Marketing has become extremely specialized over the past 5-10 years. It makes sense, right? The number of marketing channels have increased to a point where there is no way one person can be truly knowledgeable in multiple areas. So, what do we do? We find the necessary specialists and build those “specialist” silos.
Depending on the organization size, the marketing department could have a number of specialists who could be great in their respective areas. In the short term, this is a home run. You are essentially getting someone hyper-focused in each area who is dedicated to that channel’s mortality within the realm of marketing. The problems arise when you start applying common issues with the business approach, like:
- Perspective of marketing as being a silo-first function
- Communication gaps among specialists
- Lack of upward mobility of the specialist to become true leaders in the organization
- Absence of leadership
Ok, maybe specializing isn’t the best way to go after all. And here’s a radical proposal:
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a warm welcome back to the marketing generalist.
The term generalist in marketing is often deemed ugly and has been swept under the rug as “not technical enough” or “jack of all trades, master of none.” But, recently, I’ve seen (and might I say companies have requested) the need for the generalist to return. Maybe this is my Gen X heritage coming out, as I am a proud generalist myself, but I feel like it’s time for the tidal wave to hit. Some organizations, like startups, are ahead of the curve due to necessity. They need their marketing machine to be hitting on all cylinders, all the time, with speed, accuracy and an eye on the bottom line. Other companies should be looking to add a generalist ASAP, because he/she can immediately:
- Break down silos
- Translate business needs into tactical action
- Give proper direction to all parties
- Always keep the customer at the forefront
Think you have a great marketing generalist? Here’s who to look for:
1. Ultimate Conductor – They are the fearless connector and negotiator between internal departments, external vendors and business projects. They just “get shit done” and always have an action-oriented focus. Their main responsibility is to see the big picture and make sure all parts fit.
2. Master Yarn Spinner – Great generalists need to be awesome storytellers. They should be able to communicate their story up to leadership, across departments and over to customers in a clear and consistent fashion that inspires and motivates. An ability to understand multiple perspectives helps them.
3. Chief Numbers Officer – Data is their life. Dashboards are best friends. ROI and KPI’s are always on their mind. Every campaign developed, program contemplated and partnership sought is dissected to understand the impact to the bottom line.
Now, if you have one, congrats! If you are one, be proud of your generalist-ness! If you don’t have one, start asking yourself if you’ve painted yourself into a corner by over-specializing. Companies need us to drive business forward, and sometimes we need generalist skills to do just that. As you keep an eye out for gaps to fill, make sure you’re continually educating yourself on the newest technologies and keeping your skillset fresh. You may just be the generalist rockstar the company needs!