Standing out as a marketer in today’s competitive landscape is difficult. Professionals in today’s industry must demonstrate a clear ability to excel at specific aspects of marketing, from search engine optimization to niche content production.
T-shaped marketers go beyond the “generalist” approach of other digital marketing professionals, honing expertise in areas that benefit their clients.
In this post, you’ll learn what a T-shaped marketer is and how to become one.
What Does a T-Shaped Marketer Do?
The term “T-shaped marketer” comes from the recruitment world. It’s a metaphor used to refer to the specific abilities of individual employees.
A T-shaped marketer, otherwise known as a generalizing specialist or “versatilist” in the marketing world, is defined by two lines, one horizontal and one vertical.
The horizontal line in the “T” represents a person’s “breadth” of abilities related to their specific career path.
The vertical line highlights the depth of knowledge the person has in that field. To succeed as a T-shaped marketer, professionals need a wide range of abilities and a deep knowledge of unique, valuable areas.
While the horizontal line in a T-shaped marketer’s skill set represents their more “foundational” proficiencies, professionals still need to know enough in these areas to be considered competitive or valuable to employers or clients.
In other words, you need to know what a marketing strategy is when to use it, and how to guide others to use it correctly. Once you’ve developed a broad range of skills, you’ll determine which areas you want to specialize in and build your knowledge in those areas.
For instance, a content marketer may be able to apply skills related to writing, SEO, consulting, and editing. However, they may build on their writing abilities by expanding their knowledge of how to write for different channels, use the content for storytelling, or craft distinct tones of voice for clients.
The same content marketer could expand the vertical line underneath their “SEO” abilities with a focus on on-page SEO, backlinking, or keyword research.
The Core Components of a T-Shaped Marketer
Notably, the abilities of a T-shaped marketer will usually fit into three segments:
- Base knowledge: Base knowledge, or the top horizontal line of the T, covers the core skills of the digital marketing professional. These are the core skill sets required to thrive as a marketing professional in virtually any business or industry. For instance, most digital marketers will have a basic knowledge of SEO, content writing, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising.
- Marketing foundation: The second horizontal line looks at slightly more specialist skills, useful across most marketing channels, such as conversion rate optimization, consultation, or research.
- Channel expertise: Channel expertise is where marketers build their specialist skill sets in a specific area. For instance, an expert in content writing may expand their knowledge of how to write for blogs, press releases, and paid ads.
The skills of a T-shaped marketer don’t always look like a traditional “T”. As experts continue to develop their knowledge in multiple areas, the image becomes more distorted. However, the key to success is generally focusing on one “vertical” area or specialism above others.
How to Become a T-Shaped Marketer
Becoming a T-shaped marketer could be an extremely beneficial strategy for today’s promotional experts. Today’s organizations need more than just a generalist capable of producing a wide range of content or campaign ideas.
The rise of artificial intelligence means basic knowledge across multiple areas is no longer enough to capture the attention of clients and employers.
While developing your career as a t-shaped marketer takes time, the process is relatively straightforward. All you really need to do is:
- Understand Digital Marketing Roles
- Choose Your Specialization
- Deepen Your Skills and Build Your Experience
- Develop Other Marketing Skills
1. Understand Digital Marketing Roles
The first step in becoming a T-shaped marketer is understanding the roles available to you as a digital marketing expert. Digital marketing is a broad career path with a variety of specialism options to choose from.
Additionally, as a marketer, you can choose whether you want to be employed by a traditional company, work with an agency, act as a freelancer, or start your own digital marketing business.
Some of the options you can explore include:
- Digital marketing specialist: Digital marketing specialists focus on a wide range of marketing tasks, from creating and implementing campaigns to consulting, testing, and monitoring the performance of marketing strategies.
- Social media marketer: Social media marketers, or social media marketing managers, focus on the social aspects of online advertising. They create and implement campaigns for social platforms, monitor results, run A/B tests and create comprehensive reports for business leaders.
- Email marketing: Email marketers concentrate on capturing and nurturing leads with email. They may create landing pages to capture leads, segment audiences into specific groups with market research, and create comprehensive email funnels.
- Search engine marketer: Search engine marketers interact with the search landscape to build company visibility. They can specialize in everything from search engine optimization and content marketing to pay-per-click advertising.
- PPC advertiser: PPC marketers create and manage campaigns for paid advertising strategies using tools like Google Ads, Google Shopping, and Facebook (Meta) ads. Like most marketers, they need to conduct extensive research and run tests to optimize the performance of each campaign.
- Content writer: Content writers create compelling content for various campaigns, including social media strategies, email marketing, and blogs. They can also create ad copy and work alongside other marketing professionals to implement specific campaigns for unique promotions.
It’s worth researching the earning potential and opportunities available for each role before you get started. You can also improve your chances of standing out in the hiring market by selecting a career path that offers multiple opportunities for specialization.
Once you have an idea of the kind of career path you want to explore, you can begin to build “base knowledge” that’s relevant to your industry.
This could mean enhancing your understanding of things like market research, branding and position, storytelling or writing, and data analysis, all of which are crucial to every role.
2. Choose Your Specialization
Once you understand the roles available to you as a marketing professional, the next step is figuring out what you’re already an expert in or what you want to become an expert in to develop the vertical lines on your “T-shaped” skill portfolio.
Specialization is essential to the T-shaped marketer model. Your areas of expertise are what will make you more appealing to your specific niche or target audience.
Choosing a specialization can be difficult at first, as it’s difficult to know which areas will generate the most opportunities for you in a world where digital marketing is constantly evolving and changing.
You can improve your chances of making the right decision by considering the following factors carefully:
- Personal interests and passions: First, it’s worth choosing a specialism you’re passionate about. The more interested you are in a certain facet of marketing, the more likely you are to invest in expanding your knowledge in that space. Your passion will drive you to invest in lifelong education, earn new certifications, read books, and follow other industry experts in your field.
- Existing skills: You may already have specific skill sets that make you ideally suited to a certain aspect of marketing. For instance, if you’re an expert at conducting research and writing, it makes sense to expand your knowledge in the content marketing area, harnessing better writing skills, SEO knowledge, and strategies for writing for different platforms.
- Market demand: Some areas of marketing are growing faster than others. To ensure you have the best opportunities to unlock in the marketing field, it’s worth examining demand in your industry. Find out which roles offer the highest salaries and which job offers show up most in your landscape.
It’s also worth considering the way the market is currently evolving to ensure your skills mesh with the trends in the industry.
Focusing on emerging channels like data-driven marketing, AI-enhanced content creation, and hyper-personalized advertising can help to set you apart from competitors in your field.
Ideally, you’ll want to pick more than one channel or landscape to specialize in.
For instance, you might build your skills in two complementary areas, such as content marketing or SEO.
Alternatively, you may choose a more unusual combination of skills to make you more appealing to certain niches, such as Facebook advertising and technical SEO.
3. Deepen Your Skills and Build Your Experience
Once you’ve chosen your specialization area (or areas), you must build a deeper knowledge of those landscapes.
The key to success with T-shaped marketing is becoming a true expert in one or more areas while still retaining your foundational skills.
Most experts start by developing foundational knowledge in some core skills, such as research, data and analytics, storytelling, design, UX, or even behavioral psychology.
From there, you’ll begin to harness your marketing foundation, diving deeper into concepts like copywriting, video marketing, funnel marketing, or customer experience.
Once you have your foundational knowledge, you can begin to work on your channel expertise or specialist education in depth, focusing on the areas you consider most valuable to your target audience, such as email marketing, SEO, or event marketing.
There are various ways to develop your skills in each area, such as:
- Research and self-study: Research and self-study can be a fantastic way to broaden your knowledge. You can attend webinars to learn from other experts, follow thought leaders in your field, or join forums and groups to interact with other professionals. You may also read books or attend events.
- Courses and certifications: Courses and certifications in your chosen marketing field are one of the best ways to expand both your knowledge and credibility simultaneously. Earning a certification in your specialization validates your knowledge to employers or clients and gives you an opportunity to test your skills.
- Practical experience: Showing true experience in your field is essential to boosting your chances of success. Consider designing your own website where you can practice your skills and build a portfolio. Experiment with online competitions, or consider applying for entry-level roles and volunteer positions.
While strong evidence of your theoretical knowledge is important for a T-shaped marketer, most clients and companies will also seek clear insights into your experience. Real-world experience is crucial to demonstrating your expertise.
With this in mind, consider starting some personal projects in your free time, getting involved with volunteer work, or investing in internships.
4. Develop Other Marketing Skills
Notably, while the vertical line in a T-shaped marketer’s skillset is essential to standing out in this competitive field, it’s still important to have a broad horizontal range of cross-functional skills. After you’ve developed a strong level of expertise in one or two areas, you should continue to branch out and explore more marketing disciplines.
Most employers are searching for multi-functional professionals in today’s world, capable of excelling in one or two areas but also offering assistance with a range of other projects.
As such, you’ll need to commit to ensuring you’re always up-to-date with the latest trends and methodologies in the marketing world.
Use your interactions with clients and employers to determine which horizontal areas you should explore.
For instance, if you’re positioning yourself as an expert in social media marketing, you might want to consider developing an understanding of other marketing mediums, such as blogging, video creation, podcasts, and even email marketing.
Ensure you stay up-to-date with the evolutions in the market for every service you might offer. Follow news reports to learn more about the changes to the SEO algorithms and the factors influencing outcomes in PPC campaigns.
Learn how to use useful resources in your work, from AI tools for analytics and insights to keyword research software, CRM technology, and marketing automation tools.
Becoming a T-Shaped marketer means you can support clients with all aspects of their digital marketing strategy while offering specialist skills in specific areas. You’ll attract clients in search of specific skill sets while also ensuring you can work effectively as part of a team and offer comprehensive campaign support.
Businesses today need T-shaped marketers to guide their broader marketing decisions while also providing behind-the-scenes expertise in unique areas. Using your expertise and knowledge of other marketing strategies, you can become a more valuable resource to the clients and employers you interact with.