T-Shaped Marketers: Here’s What You Evolve Into Next

Ross Simmonds

The T-Shaped Marketer is one of the most sought after types of marketers in the industry. Brands want to hire them. People want to be them. Managers want to build teams that consist of them.

What is a T-Shaped Marketer?

A T-Shaped Marketer is someone who has a broad set of knowledge across different topics and a deep level of expertise in one area in particular.

It’s a concept built to help organizations better identify high quality marketers based on a wide set of general marketing knowledge and a deep set of expertise within a specific area (or two). It’s what makes up the industry standard for what is considered an ideal marketing hire.

It’s a concept that was originated more than 50 years ago for general hiring practices but countless marketing articles have been written about the T-Shaped Marketer since then.

Over time I’ve seen many variations of what it means to be a T-Shaped marketer and the concept itself continues to get more and more complex. Brands are finding ways to add more types of knowledge to what makes up the top part of the T.

At the core, I think the fundamental idea that marketers should have a wide range of knowledge across important and overlapping disciplines and depth of knowledge & experience in one particular field is GREAT.

I love the idea.

I love the concept.

And I love the value that this approach has offered the industry in terms of thinking about knowledge acquisition.

But I think this focus on knowledge is overrated. What do I mean? Check out this video breaking down my thoughts on the T-Shaped Marketer before you read any further.

I sent this tweet after chatting with someone who had spent years reading, learning, listening and studying content about digital marketing but had spent little to no time actually executing:

I’ve seen far too many companies hire marketers who KNOW how to talk about digital, social, SEO, content and PR but have no ability when it comes to actually doing the work. No experience in account management, team work, collaboration, hiring, outreach, relationship management or simply pulling up their sleeves to write an article or email a customer.

The current framework around a T-Shaped Marketer is all about knowledge. But time and time again when I speak to founders and I look at the marketers who I’ve worked with that stood out — it’s not just knowledge that differentiates the best from the rest.

It’s their ability to do the work. 

That’s why I believe that we need to evolve like Pikachu…

We need to evolve from T-Shaped Marketers to I-Shaped Marketers (That’s a Capital I) like this:

You see — it’s the people who prioritize pulling up their sleeves and actually get the work done that stand out. It’s not just the marketers who have their finger on the pulse of every trend; it’s the marketers who take those trends and create outputs. It’s not the marketers who brag about how much they know; it’s the marketers who brag about the success their team had with a specific project.

The best T-Shaped Marketers are actually I-Shaped marketers (And that’s a capital I).

They have a foundation that is built around the competencies and experiences needed to take their vast knowledge and turn them into results. That’s the type of person I want to work with. That’s the type person recruiters need to look for. That’s the type of person who will actually have talents that don’t change with the trends and will forever be employable.

About Ross Simmonds

Ross Simmonds is a digital marketing strategist who has worked with everything from Fortune 500 companies to startups to drive results using digital marketing and technology.

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Gennaro
Guest

Great article Ross! I discussed here: https://fourweekmba.com/moonshot-thinking-and-10x-rule whether in certain cases for a 10-x growth we should go from T-Shaped to X-Shaped. Was wondering what’s your take on that!

Nikola Roza
Guest

Hi Ross, I like the concept of I shaped marketer. Truly, knowledge is power but if you’re not using the power- you’re powerless.
And results come from the action you take and not from the knowledge you acquire.
But enough preaching, again, interesting concept of knowing how to do the work.
Thanks Ross:)

Jesse
Guest

This is a great article and as always Ross your insights are told in a compelling way, but the model is missing analytics and data. You credit knowledge and experience but creativity and data analysis are also very important skills for modern marketers to have.

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