in-depth knowledge around content strategy, segmentation, and building out content campaigns. You’ll also have more surface-level knowledge of other, overlapping channels – like SEO, UX, and Paid Social – because marketing channels and disciplines don’t exist in siloes.
Why should I be a T-shaped marketer?
The all-important question is why being a T-shaped marketer is valuable. There are lots of reasons why expert marketers, and organisations with killer marketing teams, value a T-shaped approach to marketing – and we’ve summed them up into two main benefits:
T-shaped marketers are better at cohesive strategies
Creating an awesome SEO strategy to drive conversions is great, but what works even better is lots of interlinking strategies that are cohesive from the very start of the customer journey, to the very end.
When marketers are intensely specialised, they bring valuable knowledge and insight in their specific niche – but if that specific niche operates in silo, it’s not going to bring in the best possible results or, most importantly, the best overall experience for potential customers.
Take SEO for example. Building out and implementing an SEO strategy that delivers is no small feat, and requires specialist, technical knowledge. What it also requires, though, is a surface-level knowledge of Paid Search – if you’re already performing well organically for some keywords but also paying for them, that could be an unnecessary expenditure.
The very best T-shaped marketers use their expertise and their broader, holistic knowledge of marketing to deliver a winning strategy across the board.
T-shaped marketers help marketing align with other teams
In some organisations, marketing can end up operating on its own – few people know what the team does, and interactions with other teams are limited. T-shaped marketers help to make sure that isn’t the case.
T-shaped marketers are experts at thinking outside of the box that is their area of expertise. Having a broad skill set (and understanding of attribution) means you’re able to work closely with other teams and help to inform their objectives and strategies. Say you’re a SaaS company and you’ve got a product team who are prioritising which new features to release – a T-shaped marketer can dive in with valuable insights to help inform that exercise.
Whether it’s upskilling the technical team on search marketing or helping the design team keep assets cohesive with the overall brand vision, T-shaped marketers put the functional in cross-functional work.
How do I become a T-shaped marketer?
So how do you go about becoming a T-shaped marketer, rather than one who is too generalist or too specialist? Good news! It’s a simple process:
Increase your general marketing knowledge (and keep it up to date)
Take beginner’s courses, subscribe to emails from marketing thought leaders (such as Neil Patel, HubSpot, or Attest – hint hint), and keep that knowledge up-to-date. The world of marketing, especially digital marketing, is constantly shifting – what works now won’t be what works as soon as next year. Thanks to the magic of the internet, there are tons of ways to upskill in all areas of marketing.
Identify your area(s) of expertise, or what you’d like to specialise in
What area of marketing do you specialise in? Maybe for you it’s both Paid Search and Paid Social; maybe it’s emails and nurture flows; maybe it’s PR. Knowing where you specialise is an essential part of becoming a T-shaped marketer.
If you don’t already have an area of expertise, think about what you’d like it to be. Which disciplines interest you most? What are you best at? Use your strengths, and aim to upskill in your weaknesses.
Look for opportunities to be less siloed
If you see an opportunity to contribute using your general knowledge of marketing and your specialisms, do it. Notice your PR campaigns aren’t matching up with what you’re promoting on social? Make them more aligned. Notice your sales team is sending outdated content to prospects? Get involved. Help your specific function to be less siloed within your team, and your team to be less siloed within your organisation.
Being too specialised is a common mistake even the most senior marketers make. How can you avoid making more? Check out our report on 12 marketing mistakes and how you can avoid them, featuring contributions from leading marketers across a range of industries, and start upskilling today: