Have you ever met a marketer who seemed able to do it all?
You wonder aloud how to adjust the color in your social media graphic, and they jump up to come show you.
The CMO mentions the need for a press release, and suddenly it appears in an email.
They’ve got thousands of Twitter followers and a devoted audience on Instagram, but they’re not your social media manager.
Each and every marketing project that your team is working on seems to include them in some way or another. And they do really solid work, no matter what they’re working on.
If you’ve had an experience like this, chances are you were in the presence of a full stack marketer. These quasi-mythical creatures can work at just about any point in the funnel, devise a marketing strategy, and execute on its tactics without breaking a sweat.
What does it take to become such a versatile marketing ninja? And, perhaps more importantly, is it worth your time and energy to do so?
What it Means to Be a Full Stack Marketer
The idea of a marketer whose skills range far and wide through the marketing discipline has its roots in software development.
Although it’s been around for a while, the concept remains hotly debated (as does the idea of a full stack marketer, for that matter).
This article from Andy Shora does an even-handed and thorough job of articulating the difficulties of the debate on the development side, in case you’re interested.
Most of the people who are on the hunt for full stack marketers are startups or other small teams who need somebody who can come up with a strategy and execute on it with few resources. These early stage people don’t need to be the best at everything, but they do need to be able to prioritize appropriate and get stuff done.
Thus, the idea of full stack marketers gained popularity.
Is It Worth Your Time to Be a Full Stack Marketer?
It’s a nice idea for startups founders, but the question for us actual marketers is whether or not “full stack” is a moniker to which we should aspire.
Can I have a better career, make more money, or be more professionally fulfilled if I’m full stack than if I’m a hard core specialist?
Recent research seems to indicate that diversifying your skills can only help your long term career prospects. There are serious gaps emerging in some major marketing skills, and with a little bit of education and experience you could make yourself a very attractive candidate to companies looking to fill those gaps.
Whether or not you need to be truly and completely full stack, however, depends on what kind of team you want to work on.
Small Teams and Startups Need Full Stack Marketers Most
There’s a very good reason that most of the articles bemoaning the lack of full stack marketers are written from Silicon Valley startups.
These companies are trying to grow at a ridiculous pace with ridiculously small teams, and most of them aren’t even thinking about hiring a Content Marketing Specialist or Social Media Marketing Manager.
Not now, and maybe not ever.
If you like the super fast pace of startup life and want to spend your career promoting new businesses, then you should aspire for full stack status.
If, on the other hand, you prefer large teams and lots of collaboration, you’ll probably fare best as a T-shaped rather than a true full stack marketer.
Skills to Become a T-Shaped Marketer
There has been a lot of virtual ink devoted to T-shaped marketers, but this chart from Distilled is one of my favorites:
Image source: Distilled
As you can see, it accepts that most of us have one particular area of expertise (in this example, content). But the modern digital marketer needs not just depth, but also breadth.
To be successful, regardless of team size or industry, we’ve got to understand how all the pieces fit together.
The content creator in this example should know enough about technical SEO to help troubleshoot errors that suddenly appear in Google Webmaster tools. He needs to be comfortable doing press outreach from time to time, and his analytics chops should be strong enough to allow him to run reports showing which content is working and which still needs work.
Full Stack Marketing Skills
Full stack marketers, on the other hand, are running on more than the five cylinders that you see in the “T” chart above.
There’s no hard and fast list of must-have skills to qualify as full stack, but lists tend to include 15-20 abilities, starting with:
|Marketing plans/strategies||Search Engine Optimization (SEO)||Pay Per Click (PPC)|
|Content Marketing||User Experience (UX)||Email Marketing|
|Analytics||Landing Page and/or Conversation Rate Optimization||Storytelling|
|Social Media||Blogging||A/B Testing|
|CRM and Marketing Automation||App Store Marketing||Press Relations/Outreach/Publicity|
|Affiliate Marketing||Surveys||Lead Generation|
Believe it or not, this list is not exhaustive. Marketing is a complex discipline, and it’s just getting more complicated as time goes on.
You can see why founders are having trouble finding people who can execute on all these tactics simultaneously.
Possible Pitfalls for the Full Stack Folks
Being a full stack marketer sounds pretty nice. You can imagine how handy it would be to be able to pivot from specialty to specialty without missing a beat.
The problem is that possessing so many different skills prevents you from being awesome at any single one of them. You may be able to do it all, but there are always going to be people who are better than you at each and every piece of the full stack marketing puzzle.
Cody Boyte bemoans this in his Medium post, which he titled, “Full Stack Marketing is a Waste of Time.” Cody says he started out hoping to become a full stack marketer, but he realized that in doing so he had made himself expendable as his company grew.
“Real, ‘full-stack marketer’ tend to disappear as the company grows,” he writes. Their shortcomings are exposed, and specialists get hired who are really good at just one piece of the stack.
“I fit most of the descriptions of a full stack marketer. The only reason I’m still at my company is because I’ve learned how to carve out new roles for myself as the company has changed…With a few more hires or a couple of outside contractors, I could be replaced from a skill perspective. Luckily I’ve grown out of being a full-stack marketer.”
Will You Answer the Full Stack Call?
True full stack marketers are indeed rare.
That said, quality T-shaped marketers are pretty hard to find too, as a matter of fact.
Whether you decide to systematically tackle each and every skill on the giant list above, or just choose to just learn one new thing every year of your career, versatility and excellence will make you a more valuable employee. Full stop.
Other Articles You Might Be Interested In:
- Agile Marketing 3 Crucial Agile Marketing Skills You May Already Have
- Skills 7 Marketing Skills That Will Make Your Life Easier in 2015
- Skills Never Wait for a Developer Again By Learning These Marketing Skills
- Agile Marketing Using Improv Classes to Build Agile marketing Skills
- B2B Marketing Strategies From the Denver Digital Summit [SlideShare]
- Infographics [Infographic] Connecting the Dots of Digital Marketing for Better Lead Generation