Why build a T-shaped marketing team?

t-shaped marketer

When you work in a small marketing team, you need to be able to pick up from each other. You dont want to pause a PPC campaign for 2 weeks because the person who normally manages it is on holiday.

A jack of all trades…and a master of some.

t-shaped personA T-shaped marketer will have a broad base of marketing knowledge and a depth of
expertise in a particular channel or aspect of marketing.

For example, you might have a strong core knowledge in copywriting, data analysis, marketing theory, digital skills etc; and specialist expertise in certain areas such as content marketing and social media.

Buffer has a great blog that goes into how theyve developed this concept within their team.

What about specialists?

Don’t get me wrong, deep specialist expertise is great…but arguably better when it’s shouldered with cross discipline competence.

If someone is off sick, takes a holiday or leaves the business then the world keeps going round with a T-shaped team. No drama. People pick things up, help each other out.

I like to think of the arms of the Ts giving stability. If you have a team of I shaped people (narrow expertise…lacking breadth of knowledge) and remove one, it may all fall over.

Ts also tend to be adaptive and agile, they are able to see the bigger picture because they understand how their area of expertise integrates with other aspects of marketing.

You need T-shaped marketers in small businesses and probably in big ones too.

SEO is a discipline in which I think being T-shaped is going to become more and more important. At this years Brighton SEO both Malcolm Slade and Tom Capper spoke about the increasing importance of brand for SEO, suggesting that this is becoming the key factor in making it to page 1 of Google.  

Someone asked Malcolm and Tom what they think this means for the skills needed in marketing teams.  They suggested that teams will need to get bigger to cover off all aspects of brand building for successful SEO. Maybe ok for larger businesses, but SMEs dont have the luxury of significantly expanding their marketing team. If brand is becoming more central to SEO then the skills needed to see yourself on page 1 start looking different too. More focus on delivering excellent customer experience and brand value…sounds great for the customer. The T-shaped person is going to become even more desirable.

How T are you?

I think it’s worth developing a marketer framework for your own organisation and mapping out the strengths and expertise within your team. This is a great talking point for 1-2-1s and a good way to identify skills gaps and encourage individuals professional development. Buffer have done this with their team and shared a whole host of learning resources too. Well worth a look.


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