Understanding the role of the T-Shaped Marketer – David Edmundson-Bird, Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing

This video podcast (6 minutes) discusses how being a T-Shaped Marketer is increasingly the best thing to be.

Do you constantly find yourself asking, “what are the key skills I need to develop in order to stay ahead?”

T-Shaped Marketing can be defined as a Marketer who has a broad knowledge spanning a wide range of areas in Digital Marketing but mainly specialising in 1 or 2. This podcast goes into detail on topics such as: what does being a T-shaped marketer look like; 5 Reasons why you should consider being a T-Shaped Marketer & how T-shaped marketing skills can benefit you!

Click below to download the mind map for this Video Podcast

T-Shaped Marketing Mind Map
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Why is being a T-shaped marketer important?

There’s quite a lot of talk about T-shaped Marketers and I think that one of the problems that we’ve had, and this is born out by some research that we did a couple of years ago, is that people have tended to operate in silos.

There are all sorts of reasons for that. One is that clients make that happen so you’ll often find a company say, “This is our SEO brief. This is our social media brief. This is our PR brief.” And that puts silos together straight away. That means you’ve got a client that has got silos.

The role of specialists

You have to have specialists in your organisation, but what your specialists can’t afford to be is ignorant of everything else. Although you can have a deep understanding of your own discipline, you need to be conscious of the other disciplines.

It’s a bit like it’s like being in an orchestra. If you are a trumpeter, you need to know that there are other people in the orchestra and the success of the whole orchestra relies on everyone playing their bit, but also at the same time as everyone else. You can’t just go off and start sort of doing a bit of jazz extemporisation when you’re doing a symphony.

Marketers have to be specialists, but they also need to know the things they do impact everyone else and they need to understand the capabilities of everyone else around them. Because if you’re going to be, if you’re going to work on any kind of integrated marketing campaign, you need to be conscious of everything else that goes around you.

The KPIs of different roles

One of the things we encourage is that specialists need to know everyone else’s KPIs. People need to know whose KPIs affect other people’s KPIs.

So stuff I do in SEO. Is that upstream or downstream of someone else?

So does somebody else’s work affect my SEO? Yes? Well then the person who’s building my site, I need to have an understanding of the web developers and what they’re up to. They need to know what my goals are. As an SEO, I need to understand downstream from me.

I’m going to be acquiring traffic. It’s coming inbound. So I need to know who’s going to be the victim or the beneficiary of the traffic I’m building in.

The people who are conversion specialists, people in user experience, I mean, even that’s starting to become part of the SEO thing anyway, but I need to let them know what I am going to be doing.

They need to let me know what they need. So they need to know what kind of people are coming through, what kind of traffic is coming through so that they can build the right sort of conversion landing page.

We all need to know what everyone’s doing and from that we need to know what the capabilities are, what the roles are.

As an SEO, I don’t need to be an email marketing specialist, but I need to know that what goes on in email marketing, and the email marketing specialist worries about the specialism, but we both need to be conscious of each other’s roles and what our goals are.

Being “T-shaped” is still relevant

I think T-shaped is important, certainly, because the top of the T, the flat bit if you like, the shallow knowledge, is about being conscious of what everyone else is doing. So for me right now, T-shaped marketer is still a relevant, an important issue.

If someone’s in a highly specialist role, I think there are two ways to look at whether they should be worried or not.

One is, is their specialism evolving quickly, and are you as a specialist evolving with it?

So you can imagine being, say, an organic SEO specialist. That job role changes every day. You can’t afford to sit still in that role. If you’re going to be a specialist in that area you know that you have to professionally develop with the landscape.

Your own performance v. other linked roles

I also think though that in order to really survive, you need to be aware of what everyone else is doing. So you can’t just decide not to know anything about the role of the user experience designer. You need to know what they do because it can have an impact on your own personal performance.

It’s important to just keep yourself updated with developments in the fields that are around you.

I think that quite a few professions are painting themselves into a sort of a dark place, because they may not have kept up pace with what’s going on in the roles around them.

I think you see that in a quite interesting way in, and I’ve been sort of looking into sort of this turf war between SEO and PR, that PR has historically specialised in the relationship they have with people outside of the business.

If you look at the relevant SEO, one of the things they might be is looking at influencers and how they can say, create inbound links from those influencer assets so that SEO’s are going out and having conversations with real people and starting to have relationships which maybe PR did, so PR need to then think, “Well, do I need to understand the importance of those relationships and what they do in terms of bringing traffic to our sites?”

That’s a really important thing for them to do and so the role of a PR is evolving, and you have these two roles actually working in tandem together.

Keep a lookout

I think keeping an eye on what’s going on around you, looking at how the channels are evolving, looking at how things are changing is really important.

A Digital Marketer literally never stops learning, because things change every day. The algorithm on Google changes every day. Facebook changes the rules once a week on things, the way that a stream of posts turns up in front of someone.

The rules for that change a lot, and you have to be, as a Facebook Marketer, constantly aware of that.

Otherwise, you’ll end up being very outdated, the advice you might be offering clients or an employer is going to be really wrong.

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