MTM Ep#12: Why the best marketers are T-shaped with Ameet Luhar

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Welcome back to another episode of More Than Marketing. I’m your host, Arsham Mirshah. I’m here with Ameet Luhar today. We’re gonna be discussing what we here at WebMechanix refer to as a “T-shaped marketer” meaning someone who is broadly capable across many areas of marketing and has one or more areas they are deeply knowledgeable in, hence the T-shape.


[Ameet Luhar] We’re under pressure, we have challenges, we have goals that we are trying to achieve, but that make us no different from anyone else we’re working with or working for.

[Arsham Mirshah] Hey! Welcome back to another episode of More Than Marketing. I’m your host, Arsham Mirshah. I’m joined by none other than Ameet.

– Ameet Luhar. Yeah you take it over! Go ahead, you do it.

– Okay, sorry to steal your thunder, man. Yeah, you know better than me. Go for it, go for it.

– I’ll just leave, it’s okay. I don’t need to be here, I’m just messing with you.

– I need the host! I’m gonna start dancing, or what am I gonna do?

– Ameet, Ameet, lot of respect for this guy. He is an account director here but he started off in the trenches of digital marketing. Actually, you did our academy.

– That’s right! That’s where I got started.

– That’s where you got started, and that’s very applicable to this episode because we are gonna be talking about.

– T-shaping.

– T-shaping!

– The importance of T-shaping, how to build a better agency with t-shaping.

– And I would say, how to build a better agency, how to build a better marketing team, or how to be a better marketer yourself.

– Exactly. It’s all about becoming an expert in one particular area, really honing your craft there, but using that to develop an understanding of other disciplines, other channels, things that are gonna help make you as productive as possible professionally, and with the folks you’re collaborating with everyday.

– So let’s do this. So what we’re talking about here is a concept called the t-shaped marketer. This concept very broadly is, imagine a T, there’s a horizontal line at the top and then a vertical line at the bottom, and they connect, whatever. So the horizontal line at the top, what is that representative of to you?

– Yeah, so what that means to me is having, as I mentioned before that fundamental understanding of other practice areas related to your organization or your business–

– So giving communities practice areas. I like to say marketing channels.

– Yeah, so in the marketing world, for me that means, I came in and was a paid media expert. So Google Ads, social ads, that was really my bread and butter. But I need to understand how that interplays with SEO, with conversion on a website.

– With email.

– With development tracking, analytics that goes back to closed loop, down funnel, bottom line business revenue types of results.

– Got it.

– It’s a combination of understanding paid media but knowing how all those other areas are coming back into play to make a business run every single day.

– No, I love it, I love it. So Ameet comes in, does our academy, and during the academy, we touched on all these different, what to us as an agency would be a service line, but in digital marketing, you call it a discipline, or in marketing, you might call it a channel, right? So in our world, search engine optimization, email marketing, paid media, marketing automation, conversion rate optimization, these are all different channels, disciplines, skills, that we want our people to have at least baseline understanding of what they are and what makes them tick. And then, that’s the top of the T, right? That’s horizontal.

– Yeah!

– And then we want you to go deep in one or two, or if you’re really badass, you go– You become a block.

– Yeah, exactly.

– Block-shaped marketers!

– Yeah, block-shaped marketer.

– All right!

– So a good time to be a square.

– That’s good.

– Now, kinda taking a step back and thinking about why this is important in the first place. The tech sector, in and of itself is growing at an unimaginable speed. I was just taking a look the other day. It makes up approximately 5% of US GDP, the tech sector.

– Whoa, really?

– Which doesn’t seem like a lot but when you’re factoring the fact that US GDP is in the trillions of dollars.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

– That’s not chump change anymore that we are talking about.

– No, wow.

– And, all of those organizations, companies that are contributing to that, and we certainly contribute to that–

– True.

– To that, in many facets. But those are clients at the end of the day. They’re trying to grow fast, we gotta grow fast with ’em, and the only way that we’re gonna be able to do that is by really developing, embracing, and building around t-shaped marketers. So a lot of what I wanted to talk about today was not just the definition of it or how that relates to Agile, which is something that is really big.

– Important too, right, sure.

– Yeah, plenty of organizations. But why that’s important for you and why that’s important for me as leadership, as a team member in an agency, what do I get out of being a t-shaped marketer? And why should I care about it? And likewise, what makes it so great for you to try and embrace that or build a organization around it?

– You’re doing the host’s job. You just asked the questions. Now you can just answer ’em. Let me, just repeat what you said. Ameet, what– Ameet, why is it important to you to be a t-shaped?

– I’m just trying to be a t-shaped, man. I’m trying to widen that T.

– You tried to crossover.

– Interviewee, be the host a little bit, I’m trying to do–

– Go operate the camera too, why don’t you? Tony, get out of here.

– Yeah, right?

– No, but that’s good man, that’s good. This is fun.

– As I knew it would be.

– Cool!

– But yeah, let’s do it man, why is important? I mean, I can think of several things but I wanna hear from you.

– Yeah, so, I’m glad you mentioned that. I actually wanted to get your take or your perspective first and really break down why this seems like a good investment as leadership within an agency. And then from there, talk a little bit more about my own perspective and chime in with my own personal thoughts.

– Okay, all right. So you’re asking me now, right?

– Yeah, exactly.

– All right, so here it goes. I think that the t-shape is important for many, many, many, many reasons. One of the most important ones though is it really boils down to communication, okay? You can’t superman or superwoman and get everything. You can’t be the best designer, the best developer, the best SEO, the best paid media support, you can’t be the best email marketer. If you are, show me that and I’ll show you an anomaly or I’ll show you a figment of your imagination. So the point is teamwork makes dream work so why I wanna see and build t-shaped marketers is because I want people to be able to understand what goes into a certain channel or understand how to communicate with an expert of a certain channel to get it done, to get the work done, to post the results, to get that traffic, get that conversion, get that lead, get that sale. So communication’s probably the number one thing and a lot goes into that teamwork. Do you see that from your position?

– Yeah. I see that a lot, and connecting the dots there between the leadership side and more of that team or execution side of things, I really think it comes down to performing at a high level. Because we’re working at organizations–

– Sure.

– That are growing, constantly pushing the envelope. They expect the very same from us.

– I agree.

– And for people to be able to execute at a high level consistently across a variety of different clients and different verticals, trying to achieve different goals simultaneously, we’re gonna need those experts that you talked about. We can’t spend time becoming experts in all areas ’cause it’s impossible, but we can help create an environment that helps all of those experts learn from each other, collaborate, and share their knowledge to, again, perform at a high level. But thinking about it from a personal standpoint, the reason I think it is important to try and cultivate that T is because we don’t know what our career path is gonna look like at the end of the day, but you do know that you’re gonna need a variety of different skills to make it regardless of the path that you take. So when I’m thinking about a t-shape, in my mind, that means essentially building a resume that I can be proud of and know that regardless of what happens in this unknown future that’s ahead of us, I’m going to have something that I can fall back on, rely on, or that’s at least gonna make me valuable to the team I’m on today and the team I’m on tomorrow too. I see that you love that. I love that too.

– Many hearts, man, because this is so funny. What you just said about kind of building the resume and feeling equipped, that was gonna be my next point.

– Cool.

– In this ever-changing world, I don’t care if you have 15 years of experience, or 15 seconds of experience. This industry, digital marketing, especially marketing advertising is changing faster than your underwear, right? So you gotta change with it. Change is the only constant.

– That’s right.

– Having that kind of breath of understanding of the different channels or disciplines gives you that ability. But also, let’s say you have 15 seconds of experience, or one year, or two, or five, that doesn’t mean that’s what you’re gonna do for the rest of your life. That’s another thing we do in our academy. We’d love for everyone to get an exposure to all of the different disciplines such that they can say, you know what? I really love email. I wanna be the best darn email marketer that there is so I’m gonna go deep that vertical line in that particular service or discipline. So yes, you nailed it. And then, to your point about performing at a high level, that’s exactly right. I think my comment about communication and what I was really trying to say. If we have really good communication across different teams that are experts, that are specialists in the different disciplines, that’s where you’re going to get high performance, right?

– Yeah.

– As soon as you have one breakdown in communication, you know what happens. It all just tumbles from there.

– Yeah, and building off of that idea, we embrace that here at WebMechanix. I love that. I’m kinda connecting back to what you said about change being the only constant. This isn’t the first time I heard you say that. That’s one of the many Arsham lines that I remember, whether I’m here at the office, out at a client’s site, whatever it may be.

– Change is the only constant, and that Arsham saying that phrase is a constant too.

– See, a second constant, right?

– Yeah, second constant.

– Two laws at WebMechanix.

– I’m sorry. I’m sorry I cut you off, man.

– Nah, you’re good. With that in mind, knowing that change is the only constant, that doesn’t mean that the economy around us is the thing that’s changing and WebMechanix just kinda has to move with it. What that means to me is that everything that’s happening within these walls, it’s also subject to evolve, grow, change, adapt in order to meet our own business goals, as well as our clients’ goals.

– Absolutely.

– And why I thought this topic was so important was because it’s really what shaped my career path to where I am today. Like we talked about, I was a a paid media guy, really behind the scenes, really clicking numbers, changing bids, looking at budgets, monitoring, lead tracking, and now I find myself more on the client-facing side, and the only way that I was able to successfully transition from someone who was behind the scenes working more with strategy and numbers, to someone who is now translating those type of requests from a clients into tangible results with the team was by getting that experience first-hand and what that takes. So again, really big concept here that I want us to dive into a little bit more. So to that end, I kinda wanted your take on some of the things that we do here that you think are important to kinda cultivate that type of environment.

– Oh, yeah. I mean, you know what we do. Yeah, so I love what you just said. I think what makes you a great account director or client-facing, in that client-facing role is the fact that you were a practitioner. You’re not just a, I don’t know, slick talker, just someone who’s really good with people but doesn’t understand what it takes to do the actual work.

– The I’ll-get-back-to-you guy.

– Yeah, you’re not the I’ll-get-back-to-you guy, you’re the, oh, I actually know the answer to that question, and in fact, let me give you some strategic answers as it pertains to your business, your industry, ’cause I’ve done this before and I know what it takes to do this. Or they’re like, hey, how long is that gonna take? Well, you can give a knowledgeable answer to that ’cause you’ve done it.

– You know what’s involved.

– I think that’s, for me, as a agency owner, that’s very important because we wanna deliver that legendary service, how else are we gonna do that then if we’re always saying I’ll get back to you, I don’t know, or I’m just the account manager, shooting you, our client, away from our productions tablets. That’s why it’s important to us as an agency but it’s also, I think, important, again, if you are in house or if you wanna manage, say you wanna be a manager, say you’re a CMO or a VP and you’re managing a team of marketers, you gotta understand the different disciplines. You have to be curious. We got Jeff Goldscher–

– That’s right, yeah!

– On this podcast. He said one of the skills, one of the five skills in his mind that a CMO needs to have is curiosity.

– That’s right.

– Right? You gotta be curious about the different channels. What can work for my business? What should I completely ignore? Maybe I don’t need Snapchat advertising for this B-to-B company that I’m at the helm of bargaining for.

– You don’t want the specs?

– Okay, the specs are cool. But yeah, let’s talk about how. Let’s talk about how. So curiosity is a trait that you need to have, always be learning, and then, I think where the rubber meets the road there is training.

– Yeah.

– Right? It’s training. It’s seeking out training for different disciplines, right?

– That’s right.

– Us, you know what we do, we do the academy, we also do regular scheduled trainings. Well, we say that, if there’s a training on, let’s say, account management, then the account managers are required but everyone else is optional. And they’re encouraged! Hey, yeah. If you have the time, you should come because you should understand what your fellow account managers are doing.

– Yeah, exactly.

– ‘Cause maybe you wanna be one one day.

– That’s right.

– So seeking out that training, there’s a ton of it online, we have a ton of it online. Just happy to see the web be a better place so if that means giving the training out, then that’s what it means.

– Yeah, I think you hit on a lot of those big things. I have three ideas in mind.

– Give it to me.

– About, yeah what I can do as a team member to really push this forward and make sure that I’m holding myself accountable for that t-shaped growth.

– Okay.

– So certainly, the environment that I’m working in, putting the support levers in place or the training outlets in place, those are things I do rely on leadership or the agency team, to be providing.

– Sure.

– But I gotta come to the table with a couple of things myself. The first of those things is certainly embracing challenges. The only way that we’re gonna learn or try something new is by getting our hands dirty, rolling up our sleeves, and kinda figuring it out on our own. We luckily have resources here, experts here, that we can rely on to get information, help us understand a concept we don’t understand, but the onus is really on the individual to ask those questions, find that problem that doesn’t have a solution yet, and then work towards it. So that’s the first thing I think is important.

– I’ll agree.

– That second thing is that entrepreneurial mindset. This is something that, similar to change is the only constant, something that I really learned and appreciate about working so closely with you is that you’ve taught us that the goal of the agency is to provide tangible business value.

– That’s right.

– The only way that we’re gonna understand tangible business value is thinking like a business owner.

– That’s right!

– And if we can do that successfully, we can apply any type of marketing strategy, any type of best practices, any types of solutions, to a problem that’s on our way, ’cause we’re thinking of all the millions of possibilities and all the potential that’s available rather than what I’m limited to with my specific skill set.

– Inside my box. And I’ll expand on that real quick before you get to your number three. Maybe the best recommendation for your client is not which of our services you should use. Maybe it’s, hey, have you thought about building a partner channel for example.

– Exactly.

– Have you thought about getting distribution through a different channel that’s not marketing or advertising-related? And you’re only gonna have that thought if you’re thinking like a business owner or like, if this was my business, what would I do type of thing. So I’m glad that you recognize that and embrace that as a mentality. I think it serves you very well and I hope that it, if this is new to any of the listeners, that that would be something that you embrace as well.

– Yeah, and last but not least, number three–

– Your number three.

– The most human piece of it all is having empathy. The way that I see–

– That’s good.

– Into being a successful t-shaped marketer is understanding we’re under pressure, we have challenges, we have goals that we’re trying to achieve, but that makes us no different from anyone else we’re working with or working for.

– Right.

– Particularly with those cross-functional teams that make T-shaping so important and so successful, we have to understand the pressures of all the other experts in the room with us. If we don’t know what they’re going through, if we can’t sympathize or empathize with the challenges that they’re trying to work through as well and have an understanding for that as we’re trying to accomplish a common goal, no one’s gonna get anything done.

– That’s right.

– We’re all gonna silo ourselves off, and then that leads to–

– Communication’s gonna breakdown.

– Huge breakdown.

– Because we don’t have that empathy for one another.

– Exactly.

– Now, instead of moving forward, we’re moving sideways or even backwards. No, I completely agree.

– It’s a lot of competition that can be avoided by opening up those walls, making sure that communication’s open. Everyone feels like they can be approached and approach others, and feel like they won’t get a piece bitten out of them.

– Exactly, yeah! Barking, coming in barking hot, and just chomping, no. Very, very good last point the empathy one because you also do need specialists.

– Exactly.

– While we’re sitting here talking about t-shaping, I wanna be very clear. T-shaped, it’s understanding the different disciplines, then going deep in one or two, maybe even three, but when you’re dealing with someone who is a specialist, let’s say they don’t have that broad T and they’re specialists, you still need them on your team, so you gotta come at them with that empathetic and you have to ask open-ended questions, I think. As opposed to hey, I need this done. I don’t care what you’re busy, you know what I mean? It seems really easy. Just copy and paste the last landing page. It’s like, no, hold on, this takes time. You don’t know what they’re dealing with.

– Exactly.

– So yeah. And I think also we talk about t-shape, I wanna make sure this is not confused, with, hey, you now have to know everything about everything. That’s not what we’re talking about.

– True.

– Right? It is very important to have specialized knowledge in a space or two because if you don’t, then you’re just, I don’t know. Then your strategies and your tactics are gonna be death by a thousand cuts.

– That’s right.

– You gotta have specialists that come together, that team that comes together, that puts together that winning campaign or that strategy that just blows the competition out of the water. It’s that home run, not just singles and doubles which are great, don’t get me wrong.

– Yeah, absolutely.

– But that’s where that bringing the teams together, high-performing teams, right?

– That’s right.

– This is an awesome topic. We can go on forever, but I think we’re gonna leave it here. So any closing thoughts? T-shaped marketing important?

– Yeah, absolutely important. Don’t stop developing that T, make sure you have an environment that cultivates it, and if you don’t, help create it.

– Yeah, help create it. You’re just stealing all my words!

– I know, I know.

– Help create it! Look, if you’re a marketer inside an organization, you have a boss, to what Ameet said, onus is on you. So go out there, find the training that you wanna take, and bring it to your boss and say, hey, would you reimburse me for this? At the very least, what’s gonna happen? They’re gonna say no, but they’re gonna see that you have that drive, you have that ambition. I think that’s great in and of itself, right? At the best they’re like, hey, yeah, I’ll reimburse your for that and go to this conference and take this other training and now, you’re just getting invested into, right? And if you’re a manager, hey, this is a call out to you to up your training and create that environment to perform highly than that.

– That’s right.

– Cool! Put it here, my man. Appreciate your time, Ameet. Thank you all for listening. Comment, like, share, subscribe, do all the things and we’ll see you on another episode in the future.

Ameet Luhar

Ameet Luhar

Arsham Mirshah

Arsham MirshahCEO & Co-Founder

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