Full Stack Digital Marketing

A few years ago I came across this great article from Lauren Holliday about her way to Full Stack Marketing – and since then I have returned to him almost every year. And every time I read it, I can’t help but nod my head. It resonates with me as few other articles do. But why?

That’s what I’m trying to explain in this article. And I also want to show what a Full Stack Digital Marketer (FSDM) is by my definition. Why I see myself as one, how I went there and how everyone can find their own way to Full Stack Digital Marketing.

sharing is caring

tl;dr

  • Full Stack Digtial Marketers master all/the most important disciplines of their field and can implement a project without outside help from A-Z
  • Full Stack Digital Marketing does not want to be a new marketing discipline, but describes the comprehensive skills and expertise of marketers
  • I have always seen myself as a “generalist for marketing & communication”, but I find Full Stack Digital Marketer more concise
  • Full stack digital marketers are more common in agencies and start-ups than in large companies
  • You are in the struggle between specialization and generalization
  • Full Stack Marketers have broad and deep knowledge equally (T-Shape)
  • It is controversial whether one can ever really become “Full Stack”, because there are simply too many marketing instruments
  • For me, “Marketing Full Stack” is a mindset that consists of lifelong learning and knowledge about one’s own abilities and inabilities

What is Full Stack Marketing?

Full Stack Marketing is once again a neologism in the marketing universe – even if it’s rather quiet about the term and it lives a less known existence. Which is understandable, however, since someone constantly puts a word in front of “marketing” and invents a new discipline. Scott Brinkner has already listed more than 131 hundred such terms on Chiefmartec.com – in 2010. You can read it through and shake your head.

Is Full Stack Digital Marketing just a new fashion term?

I’m not a friend of fashion terms in marketing. What disqualifies the creative descriptions for me regularly is that they appoint a strategy or tactic to a new discipline, without thinking enough about permanence and differentiation from other disciplines and instruments.

Marketing in our digital age is of course subject to an insane speed of innovation, but all these innovations can be better understood with a sound profound expertise than if we constantly invent new terms.

The origin of Full Stack is in IT

The word Full Stack comes from the IT industry, where developers either work in the backend (e.g. with Java, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Python, and .Net ) or in the frontend (e.g. with HTML, CSS, jQuery, JavaScript ) depending on their skills. Or just in both areas, if they are Full Stack – master the whole package

The use of the term in marketing

In Marketing the term Full Stack is attributed to Marcelo Calbucci and Morgan Brown who first mentioned it in 2013 in their article What is Full Stack Marketing on Growthhackers.com. Afterwards he was taken up several times, e.g. by Casey Armstrong, and was also discussed on Quora.

However, it must be said that the term has not yet established itself and leads a shadowy existence. In my opinion, however, this is not due to the fact that it is false or obsolete. At about the same time the term Growth Hacker and later Growth Marketer came up and attracted interest. In fact, the job descriptions are not so dissimilar.

Full Stack Digital Marketing describes a Skillset and not a Discipline

“Full Stack” describes the ability of a marketer to execute a project from start to finish. Quite classic, as one would recite from marketing professor Manfred Bruhn: Analysis, planning, execution and control.

So “full stack” is just old wine in new bottles? After all, there are a number of terms with which Full Stack Marketers could also be called, such as the very fashionable Growth Hacker and basically a Full Stack Marketer is nothing more than a Digital Marketer with T-Shape.

Full Stack Marketers Own a T-Shape

T-Shape is a skill set that has a broad knowledge of the field of activity, but that goes deep with one or more skills. A T-Shape is therefore not a pure specialist, but also not a pure generalist.

My Marketing T-Shape

My T-Shape, for example, is put together in such a way that I am basically familiar with all marketing instruments through my studies in business communications management at the HTW Berlin and also have a solid knowledge of communication theory and psychology.

During my studies I did a lot of internships and working student jobs to combine this broad knowledge with practical training. In addition, in my later career I clearly specialized in digital marketing and deepened my knowledge in content marketing. In recent years I have been able to get to know the editorial and content processes of numerous well-known companies and have worked on international consulting mandates.

So with my skillset I can take on all marketing tasks, but I have my strengths in the areas: Digital, Marketing and Communication. This enables me to lead teams in agencies and start-ups as Head of Marketing that use inbound marketing and content strategies to increase reach and revenue, using the full range of (digital) marketing tools.

Why Full Stack Marketing?

The tasks of a full stack marketer are diverse and interdisciplinary. It is not unusual to jump back and forth between the creative and analytical half of the brain several times a day. Traditionally, small companies profit more from this than large corporations – unless they have been given disruptive roles.

Start-ups, Agencies and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Profit from Full Stack Marketers

Not every company can afford a fully staffed marketing team. Start-ups, agencies and small and medium-sized enterprises in particular benefit from the all-rounders because they can combine all the important skills and handle the projects on their own.

And above all they concentrate on agile, digital projects and campaigns and less on classical marketing. Usually, the job descriptions of full stack marketers include customer acquisition and sales growth. And this is also more suitable for start-ups and SMEs.

The Tasks of a Full Stack Marketer

  • Storytelling
  • Blogging
  • Research
  • Social Media
  • Public Relations
  • Datenmanagement (A/B Tests, etc.)
  • Analytics
  • Landinpage Optimization
  • CTA Optimization
  • Growth Hacking
  • Design/User Experience
  • Branding
  • Copywriting
  • Customer Success
  • HTML & CSS ( WordPress)
  • Funnel Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Video Marketing
  • E-mail Marketing
  • Inbound Marketing
  • Mobile Marketing (Appstores)
  • Paid Advertising (PPC)

What’s in the Marketing Stack?

So if the term “full stack” comes from IT and means that a developer can handle both backend and frontend, how can we understand the term in marketing?

To achieve this, an FSDM must have acquired expertise and experience in a number of interdisciplinary topics. Which ones are not carved in stone and vary by person and project. And everyone is cordially invited to think for themselves and find their own definition.

A Full Stack Digital Marketer is someone who can concept, plan and implement a marketing project or campaign from start to finish – with little or no outside help.

Example for the Marketing Stack

Ein illustrierter iMac Bildschirm, der zahlreiche Ordner mit dem Tätigkeitsfeld eines Full Stack Marketers zeit.
Example of a marketing stack from the article “How I went from underemployed waitress to the top 1% of millennials in 6 months

Marketing is still not a One-Man-Show

Although it seems that Full Stack Marketers are the Jack of all trades, marketing is still not a job for just one person. A full marketing team has to take care of a lot of marketing instruments. No single employee can do this carefully.

Marketing is a steering function that works on an interdisciplinary basis.

Traditionally, marketing therefore relies on the input of agencies or internal departments to carry out editorial, graphic or development tasks.

Or you can set up the marketing team so that different T-shapes complement each other. Then, with one or two full stacks and a few specialists, you can cover just about any topic area.

Can you ever become a Full Stack at all?

That sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Is it realistic at all that a person can know and do all this?

What others have to say about it

That’s a really long list of skills! According to Cody Byte, “You cannot, ever, be a full stack marketer. It’s not possible.” He explains that the idea behind full stack marketing is noble but “the concept exhibits the same lack of understanding that I see often in many contexts. When you don’t know much about a topic, it’s very easy to gloss over the edges…to think you understand something when you’ve really only heard about it.”

To me, it’s a decision about whether to hire specialists or generalists in your startup. In the early days most startups cannot afford a marketing team of 20 — they can barely afford a single marketing person. But marketing and early traction is crucial.

As 
Wade Foster points out, you don’t need to be an expert: “You only need to be able to get the ball rolling. You only need to know enough to put something in place to build from. You only need to find one or two successful tactics early on to get early traction with the product.”

Source: Michael Haupt (https://michaelhaupt.com/what-the-heck-is-full-stack-marketing-f950253489b4)

That’s what I mean

Yes, probably the Full Stack Marketer is the Jack of all trades, the unicorn in the world of marketing. There is no one who has mastered all the skills perfectly. A generalist can never be as deeply involved in a subject as a specialist. But often he doesn’t even have to do that to get the job done.

“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” 

7 Phrases You’ve Been Misquoting, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/7-phrases-youve-been-misquoting

Even if all this is true, FSDM are still incredibly valuable to a company. Because they can apply their broad skills and experience – they’ve done it all before – to any project. But that doesn’t mean they always have to do everything on their own – just because they might. Ideally, full stack marketers also have a small team and some budget for external services.

The great added value of a full stack marketer lies in its ability to bring its extensive skills and experience to almost any project. This does not mean that he or she can always do everything or have to do it alone.

How To Become A Full Stack Digital Marketer ?

The road to becoming a Full Stack Marketer is long. I don’t want to fool anyone. I put my first website online at the age of 12. When I was 20, I trained as a media clerk at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung one of germany’s major newspapers, then studied business communications management at the HTW Berlin and gained as much experience as I could in as many companies and agencies as possible. For more than five years I have been specializing in digital marketing and have my third leading role.

After these more or less 10 years I am at a point where I can confidently say that I have mastered this profession theoretically and practically. And yet I’m not finished learning and I’m always aware of what I don’t yet know. And that there are a lot of things that I don’t even know I don’t know.

So I’d like to say: the road is long. And it’s hard. But it’s also an amazing journey full of exciting experiences and it’s worth it. You just can’t want everything at once and you have to take the time to learn.

The big advantage of a good education is that instruments, platforms and tactics in marketing change almost daily. But the way they work is always the same. Those who go the long way can confidently choose the right strategy in any situation and be successful in this rapidly changing field.

Don’t be dazzled: Fast tactics only bring short-term success. Only well-founded expertise will make you successful in the long term.

A jack of all trades and master of ONE”

This guide shows you how to build up your knowledge step by step. First learn the “classic” marketing trade, then master the fast digital marketing and then gain experience in the focused areas.

You need to stack these three bricks:

The Foundation Brick — The brick that gives you a solid base from where to start.

The Digital Marketing Brick — The brick that gives you the general skills any UX designer with marketing ambitions need today

The Expertise Brick — The brick which helps you specialize and makes you an attractive employee.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be a generalist. The best companies today wants to hire the one who is the best candidate for a specific role. You want to have a good grasp on MANY digital channels but be an expert in ONE. A jack of all trades and master of ONE.

How to become a full stack marketer: https://medium.com/@Juntoo/how-to-become-a-full-stack-marketer-f45944097fb8

Mindset and Character Traits for Success

As an FSDM I love to learn new things and work on new projects. And I think it’s a very, very important requirement for these species marketers to like to go into the unknown. I also like to take high risks. Because failure and to make mistakes belong to the job. Full Stack Marketers need a Growth Mindset.

Endurance (the path is long), curiosity (lifelong learning is part of the job) and mental agility (creative AND analytical thinking at the same time) are immensely important.

Courses to Learn Digital Marketing

At this point I would like to link tutorials and courses that can help you to get further education in digital marketing and ultimately become a full stack marketer.

But be careful!

In this way there is always the danger of doing too much and not really learning anything in the end. It is best to work on some specializations in your T-Shape for a few years before you go too far in the generalization.

Or maybe you’re already a Full Stack Marketer or looking for one? Try fullstack.it, a job portal specializing in FSDM brokerage.

Conclusion: Full Stack is a Mindset

The perfect Full Stack Digital Marketer is a unicorn that doesn’t even exist. Hardly anyone will actually be able to master all the skills listed and discussed here – not even me, sorry!

But that’s not the point. Because in full stack marketing, the path is the goal. It is a concept and model that helps to understand why it can be worthwhile to be a generalist with comprehensive training and some specializations. And what environment you need to feel comfortable with this skillset.

A FSDM is no more and no less than an interdisciplinary trained and experienced marketing and communications worker who is able to deliver projects from conception to execution and analysis. A marketer who has extensive theoretical and practical knowledge and who can work independently – mostly in digital marketing.

The term resonates with me – perhaps because I have been working in the IT industry for many years. But there are many other terms that stand for the same or similar, such as Growth Hacker or Growth Marketer or Digital Marketer. Or maybe just Marketing Generalist.

For me, Full Stack is an ideal image that I can try to approach. A model that brings the “generalist” from the dusty past into “Neuland” and it is a reminder of what there is still to learn.

What do you think of that?

Are you already a full stack or do you want to be one? Looking for advice to find your way? Or are you looking for a full stack for your company or do you need help with choosing the right staff? Whatever you’ve been looking for in this article, or whatever questions you have in your head: Let me know! Just write me in the comments.

Published by Marcus Burk

Ich bin Marcus Burk und schreibe in diesem Blog über digitales, Marketing und Kommunikation.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *