When should you hire a generalist versus a specialist?
Every business must make decisions about how to allocate its resources. Sometimes, that means making decisions about how to hire and manage your marketing talent.
Are there easy ways to distinguish between a marketing generalist and a specialist?
Below we cover a list of characteristics as well as ideal business scenarios that can help guide you.
The Marketing Generalist – Big-Picture Planning and Strategy
The Marketing Generalist is easy to identify.
They often have a degree in communications, marketing, or business. And they usually have a résumé with a variety of roles and experience in the field of marketing. You often hear them commenting on how this or that brand campaign is dreadful, five ways that a website should be improved, or complaining about bad advertising copy.
And guess what? Many business owners are great marketing generalists — they have enough experience with different aspects of marketing that they are better able to spot and capitalize on business opportunities.
Marketing Generalist – Key Characteristics
- Has experience that ranges from strategy and planning to execution and measurement.
- Focuses on aligning the brand with the customer – using all tools available in a synergistic way.
- Understands the big picture of the customer experience – from Awareness to Advocacy.
- Thinks about integration of various marketing channels, and is more interested in how they work together to meet business objectives than in mastering every detail at the tactical level.
- Asks a lot of “what if” questions, proactively looking for holes in the marketing strategy.
- Speaks fluently on developing objectives, understanding the customer and market, developing creative campaigns, and refining via metrics and reporting.
Work With a Marketing Generalist When You Need Someone To:
- Lead, develop and vet overarching marketing strategy and planning, including the business Marketing Plan and any necessary periodic reviews/adjustments.
- Proactively identify weaknesses and obstacles to achieving marketing objectives.
- Prioritize marketing goals, budget and resources to most effectively meet business objectives.
- Plan and oversee the communication shaping customer experience across multiple channels and touchpoints.
- Oversee the development of multi-channel company messaging in a way that is true to the business brand.
- Oversee the development of channel-specific campaigns (e.g. social media, e-mail, etc) to uphold company messaging.
- Oversee and/or develop a multi-channel metrics and reporting plan, including cadence and key performance indicators.
- Understand customers and segmentation, develop custom communications plans to cater to each segment and business objective.
The Marketing Specialist – Essential to Execution
While a marketing generalist helps determine the cohesive strategy, a good marketing specialist knows everything about their particular channel or area of expertise and can execute to achieve specific objectives.
For example, an affiliate program marketing specialist should understand how to design, develop, and grow an affiliate program, including all the relevant budget requirements, cultivation techniques, and key metrics.
Using this example, the marketing generalist would analyze the market, the customers, the business objectives, and recommend that the organization should prioritize an affiliate program to meet their goals. The affiliate program marketing specialist would then be brought in to work with the generalist to ensure the program is aligned with the overarching strategy, and that the objectives, design and execution reflect best practices for that specialty area.
Marketing Specialist – Key Characteristics
- Possesses deep knowledge and experience within their niche of expertise.
- Often holds a title that explains their strength, e.g. “Google Ads Campaign Manager, E-Mail Marketer, etc.”
- Keeps up with the latest industry news and education in their niche.
- Can work both solo or with a team on execution and follow-up.
- Should be able to easily identify objectives, budget, resources, and metrics within their niche.
- Is adept in their relevant marketing technology platforms, e.g. Hootsuite, Hubspot, Facebook Advertising, etc.
Examples of Marketing Specialists:
If you have a specialized area of marketing that requires management, and especially if it involves a cash investment (like advertising), it’s time to call in a marketing specialist. Here are some examples:
- Brand Development: Naming, logo, design guidelines, core messaging.
- Google Advertising: To get the most of your ad spend, you need someone familiar with the platform to set goals, design the campaigns, run and evaluate tests, and know what and when to refine to increase conversion.
- Affiliate Program Manager: Designs, plans, implements and optimizes a brand’s Affiliate Program. Works alone or with a colleague to optimize and measure recruitment efforts.
- Social Media Manager: Designs a brand’s social media presence synergistically and plans, optimizes, measures, and refines social media efforts.
- Event Planner and Manager: Leads and manages events from strategy and planning to the details of on-site staffing and materials needs. Also manages event metrics and post-event follow-up.
- E-communications Manager: Designs communications plans to customers and prospects via e-mail. Understands the value of segmentation, promotional planning, and metrics/analysis.
These are just a few examples – there are specialists for just about every marketing area you can think of.
Reality – Everyone Has a Role to Play
The magic is knowing who to engage when, and building complimentary teams to achieve your business objectives.
If the “big picture” isn’t clear, it’s time to get a savvy generalist on board before you approve that budget. If the organization already has a clear marketing plan and you know how a particular subject area fits into your goals, it’s best to get a specialist to lead and own all the details of their particular niche.