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Amazing essay - How to Become a Customer Acquisition Expert

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Dec 9, 2013
This essay from Brian Balfour really inspired me, so I thought I'd share it with you here.

Brian was the VP of growth at HubSpot, and generally one of these high-level silicon valley guys.

He's completely self-taught in marketing.

"I’m not here to brag. My point is, if I can do it, you can do it too and I want to share my tips and lessons learned"

Some key points:
  • There is no one magic course or resource,
  • experience and experimentation trumps all
  • College/uni is pointless for marketers
  • Blogs/forums etc help but you need to get your hands dirty
  • Certifications mostly suck and are often inferior to freely available info
"Going to college doesn’t hurt. But our education system, plain and simple, is not teaching the things to to make people productive in the work environment. Filling the gap between what you learn in college, and the skills to make you productive in the work environment is up to you"

The 'T Shaper Marketer'

Digital marketing is a HUGE field. In order to not get overwhelmed, you need a path and an action plan for your development.

The 'T' represents an individual with strong knowledge in many different areas and related topics, but who has very deep expertise in a more narrow subdomain.

1) Base Layer - non-marketing specific subjects that give a solid base and are used in the higher levels.

2) Marketing Foundation - the marketing subjects and concepts you should know used across all channels

3) Channel expertise
- different ways of reaching the audience. Impossible to be a true expert in them all, so you need to choose which aligns with your goals and strengths. It can also be a good idea to take a bet on an emerging channel and become an expert early!

Here is an image that illustrates the "T Shaped" concept


Some good strategies:

  • Get something to experiment with. Nothing is as valuable as hands-on experience. The too best options here from scratch would be to try building your own sites and testing things on them, or to get a job in marketing to apply learnings (that's what I did)
  • Learn from others - mentors, bosses, legit 'gurus'
  • Learn from other companies (keep a scrapbook and swipe file with great examples. I got a great idea this year from Zapier's SEO strategy that we are now applying to our own. See what works and consider taking it into your toolkit)
Here's his suggested topics for each layer. I will only list them briefly, go to the essay for more depth.

Base layer

Basic statistics, basic programming, product design and UX principles, analytics, behavioral psych, branding/positioning/storytelling

Marketing Foundation Layer

Conversion rate optimization, copywriting, A/B multi testing, Basic photoshop and wireframing, database querying, excel and modeling

Channel Expertise Level (know the basics of all, go deep on 1-2)

Virality/WOM, Search PPC, FB Ads, SEO, Social, Content Marketing, Display and Retargeting, Mobile, Sales, PR, Email Marketing, Partnerships

Personally, my combo is SEO and content marketing.

I think this guide provides a really good blueprint to becoming a true marketing expert. Anybody with skills and expertise like this has a very valuable skillset that could help you to start your own company or be paid a ton to work on other people's.

Check out the original article for waaaaaaaaaay more detail.

There's a ton more amazing stuff on there, highly recommend for other online marketers.

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Thiago Machado

Gold Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
May 20, 2014
It's great to see an actual leader in the field and not another guru.

Thanks for this.

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