Are you feeling dizzy after reading all the duties and responsibilities each digital marketing job position has?
Or are you feeling excited and overjoyed to find out this information…
And now you cannot wait to start learning all of the concepts mentioned in my previous article?
No matter what you feel…
This post is definitely going to help you!
Why am I so sure..?
Because whatever I’m sharing with you here in this series, is not only theory.
I’ve lived and experienced every part of it in my 4 years of job in digital marketing field.
And I’m very happy to share my lessons and findings along with failures with you here.
Shall we get into today’s post then…?
The strengths of expertise can also be weaknesses
If you’ve been long enough in digital marketing scenario, you know what is the one advice everyone is throwing around.
“Be an Expert in single topic – be it ads or Content Marketing or SEO – and you’ll earn more than your peers.”
Well, I heard that too!
And I developed my expertise, too!
I became very good at designing websites on WordPress. So good, that I could design a website and integrate forms and all, within a day – with SEO keywords.
I was very proud of my ability.
Seeing my performance my boss decided that I was now ready to get promoted. But decided to take a little test.
He took me for a client’s meeting with him!
I was overjoyed to go to the meeting and discuss how beautifully I can design their website.
Little did I know that this meeting was going to be the turning point in my life!
We went to the meeting and as decided I presented them with various websites we’ve made for our previous clients and how they were performing.
The client was very impressed with the designs. And she even chose a design to start the work on developing the website.
I couldn’t hide my smile and my proud in my abilities of designing the website!
Then came the kicker, “What about Facebook Ads? How are you going to increase our traffic from there?”
“Facebook Ads…? I can do SEO for you to increase the traffic.”
That was my last sentence in the meeting!
Seeing that I was unable to explain the Facebook Ads, my boss took over and basically for the rest of the meeting I was confused.
“Why do they need Facebook Ads when SEO can increase their traffic very well?”
I was asking my boss on the way back to our office.
“Jeevan, you need to understand, ‘Give whatever the client needs.’ You cannot force them to go for SEO when they need Social Media. You have to do everything.”
You have to do everything…?
Then what about being an expert?
Isn’t it a strength for digital marketer to be an expert in single topic?
The Paradox of Expertise
Have you heard of “The Paradox of Expertise”?
The strengths of expertise can also be weaknesses. Although one would expect experts to be good forecasters, they are not particularly good at making predictions about the future. Since the 1930s, researchers have been testing the ability of experts to make forecasts. The performance of experts has been tested against actuarial tables to determine if they are better at making predictions than simple statistical models. Seventy years later, with more than two hundred experiments in different domains, it is clear that the answer is no. If supplied with an equal amount of data about a particular case, an actuarial table is as good, or better, than an expert at making calls about the future. Even if an expert is given more specific case information than is available to the statistical model, the expert does not tend to outperform the actuarial table.
What this basically says is,
“While experts are authorities in their own domain, they are not much better at making decisions about the future – where the topics which are involved are other than their domain of expertise.”
“What is so bad about it then?” You may ask!
I agree that becoming an “expert” in any field gives you a unique competitive advantage over other candidates.
But having that advantage against the loss of your decision-making ability was not something I wanted!
“The strengths of expertise can also be weaknesses.”
As more deeply you study any topic, you invest more and more of your time in that topic.
And if you are not careful to learn other supporting topics around your expertise, you fall into “The Paradox of Expertise.”
In an ideal world, you cannot make any decision exclusively focusing on a single topic…
Then how do you expect to make quality decisions in your professional life when you have knowledge only about a single topic?
And this was exactly the mistake I was doing!
My strength of WordPress Development had also become my weakness because I focused exclusively on one thing!
What are the Traits that Companies Look For in Digital Marketer?
I realized that if I continued to focus exclusively on WordPress, I was going to miss out.
If I wanted to serve my clients better, I need to focus and study all the other areas of digital marketing also!
And the main thing I realized was, my lack of expertise in all other concepts of digital marketing was also stopping me from getting promoted.
Just what I didn’t expect!
Now I know… Everyone here, has worked hard to develop a specialty in some digital marketing niche area. And everyone is also hoping to get promoted and earn more income based on the expertise you’ve developed.
And after hearing my story, I know, what you are thinking…
“If not expertise… Then what do the companies look for in a digital marketer?”
The same question was in my mind after that incident took place. And I was determined to find out what is it that will get me ahead!
So, as always, I went to the Google and started searching.
First… Yes, I read again and again “How Being a Specialist will help you earn more” articles.
But I knew this approach is not working. So, I went deeper into the searching.
One particular article got my attention. And it became the second turning point of my career!
It was titled: ‘Generalist’ marketers now in high demand
I was greatly shocked by reading the title!
How can ‘Generalist’ marketers be in demand…? Being a ‘Generalist’ hurts your progress in career… That’s what I was reading up until now!
Then what the heck is this…?
I opened the page… And before I started reading the caption underneath the title made my skin grow pale…!
Who here is not thinking… “Why Digital Specialists are becoming less relevant…?”
I was horrified by reading the rest of the article! I was feeling disgust and like I had been scammed by the “specialists” theories!
Let me tell you in short what the article said:
It was about the Adobe Digital Marketing Symposium 2014 held in London.
Speaking at the Symposium, Adobe’s EMEA marketing director John Watton suggested that digital marketers should offer a rounded “blend” of skills.
John Watton said:
“We need more generalists who can look across the channels and drive the right mix for whatever we’re trying to do. When search came out we had search specialists, when social came out we had social specialists – some of those roles are now merging into one generalist.
“It’s about having a blended mix and we look for skills and people who can understand this digital age, rather than offline versus online marketing.”
The statement coming out of Adobe’s Marketing Director, was officially the end of “Digital Specialists” for me!
What’s more interesting is, this statement was made in 2014. Almost 5 years ago!
What would be the situation today…?
If you guessed that more and more companies must have jumped on the trend and started hiring digital marketers who are ‘generalist’ – who know every concept of digital marketing – then…
You’d be wrong!
Why Everyone is Praising Specialists So Much and Why No One is Telling You What’s Actually Working Right Now!
If you’ve read history in your school, you must be aware that many famous Renaissance men were considered what we call ‘Generalists.’
Leonardo Da Vinci was a painter, and scientist and sculptor and writer!
Benjamin Franklin was a printer, writer, journalist and politician!
But this approach of life didn’t help anyone in the Industrial Revolution followed by Renaissance time!
These are the assembly lines in an automobile manufacturing company back in the times of industrial revolution.
Notice how each person is doing their own job on these lines…
They were not allowed to go and work on some other part of the car. They were given responsibility of one part of the car and their job was to complete that single part on as many of the car units as possible in a day.
Or in a lifetime of their working!
Guess they were the “specialists” of the part assigned!
This gave rise to the culture of specialists.
According to John Watton, Adobe’s Marketing Director, same thing happened in the digital marketing landscape.
As the different techniques of digital marketing started coming out, “specialists” in those techniques emerged on the seen!
“When search came out we had search specialists, when social came out we had social specialists…”
Like the ‘laborer’ of industrial revolution, we started to focus exclusively on our ‘part’ of the digital marketing mechanism…
And it became the way of living!
Da Vinci’s days were long gone…
Is it anymore possible to, at once, be a world-class painter, engineer, scientist, and more?
“No way. Now the best you can do is pick your field and master it.”
In the modern world, they say, it is he who specializes who survives and thrives.
And the saying emerged:
Jack of all trades, master of none.
You must be believing it also!
Isn’t it why we hate the ‘generalist?’ And we prefer to become ‘specialists’ in digital marketing and… maybe every other area of our life!
Because we believe that focusing exclusively on one thing or area is the way to riches!
But have you ever stopped to consider that the working process we are using now is from the “Industrial Revolution” age and it must be outdated by now…?
Just like the ‘Generalists’ men from the Renaissance time were considered as out dated in the industrial revolution…
Are we out dated as a workforce in this “Information Age”…?
The statement made by Adobe’s Marketing Director in 2014, clearly suggests that…
Yes, we’re out dated!
How do You Gain Massive Competitive Advantage in Digital Marketing? Shape Yourself like a “T”
The world of digital marketing is HUGE today!
And it changes a lot.
Days are long gone when it was enough to learn a few tactics in SEO or Paid Ads to survive.
Now businesses cannot just focus on one channel and hope for the best.
They cannot survive with just SEO or AdWords or only with Facebook Ads or Email marketing.
Companies now need to do everything.
Being an SEO expert is no longer enough.
Knowing default on-page and off-page optimization alone is not enough…
Having a certificate of Google Display Ads is not enough.
Sending a mass email campaign with only one call to action will not get you many clicks.
Creating a single Facebook ad with your product’s image will not get you ROI.
You need more than that.
You cannot remain as someone who depends on new tactics now and then to survive
Because it won’t work…
Digital marketing has come a long way in the last few years.
It has evolved a lot.
And it’s time for you to do the same.
Many of the companies now want digital marketers who are specialist in a topic or two… While knowing a wide range of digital marketing concepts.
And if you visually represent the wide range of your knowledge and deep specialty skills, you’ll get a “T” Shape.
The T-Shaped Digital Marketer: Building a Wide Knowledge Base with Deep Expertise
The term T-shaped was widely used by McKinsey & Company on internal documents and publications that were seen primarily by upper management.
The term was referring to the idea that the T-shaped man (including women) was ideal for recruitment as an employee and should also be looked for in terms of the consultants and partners the company decides to work with.
But it really gained popularity when Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO Design Consultancy firm, endorsed the idea for his talent management approach.
Tim Brown was interviewed by the ChiefExecutive.Net and we’ll see in his own words, what it means to be “T-Shaped?”
What can we learn from this?
A T-Shaped Professional has a wide knowledge base of all the general concepts and has deep knowledge/skills in one or two areas.
You must be thinking… “This is good, Jeevan. But what about marketing companies in digital landscape? Are there any who’s using this T-Shaped model?”
That is a very good and valid question to have.
And the answer is: Obviously yes!
Let’s see how Buffer uses this model in their marketing teams:
And here’s the Growth Tribe’s framework for T-shaped Marketer:
Here’s another from Moz…
Are you convinced enough to start your journey on becoming the T-Shaped Digital Marketer…?
If yes, we’ll get to the learning path you should follow to develop your T-Shaped Personality in a minute.
First, let’s just go over the amazing advantages and benefits of becoming a T-Shaped Digital Marketer…
Why T-Shape? Amazing Benefits of Becoming a T-Shaped Digital Marketer
As you can see, successful and established companies like Buffer, Medium and Moz, are also using T-Shaped Marketer model to help their marketing teams stay relevant and on-track with changes in this digital landscape.
And from there start our benefits of becoming T-shaped…
You Stay Relevant in Constantly Changing Digital Landscape
Imagine a specialist keeping up with the changes…
While he’ll be very efficient in adapting to changes in his expertise area, what about the other areas which will affect that particular expertise?
Why don’t you ask yourself…
Do you understand how your campaign on the Facebook Ads affects your Google Search Results Rankings?
If your answer is a No…
Can you think yourself as ‘relevant’ in this Information Age?
Just as we discussed before, digital marketing has evolved.
Any individual professional who wants to thrive in his career, must also evolve and change according to the changing techniques and environment.
Companies now need everything:
- Blogging and content marketing to rank for the long tail keywords
- AdWords to grab the keywords with intent and identify the keywords content match
- Social Media to connect with their customers and audience
- Facebook Ads to expand their message and audience reach
- Email Marketing to build a relationship with their audience and nurture the leads
Companies now need to build a right marketing mix that can deliver traffic, conversions and profit all at the same time… Through various channels using a creative mix of tactics and virality.
They are in dire need of the digital marketers who can do it…
And developing yourself as T-Shaped Digital Marketer can help you do all of the above, with relative ease!
You Get Better at Communicating and Helping Others
You know how important is communication is at work…
And how much loss a company might suffer if there is ‘communication gap’ between departments…
The number one thing that causes this communication gap between teams is “language.”
So, if you can show your employers that you can bridge this communication gap and language barrier, you’ll be much valuable to them.
But how do you achieve this…?
As a T-Shaped Digital Marketer, you have knowledge in wide range of digital marketing concepts and you have studied the basic principles in all of them.
This helps you understand and digest the ‘terminologies’ which are used by the experts in every area of digital marketing. It helps you just enough to communicate with specialists in different areas.
To continue our example of Facebook ads and SEO, if you are the specialist in SEO and you know general principles of Facebook ads…
You can help the advertising team with including the keywords which you have used on website for better optimization results. And you can also help copywriters in developing the ad copy with keywords.
Plus, if you have included graphic designing in your wide knowledge base, you’ll communicate with the design team to keep the artworks consistent for every step of the campaign, like Facebook ad creative, website banner and thank you, etc.
Don’t you think the project management process would be more smooth with a T-Shaped Digital Marketer handling it…?
I know your answer is “Yes!”
And I know, by now, you’re convinced to get started on this T-shaped learning path and are just psyched up to get your hands-on specifics of this…
But I have some more benefits to give to you…
Hang on there, buddy…
You Earn more Respect and Authority over your Peers
And who doesn’t want more respect from their peers…?
Let me ask you something…
Whenever a company acquires a new client, who do they take for the first meeting with them?
Is it the manager who has knowledge of all the services the company provides…
Or the specialist who has deep knowledge of only one channel…?
Apurva Chamaria, Vice-President & Head of Corporate Marketing of HCL summed it perfectly when talking about why specialists cannot contribute effectively:
“You might be a specialist in search engine optimisation or social media marketing or email marketing but you also need to understand all the other components of digital marketing as well. So, if you are not very comfortable with (at least aware of) tactics other than yours, you will not be able to contribute effectively to the campaign.”
In companies having a large operations base, there are many times when problems overlap and team collaboration becomes critical.
When you as a T-Shaped Digital Marketer develop knowledge and ability to work across various digital channels, your insights become invaluable to the company.
And everyone starts to respect you more for your contribution in a wide level of channels.
And when problems overlap or when team work is critical, guess who they are going to select as a leader of the project?
You, of course, with your broad knowledge of various channels!
How about one more benefit…?
With Overlapping Knowledge Across Channels, You Become More Creative and Generate Ideas Faster
For creativity and unique ideas, I really like to give the example of Elon Musk!
He was a fan of ‘science-fiction’ movies. Especially Star Wars!
He combined his love for science-fiction with his programming abilities and entrepreneurial spirit, took help with astrophysics and aerodynamics technicians, to build SpaceX.
The objective when he started SpaceX was not to reach the Mars!
He wanted to give research institutes from America and Germany, an affordable vehicle aka ‘rocket with low fuel consumption’ for launching satellites into the outer space.
Anyone can sense his T-Shaped knowledge about industry trends, prices, needs of the companies and challenges they’re facing, even from this objective.
And now he is using the knowledge he received while building rocket company and implementing it to develop a new mode of transport, Hyperloop!
If you ask any artist, he’ll tell you that the greatest ideas happen at the intersection of disciplines!
Why would digital marketing be immune to this?
In fact, a wide range of knowledge makes you immune against “The Paradox of Expertise” we talked about before.
With your wide knowledge about several topics, you can increase your ability to generate new ideas in your expertise field.
For example, if you see that one of your post is getting a lot of traffic on Google because of the keyword you inserted. On further researching you find out that this particular keyword is getting popular among your target audiences.
You can use this keyword and insert it into your Facebook ads targeting as ‘Interest’, you’ll quickly see an increase in the reach of your ad.
Now, the last one…
It is not much of a professional benefit, but like personal advantage you’ll have in your interactions with people.
But I still find it worthy of including, so let’s get going…
You’ll Never Get Bored, Will Become Interesting to Talk to and Enjoy the Satisfaction of Mastery all at the same time
Cheesy lines, right?
Do you know what drives depression the most…
Lack of intellectual stimulation!
Because whenever you focus on just single thought for a considerable amount of time, it leads to boredom and frustration.
Just as you cannot eat the same food every day, your brain cannot digest the same thought every single day continuously.
It gets monotonous. No matter how fascinating your expertise is!
How do you keep your mind refreshed?
By giving it a variety of thoughts and tasks to work on.
So, when you are a T-shaped person, you’ll always have other areas to consider when you’re getting bored of the thing in front of you and need a break from your expertise.
And it will make you really interesting person to talk with!
Imagine you go to your best friend and start talking about your work day. He is not in your field, so he won’t be able to understand anything you’re saying.
After some point he’ll get annoyed and ask you to stop and talk something interesting.
That’s because everyone’s interests are different and people like those people who can talk about their interests!
And to talk about these varying interests of people, you must be knowing something about all these topics.
So, you’ll be better able to handle any topic of conversation if you shape your knowledge in “T”.
In addition of being interesting and never bored, you also get to fill the satisfaction that comes out of mastering a subject.
There is a certain thrill in diving deep in particular subject. Because as you go deep and gather more knowledge about it, the more you realize how vast that subject is to keep you engaged for a lifetime of learning!
As Robert Greene says, “Humans have a deep need of achieving mastery in their life.”
Which only, you’ll get to accomplish, without getting bored of that topic!
What a fun way to live a life!
Are you excited enough?
Shall we start the learning path for becoming a T-Shaped Digital Marketer?
Learning Path to Shape Yourself like a “T” – The 3 Layers of T-Shaped Digital Marketer
For those of you curious fellows, my article is heavily based on the following 3 articles. These are the only 3 articles you need to develop a thorough understanding of T-Shaped Digital Marketer.
If you’re keen to learn more, here they are:
- How To Become A Customer Acquisition Expert by Brian Balfour
- How to Become a T-Shaped Marketer: What Marketing Career Growth Looks Like at Buffer by Buffer
- How do you stay in the top 1% of T-Shaped Marketers? by Growth Tribe
Now, let’s get into the 3 layers of T-Shaped Digital Marketer.
- Base Layer
As we know, a T-Shaped Professional has a wide knowledge base of all the general concepts and has deep knowledge/skills in one or two areas.
According to this learning path then, to shape yourself like a “T”, you first need to develop your wide knowledge base.
This layer forms your foundation. According to Buffer and Brian Balfour, the subjects in this layer must be non-marketing-specific areas. And they shall suit you well, no matter the job.
Anyone who wishes to start his marketing journey (or digital marketing journey, in our case) must be competent in these areas. Meaning, you should have intuitive understanding of the subject areas which come in this layer.
Although, these subjects may not be related to your hard marketing skills, I found them to be the foundation of any marketing strategy. Skills like branding, story-telling and statistics are must-have, if you wish to become any kind of marketer. Think of them as ‘Soft Skills’ for marketing.
And that is why I said, this layer forms your foundation.
These skills will be used throughout the subjects included in the next two layers.
- Marketing Foundation
Here, we’ll start focusing more on the hard skills.
These include marketing-specific subjects that are useful across almost any digital marketing channel. Writing, design, wireframing and funnels are some of the subjects which you should be studying for building your marketing foundation knowledge.
What you should aim for here, is to develop an understanding of timeless, basic principles of these subjects. If you can get some practical, hands-on experience also, it will be a plus point!
Don’t think we’ll have graphic designers in our team. If you aspire to become an effective digital marketing manager, you must have proper knowledge of designing artworks for every social media channel, so you can guide your creative expert in right direction.
If you’re put into the discussion with creative department of your company, you should be comfortable discussing their terminologies. And that is what your aim should be, when developing this marketing foundation layer.
- Channel Expertise
This is where you need to make choices of your own.
In online marketing, there are various channels and different ways to reach your audience.
It is nearly an impossible task to become an expert in all these various channels AND to stay up to date with the latest changes happening in them.
Because each channel is changing unbelievably fast, while many new channels are also emerging, adding to the already long list of digital marketing channels.
And this is where our ‘generalist’ marketer personality needs to become a ‘specialist’.
The idea is, after you develop basic understanding of all marketing channels, now you should aim to have great depth of knowledge in one or two channels.
This forms the vertical line of our “T”.
As a T-Shaped Digital Marketer, you’re usually an expert in these channels. And for that, you need to develop a deep, hands-on experience of your chosen channels. At the same time, it’s critical to remain up to date with your knowledge of these channels.
With this, we complete the 3 layers of T-Shaped Digital Marketer.
In the words of Brian Balfour,
“That is why I recommend a learning plan that will shape yourself like a “T”. Go broad by knowing the basics including pros/cons of most channels. Then choose to go really deep on a couple channels. Generalists are useless in most work environments. As an expert in certain areas you will be able to build a brand around yourself and stand out from the crowd.”
Now you’ll ask, “What exactly should I include in my Base Layer…? What are the different Marketing Foundation Channels…? Any examples…? What channels are most in-demand now to become an Expert…?”
So, let’s go further and discuss in detail, what specific subjects should come under each layer.
What Subjects should I Learn to Develop the Base Layer of My T-Shaped Digital Marketer Personality?
Why is branding so important?
“All things being equal people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.”
~ The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann
It is believed in marketing world that, people will buy from you only when they know you, they like you and they trust you.
These three factors make the foundation of Branding.
And when you get your branding right, it becomes a filter all your other marketing activities like blogs, videos and paid ads, etc.
So, if you know principles of branding, you’ll be able to create content around that specific brand of your company. When you use branding as a foundation, you can present a consistent image of your company throughout your marketing activities.
If you want to take the people who visit your site or social media pages and turn them into followers, and then your loyal customers, you must know the principles of branding.
Only knowing the branding principles won’t do you any good, if you don’t know how to communicate them with your audiences.
Storytelling will help you here!
Storytelling is about how to put together a narrative that is engaging and compelling enough to make people stop and listen (or read).
Why do you think that some of the mega-successful companies reached their status…?
- Because Nike uses stories of people doing the impossible.
- Because Apple incorporates stories of challenging the set norms in society.
- Because Airbnb shares stories of people traveling all around the world and belonging everywhere.
Storytelling is important because stories sell!
Do you think that Nike would have been so successful, if they would have talked about the rubber they use for the soles of the shoes? Or about their factories all over the world?
No, people love Nike because they get to wear “Air Jordans” created for Basketball great Michael Jordan. So, they too can fly like him!
That’s storytelling in action.
Storytelling is so much important in today’s digital age, that marketing guru Seth Gordon describes marketing as “the art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and then spreads.”
Is that enough to build the case around storytelling…?
And you need story for every article you write, for every email you send and every ad you create.
Stories Sell, Facts Bore!
Do you understand why people do what they do?
If not, then on what basis did you post that picture of your product…?
As you may all know, attention spans of people have shortened significantly in today’s digital age.
And when you are in the business of making people click, like, share and buy, understanding how your customers behave must be the most important part of your learning.
Do you understand their pain points? What is their personality? What are their behaviors online? What will make them convert or buy from you?
A great marketer must become a mind reader.
Marketing is not about throwing your money everywhere and then hoping to increase sales out of the blue!
Now, digital marketing is the science based on how you customers behave and what makes them tick!
Today people are being bombarded with marketing message from everywhere. To distinguish yourself, you must understand the real pains they have and then build solutions to solve those pains.
To be able to do that you must understand the customer’s journey!
Wireframing & Design
This one goes hand-in-hand with the above point of customer journey.
When you map out your customers’ journey, the next phase is to incorporate the features on your website or in an app, step-by-step as per the journey.
It’s the natural journey of your customer! You don’t want to surprise your new email subscriber by sending him a promotional email for your premium priced product.
At the same time. you must know the basic website design principles.
Why do you think Mission, Vision and Team section come under the “About Us” menu?
What should be the ideal size of the logo in the header?
Also sending people to a separate “Thank You” page after they have filled up the form and sending them an email, are important steps in wireframing.
And finally, every digital marketer, should have a cultivated eye for design.
Whether you are posting an image on social media or you’re creating a banner for your website, knowing what’s trending in design will help you get more engagement from your audience.
Research & Data Analytics
Now that you know mapping out customer journey is important; how do you plan on doing it?
You cannot just imagine about a random person and then guess what he likes to do.
That’s where Researching skills and analyzing skills come into play!
To know what your customers’ pain points are you must be willing to go to Forums to see what they are talking about. You have to learn what their current experiences are and what are their wishes.
To know what your competitors are doing you must be willing to keep tabs on them.
Apart from researching skills, you must also know about documenting that research in proper way. So that when you need it the most you can quickly re-visit it.
And take decisions based on solid figures and not just your imagination!
You have to learn foundations in the general concept of data and analytics so that you know what’s possible to learn data and what makes for good data analysis.
And then how to make decisions using that collected research and data.
Even if you are a digital marketer, you’ll still be dealing with other people. Designers, coders, account people and then your upper management and clients.
The process of engaging with people you’ll be working with and maintaining good relationships with them, is called stakeholder management.
The bigger the organization you work for, the more people you have to deal with.
The better your stakeholder management skills need to be!
Usually soft skills like communication, time management, etc. come under this subject. They allow you to easily navigate the complex world of corporate.
If you have an idea of running a new campaign around your product, but if you don’t know how to convince your managers to adopt this campaign, you’ll be at a loss.
What Subjects should Come under the Marketing Foundation of My T-Shaped Digital Marketer Personality?
The major benefit of marketing on the Internet is, you can measure everything.
From the likes & comments on your Facebook page post to the age, gender and location of your site visitors; you can see and measure all minutiae about your audience.
But if you don’t take advantage of this, and fail to take into account these details, you’ll be at a loss as digital marketer. Because you cannot manage what you don’t measure!
So, having an understanding of how to track customers on your website or apps, is definitely a great need for today’s marketers.
This includes tracking and analyzing the data provided by various web analytical tools, like Google Analytics, Facebook Audience Insights and more advanced tools like Crazy Egg and Hubspot.
It’s important to know WHAT is happening on your site and WHERE to optimize, so that you can move towards your goals faster.
Web Content Writing
CONTENT is King!
Knowing how to write it then, is an authoritative skill for any digital marketer.
But this doesn’t only include writing articles on your blogs.
There are many other writing types on web and as a T-shaped digital marketer, you need to acquire them all!
Social media posts, email newsletters, how-to guides, slideshows, whitepapers and reviews of the products & services and case studies, also come in under web content writing.
Writing catchy magnetic headlines along with effective sales copywriting is also high-demand skill in today’s digital landscape.
No matter what people say about the evolving status of videos on the Internet, the old-school writing is here to remain as an indispensable tool in the arsenal of top digital marketers.
Along with written content, there are also visual types of content, which will look into next…
This can be your next step from the base knowledge of Wireframing & Design discussed in the previous section.
To expand the foundation of your T-shaped digital marketer personality and to thereby increase your value, you need to go beyond knowing the basic principles of design.
Can you create something yourself with the knowledge you have of designing…?
How about the tools used for graphic designing… Can you handle Photoshop or Illustrator, while your designer is not present?
Or do you prefer online tools like Canva and Sketch?
Also, knowing the effective measurements for images used on various social media channels is important.
Keeping an eye on design trends and adapting what’s working in the marketplace can be a great skill in you T-shaped digital marketer personality.
Another type of content is video.
In last 2 years, video has become so big that by 2022, 95% of the Internet will be video only!
Having said that, you can bet that video creating and marketing is going to be a highly demanded skill in 2020.
Whether that means, creating animated videos, preparing slideshows and webinars or just speaking confidently on camera; you need to start working on skills related to video.
Video marketing can also be a different subject area in your marketing foundation of T-shaped digital marketer personality.
From writing compelling headlines and captions of videos to knowing the technical things while uploading it and sharing on social media, all comes under video marketing.
You need to be developing both the creation and marketing skills of video, to fully develop your T-shaped personality.
HTML & CSS
At the very least, you should be able to change the color of the button in your email newsletter template.
Working on WordPress themes for very long, I’ve experienced the drawbacks of not having any knowledge of coding.
Many times, the customers do not like the default color schemes of WordPress themes. And changing it is very hard.
So, I used to “right click” on web page and go into “Inspect” mode of Google Chrome, to find out the CSS codes around the buttons or sections. And not being able to change the entire scheme code, I used to change it fore very button and every section, individually!
And it is very time-consuming.
But having this knowledge saved me in my job. And if you want to save yours too, start studying some basic coding.
What do you need for growth?
A solid-working formula!
And how can you get that formula?
The answer is “with testing!”
Often referred as A/B testing or Split testing.
It is where you test your current version of marketing draft against the improved one, to see what works better and which one drives results more.
For A/B testing, you first need to data-driven and then you must have a growth mindset.
If you’re not measuring your data, you will not know what section of your website or marketing needs improvement. Thus, you won’t be able to decide what to test.
And if you don’t have growth mindset, i. e. you don’t need more visitors and customers, you will simply ignore the testing.
But many of the top marketers on the Internet are avid testers! Neil Patel, Noah Kagan, and the likes are always conducting some tests.
From replacing the entire landing page content with a single video to changing just one word from the call-to-action, there are many tests you can conduct.
While conducting these, you must make sure to gather the required data before and during the testing period. And this period should not last more than 2-4 weeks.
A/B testing is emphasized here in the Marketing Foundation, because it forms the basis for Conversion Rate Optimization – the skill in which, if you develop a deep expertise, can get you better job prospects.
In this process of CRO, comes our next subject area also, which is Funnels…
In the Base Layer of T-shaped digital marketing professional, we briefly discussed about customer journey.
Well, there’s a word for that. It is called a FUNNEL.
A funnel explains how a visitor turns into a customer. And what you need to do on each stage of the funnel, to maximize your conversion rate (rate of visitors turning into customers).
You must know about each stage coming under your funnel. And then you can decide to specialize in one or two of them, to build deep expertise of your T-shaped personality.
These stages consist of Awareness, Consideration, Conversion and then Brand Advocates.
What you need to give customer on each of these stages to help him go from one stage to the next, is studied in Funnel Marketing.
This visual representation of customer’s journey is a widely used tool, today. So, to become an effective T-shaped digital marketer, you need this tool under your belt.
Automation plays a big role in digital marketing strategy.
You cannot possibly send individual emails to thousands of subscribers. And you can’t be physically present, every time you do a webinar.
And collecting money from customers, and sending them the product or download link individually is not really the best strategy for you.
In these scenarios, automation can help you a lot.
Creating a series of emails for your first-time subscriber once and then automating that, will free up a lot of your time.
Similarly, I’ve found that scheduling the posts once a week, really frees up my time. And I can focus that time to creating more of these engaging articles and posts.
Using APIs and chatbots also reduces a lot of your marketing efforts.
Even if you don’t know how to actual set up an automation, you need to know what’s possible with it, so that you do not waste your time on those things…
What are the Subjects in which I should develop Channel Expertise for T-Shaped Digital Marketer Personality?
Conversion Rate Optimization
The goal of learning A/B testing is to better optimize your conversion rate.
It is also considered as the bottom of the funnel. Because it deals directly with the final stage in the funnel marketing.
If you’re more interested in sales and have related skills like copywriting, you can opt for becoming conversion rate optimization specialist.
Your main objective will be, in this area, to maximize your conversion rate by making improvements in landing pages, CTAs, ads or content.
You should help more and more visitors become your customers easily and as quickly as possible.
This field is a mix of psychology, persuasion, data analytics and creativity.
If you have those in combination, you can develop your deep expertise in conversion optimization.
Lead Generation & Onboarding
As conversion rate optimization is considered as the bottom of the funnel, Lead generation is the top of the funnel marketing activity.
More often than not, people will not buy from you on their first visit.
You need to offer them first some value – in the form of hooks – in exchange for their personal details, like name, email, contact numbers.
What are hooks? These are the eBooks, checklists, templates, audios or webinars, which are provided at free of cost. Only when you provide your email.
You gather these details of your visitors, which are often called as leads. Then you nurture them to make them ready for becoming your paid customers.
Often the top of the funnel is larger than the bottom of the funnel. Meaning you get more visitors with any of your marketing campaigns, but only a handful of them convert into customers.
So, it makes sense to get more visitors, a. k. a. leads, if you want more customers.
That is why the lead generation skill is more prominent in today’s Internet age and as a T-shaped digital marketer, you can build your deep expertise in becoming a lead generation specialist.
SEO and SEM
Search dominates the marketplace because it indicates an intent to buy.
If you can give someone the thing they’re interested in buying, when they’re interested in buying; they’re more likely to buy from you!
So, both SEO and SEM remain one of the most highly positive ROI-driving channels.
But now, you cannot only become an SEO specialist or Google Ads expert. You need to know both and you need to develop expertise in both!
For a deep understanding of SEO & SEM Expert’s duties and responsibilities read: “Digital Marketing Careers: What are the Job Positions in Digital Marketing and What are the Roles? Explained… with Salary”
Content makes up a great part of your inbound marketing strategy.
If you want to avoid sending out ads and landing pages directly to your prospective customers, content marketing gives you a better solution.
There are various types of content including blogs, videos, infographics, podcasts, white papers, email courses, memes, GIFs, how-to’s, listicles, games, quizzes, academies, slide decks and so on…
As a content marketing specialist, you must be able to create this content and distribute it effectively to reach the maximum number of audiences.
How much of it to create and how frequently, and what channels to use for distributing it, depends on you and your team’s capability and your industry standards.
This type of efforts warms up your visitors and increase your “Know, Like and Trust Factor.” So, when you send them to a landing page, they are ready to trust you with their money.
So, if you don’t consider yourself to be interested in direct selling, but rather like the soft approach, you should really look into building your expertise in content marketing.
For a deep understanding of Content Marketers duties and responsibilities read: “Digital Marketing Careers: What are the Job Positions in Digital Marketing and What are the Roles? Explained… with Salary”
Social Media Management
Similar to SEO & SEM, both organic and paid social media, must be mastered by the digital marketer who wants to build his expertise in social media marketing.
Social media is one of the fastest changing areas because of the new players coming in and ever-changing rules of the existing networks.
Most of these channels have lost their organic reach, altogether! Like Facebook.
Some of them still have strong organic reach mechanisms. Instagram is one of them.
But Instagram is tending heavily towards videos, now!
As a social media marketer, you must on top of these small changes happening daily in social media landscape.
Along with this, having knowledge of paid platforms of each of these networks is a must-have for T-shaped digital marketer.
For a deep understanding of Social Media Manager’s duties and responsibilities read: “Digital Marketing Careers: What are the Job Positions in Digital Marketing and What are the Roles? Explained… with Salary”
As we saw in our post of “Digital Marketing Careers: What are the Job Positions in Digital Marketing and What are the Roles? Explained… with Salary”, Email still delivers the highest ROI for marketers.
So, it’s still a great area to become an expert!
Email marketing includes building email lists, sending out newsletters, lifecycle campaigns, transactional emailing, etc. As an email expert you must also know the technical details of deliverability, ESPs, segmenting, personalization, open rates and click-through rates.
The world of email marketing is large and complex. And, also fast changing because of people’s behavior and changing rules of email service providers like Gmail and Yahoo!
But there are many tools available to take this stress off of your shoulder. Like, MailChimp helps you conduct A/B Testing through simple clicks and taking the burden of deciding the winning version all by itself.
If you aim to develop your expertise in email marketing, you must know all these tools and above discussed technical things, along with the types of mails.
For a deep understanding of Email Marketers duties and responsibilities read: “Digital Marketing Careers: What are the Job Positions in Digital Marketing and What are the Roles? Explained… with Salary”
Internet mobile usage surpassed the desktop around 2014. So, the best time for learning mobile marketing was around 6 years ago.
The next best time is now!
The importance of context and location are very powerful for anyone specializing in mobile marketing. Because of the unique nature and personal touch of using a mobile device!
Major social media channels offer different ad formats than desktop for mobile devices. You have to know how to take advantage of this. Also developing AMP pages for your website, so that your website can load faster, is important.
Google also offers Call feature if you’re advertising on mobile devices only.
App Store optimization is also one of the major skills in mobile marketing. You have to know the differences between optimizing for Google Play Store and Apple Store, in order to increase the downloads.
What you need to understand to develop mobile marketing specialty is, people are more impatient with mobile devices. And they have more distractions easily available also.
Then to stand out, you have to offer easier and more comfortable but quick solution on mobile devices. That’s why AMP pages and the Call feature.
It’s about reducing the friction and making the journey smoother!
Until reading the article of Growth Tribe on T-shaped Digital Marketer, I didn’t know that we can measure “Virality” also…!
The article says:
“Virality is calculated with the “K-factor” (a.k.a “viral coefficient”). At it’s simplest level it’s the number of new users or customers than a customer bring in. You have positive virality when one new customer brings in 1 or more customers.”
There are many ways you can create viral posts for your brand. The simplest types are referral or loyalty programs and giveaways.
the goal of any viral campaign is to make your customers sell your product or service for you.
For success in viral marketing, you need crucial understanding of psychology, network effects and what your audiences are looking for.
The buzz around viral marketing is so powerful now that this can be a great area to develop your expertise for T-shaped digital marketing personality.
Concluding Thoughts on T-Shaped Digital Marketer’s Learning Path
I’m sure the Internet marketing world is far more wide and complex than my understanding developed over these 4 years.
But I’ve done my best to provide you with a basic structure, without losing any relevancy and high-demand skills for digital marketing in 2020.
For anyone starting new in this career path, a framework or model like this can prove very beneficial and super helpful. I know, it would have been the same to me!
No matter which channel expertise you decide on or in what sequence you would like to start on this learning path, I would like to leave you with two important pieces of advice:
Be aware of the changes and emerging trends in digital marketing.
Like Brian Balfour says:
“If you are just starting your digital marketing career and have many years ahead of you, I highly suggest leaning towards emerging channels. Four years ago the emerging channels would have been Facebook and content marketing.”
What do you think are emerging channels today?
After you become aware of those, be flexible enough to quickly adopt to these channels.
Gary Vee says this all the time. He didn’t get to be successful because he was good at predicting, he got there by actually getting in the trends and working on emerging channels every single time.
So, if you desire the same kind of success, you need to be flexible to learn and develop your deep expertise in the emerging channels!
And this T-shaped Digital Marketer framework is here to help you just that.
How are you going to take advantage of this…?
Let me know in the comments. This is my first “most researched and most worded” post. So, if you take your time to post a comment, I promise you I’ll be there responding to each one of you!
This article is part of my upcoming series “Become a Digital Marketer – Career Path for Promising Digital Marketing Career”. Stay tuned for new articles in the series. Read the previous article on “Digital Marketing Careers: What are the Job Positions in Digital Marketing and What are the Roles? Explained… with Salary”.