Explore our Digital Marketing Strategy and Planning Toolkit

Are you a T-Shaped Marketer? And which type?

Author's avatar By Simon Swan 11 Dec, 2023
Essential Essential topic

5 Reasons to consider a life as a T-Shaped Marketer

Editor's note: We have updated this post, ten years after Simon Swan originally wrote it, to highlight what we have always felt is missing from the concept... the need for strategic marketing skills. The team at Smart Insights has created a new infographic to highlight these skills: The Strategic Digital Marketer.

Smart Insights strategic T-shaped marketer graphic

At their heart, the Strategic T-shaped marketer is someone who has excellent skills and experience in developing strategies that align digital marketing tactics and investment with the needs of the business. Contrast this with the original visuals shown below which focus solely on tactics. Don't get us wrong, these best practices are vital to success in modern always-on lifecycle marketing . However, to help unify digital marketing with the needs of the business and the customer, consideration of these types of strategy is needed:

  • Business strategy - Digital marketing activities must be aligned with business priorities
  • Marketing strategy - In turn, marketing activities must support business goals
  • Digital strategy - We recommend a dedicated digital marketing strategy to prioritize investment
  • Campaign strategy -  Digital skills are need to support both always-on and campaign activities which remain important
  • Content strategy - Content fuels all digital channels, so needs to be managed as an asset
  • Martech and insight - A strategy is needed to harness the tools and rich insights available from modern marketing

To review your skills in all these areas, take a look at our newly updated guide which will help step you through your skills and professional development.

Review and guidance on applying the T-Shaped marketer concept to your career

There has been much talk within digital marketing about the necessity for marketers to broaden their skill sets and to embrace and learn the wide range of digital channels (40 in this count) to reach and engage with your audience.

The approach of developing a range of marketing skills is known as T-Shaped Marketing. T-Shaped Marketing refers to: a Marketer that has broad knowledge covering a wide range of digital tactics with in-depth knowledge in 1 or maybe 2 specific areas.

This diagram from Moz shows the principle with a focus on SEO within digital marketing tactics.


This diagram from Search Engine Watch also explains the principle, here with the focus on Content Marketing and also including a focus on analytics and some traditional marketing activities (Press and PR).

T shaped marketer

Discussion of T-Shaped Marketing

The diagrams tell the story well, but if you'd like to read more, these two recent example posts have really nailed the importance of T-Shaped Marketing and both included some great infographics to bring this definition to life.

  • Example 1 - I first came across this phrase from a great post by Mike Tekula of Distilled entitled: Building a T-Shaped Web Marketing Skill Set. Mike went into detail on the growing importance of SEO as a web marketing function and how the breadth of SEO now encompasses so many specific functions to assist in creating a successful strategy and team.
  • Example 2 - Rand Fishkin of Moz continued this line of thought and the growing importance of having a T-Shaped Marketing skillset has within Moz.com, as well as highlighting the breadth of skills covered by a Marketer.

The Complex Digital Marketing Landscape

If we take a look at the wide range of digital tactics which can be deployed by an organization, including the latest trends and market insights for the subject areas of digital advertising, affiliate marketing, analytics, blogging, search, content marketing, video, audio, mobile, apps email marketing, search marketing and social media - there is a lot to cover. And that's just the generic subject areas!

So can you really embrace such a wide range of topics with the necessary knowledge for your organization whilst at the same time, developing in-depth knowledge in perhaps one or two key areas? Clearly not, but by understanding who your audience is, where they interact with your product or service does provide you with a grounding on what areas of digital tactics you could look to develop your skills.

Go work for a Start-up?

What a start-up environment provides you with are the tools and creativity to try new things out and develop new strategies to create new revenue streams for your organisation.

You'll find yourself in the front line - getting your hands dirty in managing and developing an affiliate program whilst at the same time, budgeting for a PPC campaign and then helping out your buyers in creating optimized product descriptions for your website and then creating dashboards within Google Analytics to monitor and measure performance.

You'll develop skills in start-ups that you would never learn studying for 4 years to complete an MBA - this is the real world and there are not many hiding places. The start-up organization should be on your career path at some stage if you truly want to become a T-Shaped Marketer

5 Reasons to consider a life as a T-shaped Marketer

  • 1. Organizational Integration - As digital marketing matures as an industry, Marketers are realizing the importance and value in integrating their digital channels together from understanding how their audience interacts with their brand through search or social media channels to the role attribution plays in generating product sales. From a recent survey by Econsultancy, nearly 90% of respondents describe integration as 'necessary and inevitable'.

    A T-Shaped Marketer provides the vision and knowledge to an organisation in understanding a number of different digital channels during the integration for the organisation to make the right decisions.

  • 2. Know your audience - According to Decibel Insight - 15% of website owners base decisions on gut feeling rather than analytics - the role of analytics is becoming ever more important within digital organizations to base decisions on influencing strategy. therefore acquiring a wide skill-set embracing digital tactics will become ever more important to organizations
  • 3. Technical/Marketing - No longer should there be a silo of the technical and marketing departments within an organization. The importance of technical how to implement changes to a website/mobile that embraces the need to interact with your customer and assist in a search strategy should be intertwined with each other's objectives. Likewise, it's incorrect to think a Digital Marketer does not need to understand the technical know-how of how to create an HTML page - it's essential in the world of digital
  • 4. Digital knowledge - One of the key attributes of a T-Shaped Marketer is the wealth and breadth of knowledge across the digital tactics - it also provides an element of creativity in bringing this skill set to a siloed team within an organization e.g. Bringing search marketing knowledge to your team of developers or analytics insights within your sector to share this knowledge to Directors of an organization.
  • 5. Think and act like a start-up - You need to put yourself in the mindset that it's a never-ending learning journey in keeping yourself up to date with the latest digital trends and tactics that can be used within the context of your organization or industry sector. Remember there is nothing wrong with being a jack of all trades especially in the digital world.
Author's avatar

By Simon Swan

This blog post has been tagged with:

Digital Marketing SkillsThe T-shaped Marketer

Recommended Blog Posts