The Marketing Skills You Need to Become a Full-Stack Marketer

Startup world needs more ‘full-stack’ marketers – marketing people who can do a bit of whatever is needed to launch and grow startups.

Marcelo Calbucci talked about this need for dynamic, jack-of-all-trades type of marketers. As a natural generalist that owes his career to eagerly jumping at the chance to learn anything novel, his article resonated with me.

More and more, marketers are getting pulled out of position by the changing marketing landscape — SEM analysts writing Buzzfeed-worthy top 10 lists; community managers defining brand strategy; brand managers running SEM campaigns.

These marketers can learn a lot from full-stack software developers.

Full-stack developers already live in this fast-paced, lean world where being able to test, learn, and adapt is more important than the gains from a narrow, specialized skillset. It only stands to reason that marketing will see a similar shift.

So if you’re new to marketing or trapped in a specialist marketing field, you should be concentrating on diversification.

But you don’t have the time to be good at everything. No one does. So what skills should you focus on?

There’s a skillset that sets the full-stack marketer apart from specialized marketers. I’ve detailed that skillset for you below.

If you can master the following skills, you’ll have a strong foundation on which to build the rest of your marketing expertise.

Master Excel


By this point, we all get that Excel is important. It’s on every resume I’ve ever read, and it’s one of the most popular topics for online learning. We may hate it, but the world is run on Excel spreadsheets.

excel

And yet I’m still shocked by the sheer lack of knowledge people have in Excel. Just a few hours of training or self-learning could free up literal HOURS of their days. Instead, they stick to spending hours doing manual tasks that a single Excel formula could handle in seconds.

Rule of thumb: every time you find yourself repeating a task, Google it and learn the faster way to do it. It might take longer initially, but eventually you will a) be able to complete repeated tasks faster, and b) learn unfamiliar tasks quicker.

vlookup

Excel is so important to us at Ladder that you literally can’t get a job as a marketer without some baseline knowledge in how to use it.

It’s such an important part of our hiring process that we even created an Excel test that every prospective hire has to take before landing a job with us.

If you want to see our Excel test, check out our post detailing our hiring process.

And that’s just for baseline metrics like using pivot tables, sorting, etc… The more complex stuff comes later in our work, and for that we have an Excel tutorial.

I can’t stress enough how important this is — the returns in productivity are so great, there is almost no such thing as wasted investment when you’re learning how to use Excel better. So do it – use our Excel tutorial, or find a course on Coursera or Udemy and get started. It’s never been easier to learn.


Become a Blogger


Everyone and their dog seems to blog nowadays, and with millions of posts out there, who will read yours?

Realistically, nobody really needs to read your blog for it to be a useful exercise, because it does three things for you:

Proves to future employers that you’re motivated and knowledgeable


Writing a blog shows that you’re eager to both learn more about your field and share your knowledge and expertise. You don’t have to have decades of experience to bring new thoughts and ideas to the table. And even if you don’t gather a base of regular readers, sharing your writing with your employers is a great way to signal yourself as a candidate that’s not just going to phone it in every day.

Improves your ability to summarize and simplify complex concepts


Think of a hyper-complex topic that you just understand natively. Now sit down and outline how you actually get it done. Not easy, is it?

Writing & blogging is a great training exercise for this process. Forcing yourself to boil down a complex topic into a readable, digestible blog post is a great way to practice writing for the layman. Yes, you may know your work better than anyone else, but being able to convey it to others is equally as important.

This helps you in every aspect of being a marketer, from getting practice at writing better copy to being able to simplify your messaging so it’s understandable to your audience and beyond. And hey, if it helps you talk about your weekly marketing performance metrics without your boss losing interest, you’ve already won a major battle.

Makes you better at researching and learning about new topics


When you start blogging, you might find you have no idea what to write about. That’s ok. Just write – you’ll find the more you do it, the better you are at researching new topics to write about. You’ll learn how to use advertising campaigns, search engine traffic, and social media to guide your topic choices. And as you do that, you’ll start producing blog posts that are relevant to a wider audience.

blogging

So even if nobody reads your blog, you have something to show off on your resume, you get better at writing emails, ad copy, and landing pages, and you improve your ability to learn. Eventually when your blog does get moderate traffic, you’ll start to learn what engages users (and what doesn’t), you’ll start to build a network, and you’ll learn about how to drive free traffic via SEO and social media (an ability that all business owners revere as Godlike).

Talk to Real Customers


It sounds so obvious but I’m surprised time-and-time again by how little marketers talk to real customers.

Yes, I know it can be painful explaining the basics of the internet to someone for the 5th time, but speaking to real customers is an essential reminder of the following truism:

You are ABNORMALLY KNOWLEDGEABLE about your product.

You live, work and breathe your product. You’re more technical than 90% of the population —even if you (in your mind) massively over-simplify everything you do, it’ll still feel overly-complex to the majority of users.

So start reaching out and talking to real customers. Send out surveys, ask for phone calls, take them out for coffee or lunch. Do what you need to do to learn from your customers.

I wrote about this in my recent post about validating business ideas, and while that may be aimed at entrepreneurs, the lesson remains the same for marketers. Here are a few questions you should be seeking to answer by talking to your customers:

  • What problem do your customers actually want solving?
  • What language do they use when they talk about it?
  • What are their hopes, fears, concerns and expectations?
  • Who are the competition? Where do they fall down?
  • Where would prospects look to find a solution like yours?

Gather that information and adapt your marketing strategy to reflect what your customers actually want rather than what you assume they need. And as you do that, you’ll learn one of the most important skills of a full-stack marketer – putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.

Learn Basic HTML, CSS, & JavaScript


You’ve probably read over and over why you should learn to code, but the argument is getting more and more compelling.

Simply knowing enough JavaScript to understand tracking tags can make you look like a wizard when you spot errors and mistakes. Being slightly technical and understanding how the internet works can get you into the right conversations and will make you look less hopeless to your tech team.

html code

I once figured out that a stretch ‘purchases from social’ goal had been hit months ago. We had no idea. Why? I looked into the tracking that was firing and realized that certain visits were being miscategorized. Awkward and embarrassing, but in the long run, that sort of insight makes you look good and helps you allocate budget more efficiently.

Not sure where to start? Begin with HTML and CSS, then move on to Javascript. Codecademy is free and easy for most people to handle, so there’s no real excuse. And there are plenty of more advanced options like online courses and coding bootcamps. It’s a smart investment that can bring immense returns for your career, turning you into a real technical marketer.

codecademy

Think About User Experience


This last one is the easiest to do, because you do it on a daily basis. You use websites, you download mobile apps, and you sign up to email newsletters just going through your day-to-day life. Whether you know it or not, every time you do so you learn something new from them.

Start deliberately thinking about what was good or bad about those experiences. What made you sign up? Why did that ad work, while that other one didn’t? Why does that landing page suck? How can they make it better?

Compare your experiences and think about ways to improve them and your own marketing approaches. You’ll soon come up with a ton of great ideas and start to instinctively sense when an upcoming product change might cause a problem. A better product directly improves the performance of your marketing efforts so anything you can do to improve your landing page, identify bugs to fix or rationalize the user’s workflow will pay back dividends.

Pro tip: Peek by UserTesting has an enormous library of videos showing people using and doing teardowns of landing pages, web apps, mobile apps, and more. It’s a great place to learn how customers and first-time site visitors react to design and marketing choices.

usertesting peek

Advanced: Learn Data Science


You don’t have to go super in-depth with the field of data science, but the ability to do some data analysis with SQL, Python, and R will bring you a whole leap ahead of your peers. This will help you not only better analyze, but also create more detailed and higher-quality data visualizations with tools like Mode Analytics.

Data science is a bit more complex to learn, but bootcamps and online courses exist that can help you get started. This can be more of a long-term career goal to really tie together your skillset as a full-stack marketer.

Bonus: Create Your Own Marketing Stack


Why do things manually when so many high-quality SaaS tools exist to automate those dreary, manual labor moments of your work. Figure out your own stack of marketing software tools to make your life easier, from automating analytics reporting to easy website sharing plugins and more.

Not sure where to start? We shared the most important parts of ours, including JACK, our own marketing recommendation engine / marketing plan builder. Feel free to steal from our stack as you wish, and if you need to create a smart workflow around your marketing tests, try a free 2-week trial of JACK:

Bonus: Develop a Growth Hacking Process


All of the above is meaningless if you have a meandering, aimless growth and marketing testing process. It took us a long time to develop, but the way we manage our heavy client workload at Ladder is through a smart growth hacking process.

This is our weekly process:

Monday Analysis
Tuesday Strategy
Wednesday Approval
Thursday Execution
Friday Learning

Developing your own is critical to executing smart marketing tests. And part of being an effective full-stack marketer is having a deliberate, repeatable, scalable marketing process.

Create your own process (or steal ours!), power it with effective growth strategies, and combine your technical, writing, sales, and marketing knowledge into one powerful full-stack marketing skillset.

It’s Worth It (I Promise!)


All of these tasks require a time investment, but they all reap the maximum reward for your patience. Spending some time on them outside of work will pay back handsomely by making you better at your day job and maybe even cutting down the amount of time you need to spend AT work (I know that mastering Excel cut about 10 hours a week off my workload).

After all, if you learn this stuff now, you’re going to look great and are more likely to get promoted or be able to move horizontally. If you wait till you’re required to know this stuff… you’re going to have a bad time.


At Ladder, we build software and offer services to help high-potential businesses accelerate their growth. Is that something you need?