How to Level Up Your T-shaped Marketer Skills
Over 80 Resources for 27 Different Marketing Skills
Recently at Buffer, we’ve been exploring a new marketing career growth framework — the T-shaped marketer framework.
Here’s how our T-shaped marketer diagram looks like:
Leveling Up Your Marketing Skills
If you are keen to follow the framework (or to become a better marketer), I believe you’d wish to know how to level up on those skills. Fortunately, there are a ton of resources on most any marketing skill you could hope to achieve.
Here’re a few of the resources we’ve found helpful as we’ve leveled up in all the different areas of a Buffer T-shaped marketer.
Knowledge in this area helps you better understand why people do what they do — a handy skill in most any job, particularly so when you’re eager to understand why people click, like, share, and buy.
- Blog: Cognitive Lode
- Book: Decisive by Dan and Chip Heath
- Book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
- Blog post: Putting Behavioral Psychology to Work to Improve the Customer Experience by McKinsey
- Blog post: 15 Psychological Studies That Will Boost Your Social Media Marketing by Buffer
- E-book: Hubspot’s Marketing Psychology Guide
We see storytelling and copywriting as different things. Storytelling is about knowing how to put together a narrative. Copywriting is about knowing the right words to use to express that narrative.
- Blog post: 11 Storytelling Formulas to Supercharge Your Marketing by Buffer
- Blog post: Master This Storytelling Technique to Create an Irresistible Content Series by Copyblogger
- Video: Pixar’s approach to storytelling (embedded above)
- Content series: Pixar in a Box from Khan Academy
- Blog post: The 6 Main Arcs in Storytelling by the Atlantic
Data and Analytics
Before you get into the weeds of Excel, Looker, SQL, etc., it’s essential to have a foundation in the general concept of data and analytics so that you know what’s possible to learn data and what makes for good data analysis.
- Video: Data-Driven Product Changes by Heavybit
- Book: Winning with Data by Tom Tunguz and Frank Bien
- Book: Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan
We were lucky to get in early with customer development at Buffer, which helped us cultivate a research culture. In specific marketing terms, research means checking with your audience to learn their experience, their problems, and their wishes. In more general terms, research is about putting a process to one’s curiosity.
Design and UX
We don’t expect Buffer marketers to be design pros (we’ve written several articles admitting we’re far from professionals). What we look for instead is a cultivated design eye: Do you have good taste? Can you identify the elements of design that lead to high quality?
Branding and positioning
This one could possibly also fit in “marketing foundation,” but I see branding as a bigger concept. We all have personal brands (whether we actively cultivate it or not). We position ourselves for new jobs and opportunities. There’s a basic knowledge here that transcends marketing.
- Resource: Skype’s brand book
- Blog post: Gist’s guide to branding
- Resource: Ubuntu’s brand guidelines
- Blog: Brand New (example above)
- Blog post: Building Your Brand by Aaron Beashel
As I mentioned above, copywriting is about knowing the best words to use in order to get a message across.
- Blog: Copyhackers
- Blog: Copyblogger
- Book: Ogilvy on Advertising
- Blog post: If Don Draper Tweeted: The 27 Copywriting Formulas That Will Drive Clicks and Engagement on Social Media by Buffer
Sketch, Canva, and Wireframing
This is a step up from the base knowledge of “Design and UX.” Once you know the principles of design, how far can you get with creating something yourself? Sketch and Canva just so happen to be our tools of choice. Photoshop or another software might make sense for your marketing team.
- Content series: Getting Started with Sketch by Megumi Tanaka
- Email course: Design Workflow with Sketch
- My Canva profile (if you want to grab any templates)
- Blog post: A Beginner’s Guide to Wireframing by Envato
A/B testing can somewhat share a line with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), but we split it out on its own because we want all our marketing team to understand the basic principles behind A/B testing. First, do you have a testing mindset? (Which, put another way, could be “do you have a data and growth mindset?) Then second, if you think about testing, do you have the ability to bring basic scientific tests into your area of expertise? A/B testing is like our default setting for scientific tests.
- Blog post: 50 A/B Split Tests to Optimize Your Site by Sujan Patel
- Resource: The Complete Guide to A/B Testing by VWO
- Resource: A Beginner’s Guide to A/B Testing by KISSmetrics
- Blog post: How we lost (and found) millions by not A/B testing by Basecamp
For many companies, video is a channel all its own. For us, video is such a big part of the social media marketing we do that it just makes sense for us all to be well-versed with what it takes to create a compelling video and be confident on camera.
Statistics and Excel
This is the next step beyond data and analytics. We’d love for everyone on the team to be able to put together a solid spreadsheet to track numbers and goals.
- Blog post: 10 Useful Google Spreadsheet Formulas You Must Know by Woorkup
- Blog post: Take Back Your Time With These 10 Ready-Made Spreadsheet Templates (And Our Top Tips and Time-Savers) by Buffer
- Blog post: 9 Free Microsoft Excel Templates to Make Marketing Easier by HubSpot
- Website: Stack Overflow’s “Excel” tag
How does a customer become a customer? This feels like something it’d be great for all on the marketing team to know, even if they only have a particular impact on one portion of the funnel.
- Video: Building a Growth Machine by Brian Balfour
- Blog post: The consumer decision journey by McKinsey (see image above)
- Blog post: The Steps You Need to Define the Stages of Your Sales & Marketing Funnel by HubSpot
HTML and CSS
This level of code knowledge can come in handy in so many places: blog posts, landing pages, email design, just to name a few.
- Community: Stack Overflow
- Website: Treehouse
- Tip: Right-click and choose “View Source” or “Inspect Element” to see how any website is built
Customer experience (CX)
CX is a big part of Buffer as a company, which is why we emphasize it for our marketing team. This can look a number of different ways: for instance, hopping into the inbox to answer support tickets or thinking through the potential customer impact on launches, content, etc.
Business development is the strategic relationship-building of key people and companies. For instance, at Buffer, if you were in Biz Dev you’d probably network with folks at Twitter, Facebook, Apple’s iOS store, etc.
- Book: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Blog post: Corporate Development 101: What Every Startup Should Know by OnStartups
- Slidedeck: Biz Dev 101: An Interactive Workshop on How to Get Deals Done
Community is the process of connecting people with people, with the common denominator being Buffer.
This can also be classified as bottom-of-the-funnel marketing. The goal here is to improve conversion rates by lots of different avenues: landing pages, CTAs, ads, content, and more.
- Blog: ConversionXL
- Blog post: Conversion: The Most Important Internet Metric of All (Revisited)by Above the Crowd
Email marketing may include one-off campaigns, daily newsletters, lifecycle campaigns, and a lot more. In addition to being good at the content and conversion of emails, an email expert also knows the ins and outs of deliverability, ESPs, and a lot of other technical bits that are unique to email.
An events expert can do everything from a meetup to a conference and tie back the event efforts to business impact.
- Ebook: 9 Simple Steps to Master Social Media for Events by Eventbrite
- Blog post: The Disneyland Effect: How to Plan a Successful Conference by Marketing Insider Group
- Podcast episode: Top Strategies for Taking Your Online Community Offline with Marketing Events — w/ Stefanie Grieser of Unbounce
Content marketing is primarily about blogging, though the true definition of content extends to anything you might create. More and more, the “anything” seems to fit on the blog as well: video, audio, slideshows, etc.
- Blog: Grow and Convert
- Blog post: The All-in-One Content Marketing Playbook for Startups by Copyhackers
- Slidedeck: Content Marketing Lessons from 10 Years and 41 Million Visits
- Slidedeck: Why Content Marketing Fails
- Blog post: The 51 Best Writing Articles I’ve Ever Read by Buffer
This is anything to do with search engine optimization, both the content/strategy side and the technical side.
- Blog: Moz
- Videos: Whiteboard Friday
- Blog post: This SEO Checklist = 48.7% More Organic Traffic [Case Study] by Backlinko
- Blog post: Rand Fishkin’s 5 Simple Experiments for Improving SEO Health by Unbounce
For us, a multimedia channel expert shows a deep skill with podcasting and video production. They can create both types of media as well as put together a multimedia strategy based on business goals and existing content.
- Blog post: How I Built a #1-Ranked Podcast With 60M+ Downloads by Tim Ferriss
- Blog post: Podcasting for the Creative-Minded: How to Avoid Yet Another Talking Head Show by Jay Acunzo
- Blog post: Podcast is the New Blog by 500 Startups
- Inspiration: Gary Vaynerchuk’s Facebook page
Most often when we talk about paid ads, we refer to social media advertising — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. However, a paid ads expert may also be adept at search engine marketing (SEM), media sponsorships, and banner and display ads.
- Resources: Adspresso Guide
- Blog post: 7 Advanced Tactics Pro Facebook Marketers Use to Boost Conversions by Copyhackers
- Podcast: Perpetual Traffic
For partnerships, we define this as someone who builds mutually beneficial relationships with peer companies, in order to drive a marketing objective. It’s a different flavor of biz dev: Biz dev is more focused on necessary networking for business growth, whereas partnership marketing is more focused on ad hoc collaborations for marketing objectives.
- Blog post: Co-Marketing: How to Reach New Customers With Strategic Partnerships by Shopify
- Blog post: What Is Co-Marketing? A Guide to Co-Branding Marketing Campaigns by HubSpot
- Podcast episode: Marketing Partnerships: How to Expand Your Reach with Content Collaboration by Social Media Examiner
PR is accountable for driving interest and mentions for the brand. At Buffer, this includes press outreach, inbound PR, syndication, and communications.
- Blog post: 22 PR Tools and Resources by Brandwatch
I like the way Gary Vaynerchuk describes his work as the clouds and the dirt. He wants to be comfortable both at the highest strategic level and at the most tactical, on-the-ground level. This is true of someone who shows social media expertise.
The outcome of viral marketing is that customers are selling your brand for you. There are a lot of different levers that can make this happen, not the least of which is a referral or loyalty program, as well as a deep understanding of virality, psychology, and network effects.
Other: International marketing, product marketing, mobile marketing.
The list of channels could go on and on. A couple others that come to mind include international marketing (strategically reaching an audience beyond your primary audience) and mobile marketing (iOS, Android, apps, etc.).
Over to you
I’m sure our list of resources for these skills is incomplete. It’d be great to hear how you level up your skills to become a better marketer.
What do you do to get better? What resources do you use?
What skills are you working on that we’ve not mentioned? What do you do to get better at them?