One of the more important terms in digital marketing right now is “T-shaped,” but what does that mean? And more importantly, why does it matter for you?
“T-shaped” is a descriptive term that sums up the “shape” of a person’s knowledge and expertise. Someone who is T-shaped has a broad working knowledge across many related subjects or fields and a deep knowledge—expertise—in one or two key areas. (Tweet this) For example, a T-shaped digital marketer may be an expert in analytics or social media, but also have a working knowledge of the principles of mobile optimization, automation, SEO, and database querying, among others.
By bringing highly specialized knowledge to the table and knowing the key parts of related areas of marketing, the T-shaped marketer is equipped for creative collaboration, more targeted strategizing, and substantially more effective marketing and measuring efforts overall.
Becoming T-Shaped (Commitment)
Once you identify the area(s) in which you’ll to go deep, commit to becoming remarkable. We naturally default to keeping our options open because it seems safe. Saying yes to 1-2 areas is scary when you realize you’re simultaneously saying no to a dozen other areas.
True success comes from commitment. (Tweet this)
Don’t let the elusive security of having options keep you from thriving in digital marketing.If you want to succeed in marketing, the best thing you can do is focus on becoming T-shaped. The first step in that process is identifying 1-2 areas of expertise that you already have or are interested in developing. Take an inventory of the skills you already possess—in which areas are you most proficient? Do you like working in those particular areas, or are there other things you would prefer to pursue? What aspect(s) of digital marketing do you enjoy most or find most intriguing?
Singular focus on 1-2 areas may feel like a detrimental trade-off. But you must “see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, ‘What do I have to give up?’ … ask, ‘What do I want to go big on?’” says Greg McKeown in his ground-breaking book Essentialism. (To learn more about Essentialism, pick up the book or check out this summary from Michael Hyatt.)
Now it’s time to learn. And by learn I mean become an expert. Intentionally practice those skills by looking for opportunities around you. Read books. Follow other experts in the field. Take courses. Immerse yourself. And then start writing and sharing it with others—through blogging or some other medium of your choice. For example, write about why it’s important to segment and analyze the data from your website. How do you determine what data to analyze? What tools do you use? Distinguish yourself as a thought leader in data analytics (or whatever your specialty is) by writing.
The best way to master something is to teach it to someone else. (Tweet this)
While you’re developing your expertise in your favorite 1-2 areas, continue learning how those areas interact with other aspects of marketing. Learn to speak the language of other marketers around you. (Tweet this) Seek to understand the concepts behind various marketing team members and discover how their roles integrate with yours.
How does coding and graphic design come together in the big picture? What data do analysts look at and where does come from? How do inbound marketing strategies differ from email to mobile? Which basic principles of psychology and human behavior most influence your organization’s marketing efforts? At what point on the marketing timeline does each marketing role come into play?
Take advantage of opportunities to work with individuals in other fields, and become familiar with each moving part. By diversifying your basic skill set, you’ll have a well-rounded understanding of what each marketing role contributes, even if you have limited knowledge of how those contributions are technically executed.
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