T-shaped marketer & free training courses for small businesses

Rand Fiskin at Moz made these comments to describe today’s modern marketers who are required to possess the range of skills outline in the following picture.

T-shaped marketer

T-shaped marketer

Rand had this to say about t-shaped marketers:

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.

Free training courses

Here are some free training course we found at Smart Insights to move forward in your journey to develop some of these skills – they are especially useful for small businesses and entrepreneurs that want to learn or improve essential digital marketing skills:

HTML – Code academy

Code academy is great for taking you through the basics of HTML and it really guides you through and holds your hand when your starting out and code just seems confusing. Often free learning is okay but not the same quality you would get if you paid for it, but Code academy is genuinely really useful and rivals paid tools for functionality. It does much more than just HTML, so if you want to take it further you can learn CSS, Java Script and even PHP, Python and Ruby if you want.

UdemyPhotoshop – Free course on Udemy

This free course is perfect if you’ve used Photoshop before but need to update your skills. 29 lectures take you though new features and productivity enhancements, and will be useful whether you are brand new to Photoshop or if you’ve been using it for years.

UdemyInDesign – Free course on Udemy

This course takes you through the basics of this powerful but often intimidating design program. Over 11 hours of content split up into 105 lectures take you through your first steps right up to more advanced features. Plus the author has included more than 2GB of work-files, so that you can work alongside him as he teaches you the ins and outs of this powerful desktop publishing software!

Google Analytic Academy Google Analytics – Analytics Academy

Google Analytics is a great tool, and getting to grips with it is essential for all digital marketers. Even if you think you’ve got a handle on it, there may well be features you don’t realise exist that you could you to generate insights which could help you increase your conversion rate or attract more visits. The Google Analytics academy is a great free resource to help improve your skills. You can view lessons from experts and test your knowledge. Whilst it is great for learning how it works, it isn’t always easy to infer insights and how to apply Google analytics to improve results without further training.

UX Design – Hack DesignHack Design

This free online course is more of a very well put together reading list than a course per se. But it is a great way for digital marketers to get to grips with the basics of UX design, which can help them in many different elements of their role.

Open University Video editing- Open University Podcast ‘the final cut’

This podcast from the open university is delivered by Ben Harrex of Final Cut post production studios, and gives you a good idea how important editing your video is to how the final product looks – Important to bear in mind for your video marketing. He makes a lot of good points, but it is not always the most actionable advice. On the plus side though, the podcast format means you can listen on the bus, or when out for a run, so no time wasted!


The T-shaped marketer concept highlights the fact that modern digital marketing for businesses requires a wide range of knowledge and skills across the online marketing landscape. With these skills. These free training courses will probably not make you a digital marketing expert. However, they should give you basic grounding on the topics, a foundation on which to build on with additional learning and experience – perhaps through paid courses.

We’d love to get your feedback and comments about this post. What skills have you found most useful in marketing your small business? Which training courses would you would recommend for small businesses and entrepreneurs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section  below.


Other posts you may like:

Beginner’s guide to starting a scalable online business – part 1

Sorry reasons for not doing digital marketing & 5 myths about social marketing busted

Small business’ digital marketing vicious cycle

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