The T-Shaped Web Marketer

There’s been a good amount of talk on the web about the “T-Shaped” marketer becoming a model for the future. Several articles will go into more depth than I can, but I did want to share my thoughts on the topic and an illustration I made for a recent presentation.


T-Shaped basically refers to having a light level of knowledge in a broad array of skills, and deep knowledge/ability in a single one (or a few). This model may not seem particularly remarkable or unique, but it carries qualities that are essential to great marketing teams. There’s 4 in particular that I’ve seen at Moz (and at other companies in a less in-depth way) that make a big difference:

  1. Breadth Breeds Respect
    As marketers develop knowledge of the skills and abilities of different disciplines, they grow to value those traits in others, and to recognize the challenges that accompany achievement in those fields. When problems overlap or when team cohesion is critical, that respect is essential to the camraderie and goodwill that makes it possible to get through trying times without relationship-straining conflict.
  2. People Crave Mastery; Depth Fills that Need
    As Daniel Pink notes, human beings need three things to be happy in their work – autonomy, mastery, and purpose. A marketer who’s constantly shifting gears between surface-level tasks in multiple practices never has a chance to develop the mastery that a T-shaped marketer can earn. The growth to attain mastery and to earn the recognition that comes from expertise helps with loyalty, commitment, and an ownership mentality – all critical elements of great team members.
  3. Overlapping Knowledge Yields Creativity
    Creative solutions are tough to come by and even tougher to evaluate and build off when there’s only a single person in your organization knowledgeable about a topic. By having multiple overlapping T-shapes, a marketing team can invent and evolve remarkably unique and powerful solutions to problems.
  4. Essential Redundancies Exist with a Team of T-Shaped Folks
    It’s launch day and you need to see how the email metrics are performing, but only one person in the company knows the platform well enough to track down all the right data and explain it. That sucks, but it can be helped through T-shaped overlaps. Redundancy doesn’t mean that anyone can do everyone else’s job, but it does mean that in time-sensitive or emergency situations, you’re not held hostage by a single person’s absence.

I don’t know whether every team or every marketer needs to strive for this model, but I’m certain that as I advise other companies and as we grow Moz, it will contrinue to be a trait I look for and recommend.