Full-stack marketing is a term that was first coined by Marcelo Calbucci and Morgan Brown. Full-stack marketing refers to the variety of skills, mindset, and approach which some marketers are capable of since they have a clear vision of all the levels of the marketing stack and are addressed as the full-stack marketers.
They are different from most of the marketing specialists and focus on only one marketing discipline which could range from direct response, digital marketing, affiliate marketing, content/inbound marketing, guerrilla marketing, loyalty marketing, multi-level marketing, growth hacking, and social media marketing.
Where Will You Find Full Stack Marketers?
It’s unlikely that you will find full-stack marketing roles in established companies. These larger companies tend to do things the way they’ve always been done, and so their organization chart typically includes more traditional titles like Marketing Director, Social Media Manager, PPC Analyst. In other words, each role in established companies has a specific function.
Full-stack marketers are more likely found in startups — companies that cannot hire a plethora of niche marketers early on, when cash (or a lack thereof) drives most of the decisions and hiring. Although a huge generalization, startups born after 2015 typically have a strong technology focus, and so full-stack marketing in a startup environment usually refers to an all-in-one type of digital customer acquisition role that includes Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), App Store Optimisation (ASO), copywriting, paid advertising, email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, marketplace marketing, growth hacking, and a profusion of other digital growth tactics.
The Skills Required to Become a Full Stack Marketer
A Full Stack Marketer does have the ability to manage and led various digital tactics, but in a more fundamental aspect, they are able to translate business objectives into actionable strategies.
This gives an “FSM” an edge against experts in on-field which is to have an birds-eye view of the client’s needs and understands how the complete set of marketing tactics fits into the equation of the brand’s campaign.
The key skill of an experienced full stack marketer is being able to ignore the “bright shiny object syndrome” of whatever the latest marketing trend happens to be. Instead they focus on marketing principles and draw from a rich and varied set of experiences and tools to apply tried and tested approaches to each specific situation.
As I’ve said earlier, full stack marketers are most comfortable in startup environments, where the culture is entirely different to established companies. With that in mind, its worth looking first at what characteristics make for winners in the startup world. I’ve taken the liberty of adapting Jason Calacanis’ list of the qualities he looks for to decide whether the founder of a company is a winner and worth backing. If you’re keen on positioning yourself as a full stack marketer or you’re looking for someone to help launch your startup, make sure these qualities and characteristics exist before focussing on the skills of the individual. One thing to keep in mind is that not everyone has all of these qualities, and people frequently succeed without many of them. These are just some of the signals that Jason sees most often — but not exclusively — in a successful founder (and by extension, a full stack marketer).
Top 10 Full Stack Marketer Characteristics
- Resiliency: the #1 trait in winners. Are you able to quickly recover from difficulties or from campaigns that don’t work and try something else? Are you open to new ideas, to taking the best from a multitude of tactics and cobbling together something new? Can you adapt quickly to the rapidly changing landscape of user acquisition tactics?
- Relentlessness: the #2 trait in winners. Do you have a track record of keeping going against all odds? Are your ongoing attempts creative, or do you keep doing the same old thing while expecting a different outcome?
- Curiosity: Can you stay abreast of and suck up all the information on the planet, process it, and incorporate it into your strategy — even if that means recognizing and then ignoring what you’ve previously learned?
- Product/Market Fit & Vision: Do you know what the company is building, why they’re building it, and does the dev team know how to make it exceptional? Does the team even know what makes products exceptional? Are you able to identify the excruciating pain point the product addresses and communicate the solution succinctly?
- Fearlessness: Are you willing and able to take on any project in any vertical without any prior knowledge? Do you have a track record of experience across a range of verticals?
- Resourcefulness: Do you find ways of turning nickels into dimes and dimes into dollars? Can you find the best way to solve any given challenge with the least amount of effort and cost?
- Intractable: Are you a willful, recalcitrant individual with strong principles and willing to stick to them even under pressure? If you’re a yes (wo)man — subservient, obedient, and easy-to-deal-with — it’s unlikely that you’ll make a great full stack marketer. If you’ve been called “difficult” your whole life that could be a sign that you’re made of the right stuff (“could” is the important word in that sentence).
- Debatable: People with big vision, strong opinions and solid principles love to debate their ideas and every aspect of what they bring to the table. If you’re not willing to engage in vibrant, challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable debate you will unlikely succeed as a full stack marketer. If you are hard to talk to, there’s a problem. Communication is a very important skill for full stack marketers — this is possibly the most important rarely-discussed skill.
- Networkability: Can you get to anyone or do you need someone to hold your hand as you walk into a room?
- Charisma: There is no substitute for your ability to get people to embrace the startup’s vision. You can call it leadership or sales or charm. It’s all the same thing at the end of the day: your ability to get people to embrace how you and your team want the world to be.
17 Mandatory Full Stack Marketer Skills
To become a full stack digital marketer, you need to advance your understandings and knowledge of:
- Analytics — App & Web: You cannot improve what isn’t measured, so you must have analytics setup properly and know how to extract the data you need. No exception. KISSmetrics provides the most extensive sources for analytics.
- Communications: Many start-up founders pay too much attention to the technical aspects of their product, wrongly assuming that people will understand their product the same way in which they do themselves. Your job is to get inside the heads of founders, match their product to a burning need in the market and communicate the solution to the right audience using the right language. See Kevin York’s Startup’s Guide to Communication.
- Competitor Analysis: James Caan says that competition is either direct or indirect for any startup or established business. Even if you have a product or service that is completely niche or unique, it is impossible not to face some competition. Dismissing companies because they initially appear too different to yours means that you could overlook some close substitutes which are providing good or better solutions to the same target market as your product or service. You need to know how to effectively analyse all the different types of competitors. Avinash Kaushik has an old (but good) post called The Definitive Guide To Competitive Intelligence Data Sources.
- Copywriting: Titles, headlines, landing pages, blog posts etc., you need to be able to communicate ideas well, and inspire people to take action. Web visitors are increasingly distracted online, so you need to pull them in with something interesting or exhibit how you’ll solve their pain. And then you need to follow-up effectively, since most people won’t buy on their first visit. Learn from the pros at Copyblogger and Copy Hackers.
- Email Marketing & Intelligence: Good old faithful email remains one of the best distribution channels for marketing. Permission email is the name of the game. Effectively use the power of email by creating and optimising an email that gets delivered, read, and achieves desired results. I highly recommend reading Nathan Barry. Andre Chaperone’s and Patrick McKenzie’s courses are incredible. For Email Intelligence, you won’t find better than LiveHive’s blog.
- Lead Generation & Traction: Traction is what separates a viable business from a really good idea. It’s what shows that your business can grow and sustain itself. It’s a way to show that a dollar invested into your business will always result in three dollars of revenue. It’s the proof that your business model isn’t based on assumptions, but on actual hard data. Lead generation prior to launch will help you gain that early traction. Wordstream and LeadPages have 6 Lead Generation Strategies from Fast Growing Startups and Gleam share 15 Early Traction Strategies for Startups. Bill Widmer of ChannelApe has created a massive list of 200 Marketing Hacks & Tools to Ensure Your Startup Crushes It.
- Marketing Strategy: With startup marketing, you must first ensure that people love the product. All the really successful companies of today started with a product that their early users loved so much they told other people about it. If your product doesn’t have raving ambassadors, you will fail. If you deceive yourself and think your users love your product when they don’t, you will still fail. The startup graveyard is littered with people who didn’t take this seriously. Check out Sean Ellis’ post on achieving product/market fit and Sam Altman’s Startup Playbook. KISSMetric’s Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing provides more detailed tactics.
- Mobile Marketing: Mobile is eating the world. Whether marketing your mobile app or targeting potential customers searching from their phone, mobile marketing is growing exponentially in importance. For mobile app marketing, I’d check out Flurry’s blog and somewhat surprisingly, Mashable’s Mobile Marketing section is a good place to learn and get creative ideas.
- Pricing Optimisation: Many startups are starting to use Price Optimisation Models to tailor pricing for customer segments by predicting how each segment will respond to price changes. These predictions are made based on an analysis of Big Data from similar companies in the same industry. While Price Intelligently’s blog is more focused on SaaS companies, their pricing strategies and examples are a great reference point.
- Referral/Influencer Outreach: Influencer marketing is quickly becoming one of the most important online marketing channels. Budgets are growing fast, and marketers are seeing strong returns. The vast majority of marketers are generating real revenue from influencer marketing, and the top 13% are making $20 or more for each $1 invested. KISSmetrics’ Guide to Influencer Targetting is a good place to start.
- Remarketing: Statistics commonly quote 96% of visitors leave a website before converting and 46% of people visit a website 2 to 4 times before making a purchase. Online shopping carts are abandoned over 70% of the time and customers typically remove 60% of the items originally added to shopping carts. Remarketing allows you to remind the prospect of their original intent as they browse other websites. KISSmetrics’ Remarketing Guide is a good place to start.
- SEO/ASO: Search Engine and App Store Optimisation refers to how easily your website or app is found when your ideal audience search for a solution to their problem online. Start with the Beginner’s Guide to SEO and Decision Making in the App Store.
- Social Media & Inbound Marketing: You need to know how to use social media to draw people into your world, rather than continue the old (and broken) method of broadcasting and chestbeating. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time. Read Neil Patel’s Advanced Guide to Content Marketing and check out Inbound.org for the latest on inbound marketing.
- Split Testing: Landing page optimisation is usually associated with A/B split testing because the two work hand-in-hand, but homepages and highly trafficked blog posts are also excellent candidates to split test headlines, CTA’s and images. A highly optimised landing page drives conversions and revenue and split testing is the method to find the highest performing pages. The Unbounce blog is a great resource in learning landing page and conversion optimisation. Also, check out Sprout Social’s “perfect landing page” and Conversion Rate Experts’ CRO 101 Guide.
- Storytelling: Every startup needs a story. Stories are almost always fun and engaging to read. People love a good story behind a product or service. According to Rand Fishkin, there is “an odd correlation with brand narratives and successful brands.” As a marketer, being able to tell compelling stories is a must-have skill because you’ll be able to connect to users emotionally and inspire desired actions. Learn how to tell stories by visiting The Stanford Storytelling Project.
- Video Marketing: With online video quickly becoming a key means for people to satisfy their information and entertainment needs, small businesses that fail to include video in their internet marketing strategies do so at their peril. Check out the Wistia blog for video marketing tips.
- Website Auditing: You need to be able to pour over the website’s design, its content, the stats, and the strategies that make the site visible to the right audience and how it converts those visitors. Hubspot has a website grader, which is a good place to start.
but actually it takes MUCH more… 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.”
A full stack digital marketer isn’t just a technical term for marketer, or a job for someone who growth hacks or grows brands – rather it’s a person who is experienced in every specialty/field of marketing and is knowledgeable enough to teach others to help them develop and grow in their fields.
A full stack digital marketer can consult with clients to determine their needs – design a strategy, implement the strategy, run the team, and get results they can analyze to continue improving the process.
Being a full stack marketer isn’t just a job – it’s also a state of mind. As a full stack digital marketer, you are about improving and growing other marketers as well as providing results for clients.
These digital marketers do best in small companies and startups where they are needed in every aspect of marketing. They are used to handling a team, and can go solo – so the opportunities at a smaller company are better for them.