“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one” – Haley Marie Craig
Table of Contents
What is Full Stack Marketing?
The term of ‘Full-stack’ has its origins in the developer world and it is used to define a software developer who can work in any layer of the technology stack, from back-end to integrations, from UX to HTML. Full-Stack developers are rarely experts in any one area of engineering, though they have enough skills and understanding that they can quickly and effectively execute on everything from front-end development to server architecture. Full-stack marketing is derived from the same concept and in the same way it is used to define marketers who can work in any layer of the marketing stack.
The main reason startups and SMEs love ”full-stacking” is the cost. A startup usually can’t afford to have a VP of Marketing because they do not have a marketing team but still they need someone to oversee marketing as early traction is very important for startups. The same way, they can’t hire a CRO specialist because their marketing spending is not that big or they can’t hire a social media specialist because social media is a small part of what they do but still they need social media management. The solution that startups and SMEs usually go to is ”full-stack marketing”, meaning a few hours of social media management every week, a couple of hours content marketing, another couple for SEO and PCC so on.
Also, as the costs of starting up have decreased, the role of a non-engineer in early-stage startups has grown. It is no longer a big deal to launch a startup or a company but it is even harder to stand out amongst others. This is why startups and SMEs need full-stack marketers to create crucial early traction.
It’s never been easier to start a business, but it’s never been harder to succeed.
“The number one reason that we pass on entrepreneurs we’d otherwise like to back is they’re focusing on product to the exclusion of everything else. Many entrepreneurs who built great products simply don’t have a good distribution strategy. Even worse is when they insist that they don’t need one, or call [their] no distribution strategy a “viral marketing strategy.” – Marc Andreessen
Full stack marketing refers to the type of skills, mindset and approaches some marketers are capable of because they are knowledgeable about and can refer to all levels of the marketing “stack”.
There are also other terms that are used interchangeably with full-stack marketing; such as “growth hacking”, “T-shaped marketing”, ”marketing ninja”, ”guerrilla marketing” “multi-level marketing”, “technical marketing”, “data marketing”, “startup marketing” and so on. However, there are a few key differences between full stack marketing and these concepts.
First of all, the terms like ”marketing ninja”, ”guerrilla marketing” and “marketing guru” are not concepts. They are a joke. In fact, whenever I receive a submission that says they are looking for a “marketing ninja” or “guru”, I know right away that it is probably not a serious company and it usually turns out to be a clueless startup founder or a pre-revenue one person business.
The closest concepts to full-stack marketing are “growth hacking” and “T-shaped marketing“. Any marketer who is identified with one of these terms is probably a dynamic, data-driven and adaptive marketer. However, their styles and skills are different.
A growth hacker is mostly focused on the top of the funnel (website visits, app users, email subscribers) and things that scale. A full-stack marketer does things that both scale and don’t scale such as tweaking an HTML code, digital PR and positioning. Growth hacking is usually done by zero-budget, so there is no investment, no return of investment, no optimization, no CRO, it is more immediate and the main goal is to score early wins. Full-stack marketing is more methodical and holistic, it uses more resources and requires more optimization and focused more on finding and identifying repeatable processes. The main difference between the two I believe, growth hacking is done solely for ”growth”, the maximum amount of growth in the minimum amount of time, using the minimum amount of budget. Full stack marketing is more layered and focused on several goals such as more revenue, more conversions, more touch-points, better conversion rate.
T-shaped marketing is also a close concept to full stack marketing. T-shaped marketing means a broad set of marketing knowledge and skill set but with a deep specialism in a particular area. If a T-shaped marketer is specialized in CRO (I of T) then he would spend 90% of this time with CRO-related activities and 10% to 2 other marketing activities. A full-stack marketer, however, can divide his time 7 different marketing activity. T-shaped marketing is more about the depth and breadth of marketing abilities. Full-stack marketing is more about having a broad range of different skills.
Who is a Full Stack Marketer?
Full-stack marketer is the term that’s used to describe the marketers who are capable of wearing multiple hats rather than just specializing in one area of marketing. They do not have expert knowledge in all areas of marketing but they do not have a weak spot as well. They have enough practical knowledge of all areas of marketing to run marketing campaigns from end to end.
Similar to full-stack developers, full-stack marketers can handle a range of marketing disciplines. Unlike traditional marketers, full-stack marketers are multi-skilled, they have the vision to get projects off the ground and they have a working knowledge of all of the modern marketing tactics. They use that knowledge to create initial traction and momentum with limited resources.
If you are a company/startup and looking to hire a full-stack marketer:
Full stack marketers are ideal first non-technical startup hires as “marketer who can do it all”. They are often found in founding roles at startups as well. It’s their broad skill-set, flexibility and handiness and ability to deliver results with limited resources makes them the best fit for startups and small companies.
The Silicon Valley skill set that should be in highest demand and greatest scarcity is neither engineering nor design, but rather internet marketing. – Dave McClure
Full-stack marketers are usually found in startups and companies with a-few headcounts, just like full-stack engineers. The first and obvious reason for this is the full stack marketer’s ability to wearing many hats, hence lowering the operational costs. In the early days, most startups need broad (not specific) skills and people who can wear many hats because they cannot afford a big team. So rather than hiring a PR expert and outsourcing all other marketing tasks, hiring aa “full stack marketer” who can be effective across multiple channels is a smarter decision for most startups.
Full-stack marketers (the good ones, obviously) bring rapid progress as they can handle everything single-handedly and execute growth strategies with limited resources.
Full-stack marketers understand what is starting from scratch like and what is required to get a project off the ground. There is a difference between working in a small startup and a big corporation. If you take a Facebook engineer who is building a product for 2 billion people to use — put him in charge of a startup trying to get its first 100 users and running out of money in 3-months, he will struggle. What is important in early-stage startups is experimenting and being fast, not scaling.
You have to give up something in order to get something.
This should be obvious, but full-stack marketers are not as strong as specialists in specific fields. This is the trade-off for having such a broad knowledge.
A full stack marketer will take you from 0 to 90 and establish early traction but to go from 90 to 100, you will need to hire domain experts to optimize the marketing channels most important for your company to achieve depth and most probably let the full-stack marketer go. This is called “the curse of full-stack marketer”; if he fails, he is fired; if he scores early wins for the startup and gain traction, sometimes he is promoted to a VP or a C-level position; but most of the time he is still fired because as the startup gets bigger, there is less of role for them.
The single biggest mistake that companies make is expecting a full-stack marketer to have an “expert” level of knowledge in all areas of the marketing stack. There is no such thing. I am certainly not an expert in every single skill in the marketing stack yet I can deliver impressive results. I have seen so many marketers who are “barely” skilled yet tries different things and focus on what works and creates early traction. In fact, I have never seen someone who is an expert in every single skill in the marketing stack. No marketer will ever be an expert in every single skill in the marketing stack. Being “good enough” and flexible is all it takes.
It is also important to understand that there is no magic bullet and no full-stack marketer is a guru. If marketers existed who could walk into any business and triple the revenue over a weekend, they would be billionaires themselves by building businesses here and there rather than talking to Mr. Startup Founders. Marketing is a mostly a numbers game and as in any numbers game, it is important to be realistic. You also have to work closely with the marketer especially during the early stages strategy creating and business model validation. Additionally, if your business requires a live interaction to close a sale, you MUST create an effective communication channel between the marketer and the sales team.
Full-stack marketers can still be a good fit for large companies and bring lots of different valuable experience if they are given a position that fits their skill set. Still, I know for a fact that many full-stack marketers would prefer to work for a 3-person startup where they have more freedom than an FT500 company, mainly because it is a challenge, it is more exciting.
If you are a Full-stack marketer (or, planning to be one):
As a full-stack marketer, you are basically a one-person marketing team or a one-person marketing agency. There will be high expectations and you should be able to deliver. Personal qualities like responsibility, neatness, persuasiveness and reliability play are as important as technical skills. You are expected to do lots of different things obviously but you always have #1 goal, such as more leads, more sales or more revenue.
Capitalism rewards things that are valuable and rare. Full-stack marketers make themselves valuable by being “very good” in lots of skills.
The biggest mistake you can do as a full stack marketer is trying to be an expert in every single layer of the marketing stack. Surely you should know the best practices, know how to reach, engage and create more touch-points using a variety of tactics and tools, but it is not about being excellent at everything. It would take years to become great at any of these things. Decades to be an expert. You only need to know enough to put something in place to build from. and be able to get the ball rolling with one or two successful tactics early on to get early traction.
You also have to be a collaborator and know when to take a step back and hand over to someone with specialist skills. You will never be better at one skill than a specialized expert and when it is time you ask for help, you have to ask for help.
Full-stack marketers are often found in startup environments, where they feel more comfortable. This is why it is important to know what the startups usually look for in an early marketing hire, which is “knowing it all”. You don’t have to be good at everything, but you have to have enough theoretical and practical knowledge at all levels of the marketing stack to be considered a perfect startup hire.
You have to be a “doer”. In the startup scene, everything changes so fast and you must be able to adapt. Also, as you will not be given a working funnel or a validated lead and sales generation system in place, you must be able to implement and test different things and quickly kill what does not work and double down on what works.
No matter how good you get in all marketing-stacks, you will always have a background. For example, if you have a ”web designer” background, you will be a ‘full-stack marketer with designer mindset’ type”. It is okay to be better in some areas of marketing stacks as long as you don’t have a clear weakness. For example. you can’t be very good in web design, copywriting and social media marketing but have no idea what conversion rate optimization is. If you are, then you are a T-shaped marketer, not a full-stack marketer.
Being a full stack marketer is not only a title but also a mindset. In marketing, very little stays the same for long and no one can afford to focus purely on one area of the marketing mix. Any marketer that isn’t constantly learning is likely to fall behind quickly. Staying on top of things is one of the most important qualities of a full stack marketer which means you can never stop learning.
Skill Set of a Full-Stack Marketer
Also Known As / Related Terms: Human Psychology
“…to cope with the terrifying reality of being alone in the universe, people project themselves on the outside world. They “live” in the arena of books, movies, television, newspapers, magazines. They “belong” to clubs, organizations, institutions.” These outside representations of the world seem more real than the reality inside their own minds…”
Understanding marketing starts with understanding people. Before you learn about any marketing activity, you have to learn why marketing is performed. In order to design and market something to someone having a basic behavioral psychology knowledge is very important.
Gaining this knowledge helps you to understand better why people do what they do and how you can get them to buy, subscribe, click, share, follow, like and so on.
Learn: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
Learn: Psychology for Marketers
Learn: Marketing Psychology: 10 Revealing Principles of Human Behavior by HubSpot
Learn: 6 Psychology Studies with Marketing Implications by Brett Langlois
Learn: 9 Human Traits to Keep in Mind while Building your Online Marketing Strategy
Marketing Fundamentals, Branding and Positioning and Strategy
Also Known As / Related Terms: Marketing Planning, Strategic Marketing Planning, Product-Market fit
The person who know “how” will always report to the person who knows “why.”
Most of the digital marketers are clueless in marketing theory but learning fundamentals of marketing, marketing planning, branding, positioning, and strategy help you to position your product or service relative to other products and service and deliver your key messages more effectively to your target audience.
Learn: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing – the book – my blog post about the book
Learn: Marketing Fundamentals Linkedin Learning Course by Drew Body [Free]
Learn: HubSpot Academy
Learn: Google Digital Garage
Learn: Startup Playbook by Sam Altman
Learn: The Definitive Guide to Strategic Marketing Planning by Smartsheet
Learn: The Complete Guide to Marketing Strategies: Risks, Rewards, and Investments by Alexa
Learn: A Simple Guide to Measuring the Product-Market Fit of Your Product or Feature
The basic issue in marketing is not convincing prospects that you have a better product or service. The basic issue in marketing is creating a category you can be first in.
Business Development & Partnerships
Because startups and SMEs usually don’t have the luxury to employ specific people for business development and partnership, full stack marketers often take business development responsibilities as well. It will come handy to learn the principles of networking for business growth and collaborations for partnership.
Learn: Business Development Foundations Linkedin Learning Course by Robbie Kellman Baxter [Free]
Learn: Corporate Development 101: What Every Startup Should Know by OnStartups
Learn: Biz Dev 101: An Interactive Workshop on How to Get Deals Done
Delegating / Hiring
As a full stack marketer, you have to know when to take a step back and bring a specialist help. If your marketing strategy needs two 5,000 words articles by the next week, then you have to find help for content creating. If your Adwords spending has grown enormously and you feel like you are not getting the most value from your ad spending, then you have to find a CRO expert to analyze your spending for 1-2 hours every week. You have to know where to know these people and how to vet their skills to make sure you will get help.
Tool: Freelancing Sites
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization is the biggest channel for driving traffic for most of the websites. It takes time and effort but if executed well, it brings a lot of value.
SEO is somewhat a red ocean by itself, but the basics are SEO audit, on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO. There is no excuse not to have at least a fundamental understanding and knowledge of these four pillars. A full-stack marketer must be good at SEO. This is non-debatable.
Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC)
Also Known As / Related Terms: Paid Advertising, Search Engine Marketing, Search Advertising, Display Advertising, Banner Advertising
Search marketing is arguably the best and quickest way to reach potential customers when their purchase intent is high. A full-stack marketer must have a good understanding and working experience of Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
Learn: Google Ads (AdWords) Essential Training by Brad Batesole [Free]
Learn: Your First 100 Adwords Conversions
Learn: The Ultimate Google Ads Guide by AdEspresso
Learn: Facebook Ads Guide by Facebook
Learn: Instagram Advertising Guide by Instagram
Learn: How to Use Twitter Ads Like a Pro by HootSuite
Learn: How to Run LinkedIn Ad Campaigns: A Beginner’s Guide by Hubspot
Learn: Quora Ads 101: How Do They Work & Why Digital Advertisers Need Them by Instapage
In 2019, there is no good marketing without content marketing. Content marketing is not only an effective way to deliver your key messages to your target audience but also the foundation of many SEO activities like link building and outreach.
As a full-stack marketer, you may not be the most creative writer but you should be able to handle the planning (keyword research + topic research) and distribution part of marketing and seek help for content creation.
Learn: This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin
Learn: Content Marketing Foundations by Dayna Rothman [Free]
Learn: A Definitive Guide to Content Marketing by Omer Ilyasli (that’s me!)
Learn: Why Content Marketing Fails by Rand Fishkin
Social Media Marketing (SMM)
You have to understand how to manage multiple social media platforms to identify, build and engage an audience as well as the fundamentals of advertising on social platforms.
The platforms that you use will depend heavily on your industry but a working knowledge of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Quora, Medium, Reddit is a must-have for a full-stack marketer.
Email marketing remains as arguably the best distribution channels for marketing. It is one channel that companies truly own.
A full-stack marketer should be able to know both the technical and tactical parts of creating, building, optimizing and harvesting mail lists to engage a target audience.
Learn: Email and Newsletter Marketing Foundations by Megan Adams [Free]
Learn: Email Marketing Field Guide by MailChimp
Learn: The Definitive Guide to Engaging Email Marketing by Marketo
Learn: Getting Started with Email Marketing by Campaign Monitor
1.9 billion people visit Youtube every month. If you don’t think this is a crazy number let me put it this way: 26% of all world population use Youtube every month.
No matter if you are working for a hi-tech startup or a local small business, you need video marketing.
App Store Marketing (Mobile Marketing)
Apps are almost in a downward trend as app creation proved to be costly and not that effective for most companies. But still, you have the grasp the principles of the app store marketing, such as ranking factors, optimization and guidelines.
Also Known As / Related Terms: Graphic Design, Web Design.
As a full stack marketer, you are not expected to be a design professional but you should be comfortable performing basic tasks using design tools. Having a good taste and an eye for design helps too.
Being able to create, maintain and optimize websites is a skill that separates a marketer from many. I strongly advise using a combination of WordPress and Elementor Page Builder, which is really a game-changer for non-technical people.
Whether a how-to guide or an interview, a tweet, a landing page, an email copy; a marketer is always in the motion of writing. That is why he should know how to create content both compelling and inspiring for people to take action.
Writing takes practice. The more you write the better you will get and “you fail only if you stop writing”.
Learn: Learning to Write Marketing Copy by Ian Lurie [Free]
Analytics and Reporting
In marketing, if you’re not looking at the numbers, you are going nowhere. You cannot improve what isn’t measured, so you must have an analytics setup knowledge and should be able to look at the numbers, extract the data you need for reporting and improve.
On a side note, you should master Excel and spreadsheets as well. You may hate it, but the world is run on spreadsheets. A mere few hours of Excel training can save you tens of hours in the long term.
Learn: Google Analytics Essential Training by Corey Koberg [Free]
Learn: Google Analytics Academy
Learn: The Beginner’s Guide to Startup Analytics by EduCBA
Learn: Startup Metrics for Pirates: AARRR by Dave McClure
Learn: 10 Useful Google Spreadsheet Formulas You Must Know by Woorkup
Learn: 11 Free Microsoft Excel Templates to Make Marketing Easier by HubSpot
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Also Known As / Related Terms: Funnel Marketing A/B Split Testing and Landing Page Optimization, User Experience (UX), UX Optimization
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the bottom-of-the-funnel marketing and it is about improving conversion rates of ads, landing pages, CTAs and content using specific tools and methods.
A savvy marketer should be able to use CRO tools and perform a broad range of optimizations, from A/B Testing and landing page optimization to automated optimizations and UX optimizations to improve key conversion metrics.
Learn: Learning Conversion Rate Optimization by Chris Goward [Free]
Learn: The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing by Unbounce
Learn: 71 Things to A/B Test by Optimizely
Learn: Effective A/B Testing Guide by Ben Tilly
Learn: Conversion Optimization Guide by ConversionXL
Learn: The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization by Qualaroo
This is an area where many digital marketers drop the ball.
Learn: Introduction to Web Design and Development by James Williamson [Free]
Learn: W3 Schools
Marketing Automation / Lifecycle Marketing
Also Known As / Related Terms: Funnel Marketing
Marketing automation is the process of setting automated tasks that guide potential customers during their journey. Lifecycle marketing is triggering messages to your potential customers that match their last action.
Though they are new technologies and mainly used in e-commerce at the moment, they are getting more widespread every day.
Learn: Lifecycle Marketing Foundations by John Jantsch [Free]
Learn: Sales Funnel in Favor of Lifecycle Marketing by Content Marketing Institute
Learn: Customer Lifecycle Marketing: The Complete Guide by Alexa
Learn: The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation by LeadSquared
Learn: The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation by Marketo
Remarketing and Retargeting
The famous marketing rule says that it takes seven “touches” before someone will internalize your message and decide to act upon your call to action. Modern statistics now confirm that about half of website visitors visit a website 3 to 5 times before taking an action. As a full-stack marketer, you should know how to re-target those people, create more touchpoints and remind them about your product or service.
Affiliate Marketing – Influencer Marketing
Though it does not work in all industries, Affiliate Marketing is a way to score quick wins in some certain industries. Affiliate marketing does not take too much learn to learn as it is mostly legwork but still comprehending some basic is useful.
Learn: Affiliate Marketing Foundations by Evgenii “Geno” Prussakov [Free]
Learn: Marketing Foundations: Influencer Marketing by Evgenii “Geno” Prussakov [Free]
Learn: Affiliate Marketing Navigator Blog by Geno Prussakov
Learn: Learn Affiliate Marketing For Free by Affiliate Marketer Training
Full-stack marketers don’t usually manage big PR campaigns but they are expected to grasp the basics of digital PR, such as media contact, journalist and blogger outreach, and press releases. Plus, a good PR brings links from authority sources so it contributes to SEO as well.
Learn: Public Relations Foundations by Deirdre Breakenridge [Free]
Learn: 21 Valuable and Powerful PR Tools and Resources by Brandwatch
Learn: What Every Start-up Should Know about PR by The Muse
Learn: Top 10 PR Tactics and Strategies of Successful Content and Link Building from Lexi Mills
Great marketers talk to their customers/audience often to collect feedback from them and make changes in their strategy accordingly. You are not expected to spend 3 hours talking to customers on the phone every day but some interaction with the customer helps.
Over to you… Did I leave anything out? Do you think there are other marketing elements that can be added? Let me know in the comments.