At a time when “growth hackers” are revered like five-tool baseball players, marketers need to be multi-dimensional.

It’s not enough to be a good writer, a savvy social media practitioner or a smooth-talking public speaker. Marketers need to be versatile and agile. They need a “tool box” that lets them capitalize on opportunities.

As someone who migrated into marketing from the world of newspaper journalism, I have increasingly seen the need to expand my skills. The big question is: what are the new skills that make the most sense? Do I learn how to code, for example, or does learning how to design the better option?

As much as coding is interesting, I’m drawn to design because it aligns with my creative roots. While I appreciate good developers, I appreciate well-designed Websites, infographics, one-pagers and presentations.

marketersI think many marketers struggle between coding and design (and probably being good at other things such as SEO, social media and video) because they can enhance their skills and make themselves more employable and hacker-like.

It creates a career conundrum because it means being a jack-of-all-trades, rather than a specialist (aka someone who is really good at one thing.)  There is a temptation to do many things to survive in a multi-tasking, lean and mean world. On the other hand, there’s powerful in having a particular skill set that sets you apart from the generalists.

So what’s a marketer to do at a time when versatility is increasingly valued?

Do marketers have a choice other than expanding their skill-set? What if they don’t have the disposition or interest? Does that make them less employable or valuable?

From personal experience, adding new skills is not only necessary but a great way to stretch yourself personally and professionally. Time stands still for noone, and the marketing landscape continually shifts. As marketers, we can’t afford to be stuck. Not adding new skills and insights can lead to fewer opportunities to be creative and tackle interesting work.

Let’s be clear, adding new skills doesn’t mean a marketer has to learn InDesign inside out or suddenly build Websites using HTML and CSS. But it does involve getting your hands dirty and learning the basics. It lets a marketer do some work themselves, while letting others do the heavy lifting.

Here’s a few example from my consulting business.

A lot of my work involves overhauling Websites. Many clients need updated copy and a new approach to the Website’s structure and design. I have enough knowledge about UI and UX to be useful, but not dangerous. And I can work with designers and developers by creating wireframes using Balsamiq to show them how I envision the new Website.

Although my creative strength is writing, I’m also dabbling with the design of graphics, infographics and eBooks.

I’m a big fan of Canva, which makes it easy to create graphics and infographics. It is a user-friendly tool for blog posts, presentations and social media. You can do a lot with Canva for free, purchase graphics and images on an as-needed basis, or purchase an annual subscription for US$120. I recently discovered, an interesting tool to do diagrams, mockups and flowcharts.

Another good tool is LucidPress, which is like InDesign for non-designers. The learning curve is not steep so it is an easy way to get creative to do things such as eBooks. There is a free version, as well as a premium plan. The free version has limits on users and storage.

For in-the-trenches work, PicMonkey is an effective tool to edit images and photographs. You can crop, resize and add filters. There are free and premium versions. When I need to compress an image, I use (The image of the notebook, which I got from, was resized, cropped and compressed from 10MB to 17kb.

What do you think? Can marketing specialists still exist or do we all need to be more versatile?

Note: This post was inspired by a Buffer’s post by Ash Read on why every marketer needs to be a part-time designer. It includes 53 design terms of tips for marketers to level up their skills.

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