The role of the marketing professional is an evolving one. New technologies and opportunities for consumers to access products and services, as well as increasingly complicated ways for companies to engage with consumers, mean that marketing departments constantly need to reassess their strategies.

For those looking to build strong marketing teams with the necessary skills to deliver powerful marketing strategies and drive growth, the conversation around how such teams should be structured centers on the age-old debate: should you hire a generalist or a specialist marketer?

Both have their merits, as specialists can provide great value to smaller marketing teams and generalists are well known for wearing many different hats so can be cost-effective for the business.

What does a marketing specialist do?

Marketing specialists are experts in a specific area of marketing, such as social media, SEO, or email marketing. They often work in larger teams where they can develop their focus and build a deep proficiency in their chosen specialism.

Marketing specialist vs generalist pros and cons

When deciding whether a marketing specialist or generalist would be the best fit for your team, it is worth considering the pros and cons of each type of marketer.

Marketing Specialist

Depending on their area of expertise, marketing specialists may be in high demand due to changing consumer behaviour. Social media marketers and email marketers are highly sought after as consumers shift to online shopping in the wake of the pandemic. New technologies also impact which specialists are in high demand. Content marketers with knowledge of SEO will be more sought after than those who don’t.

Pros

·       Focus on key channels
Hiring experts in specific fields allows you to focus your marketing efforts on the key channels that will perform best for you.

·       Good for larger teams or teams planning on scaling up
Specialists can be easily slotted into larger teams to drive efforts strategically. They may also be useful early hires to build on as you scale up your marketing team.

·       Efficient problem solving
Ultimately, they are the experts in their field! Specialist marketers provide deep understanding and focus, as well as high-level solutions and directed problem solving all of which make your marketing efforts more efficient.

Cons

·        Harder to find
Specialists in certain fields may be in high demand and more difficult to hire. Finding specialists at junior levels is tough as they haven’t yet had time to hone their skills and develop their knowledge.

·        More expensive
Those candidates with in-demand skills and expertise can demand higher salaries. Specialist marketers may not be the best choice for businesses with limited resources and budgets.

·        Specialisms may become obsolete
Technology is rapidly changing marketing. Where once digital specialists were in demand, digital now pervades all areas of marketing. Advances in machine learning and AI are already having an impact. Specialists need to keep up to date on changing trends and knowledge or risk finding themselves obsolete.

Marketing Generalist

Generalists have a wide knowledge of a broad set of marketing skills. They can wear many different hats and can often find themselves doing several roles throughout a typical day: writing content, managing social media, developing SEO strategies, and so on. They can be an attractive option particularly for smaller companies with limited marketing budgets.

Pros

·        Cost-effective
Since generalists can cover a lot of ground, they are a cost-effective solution, particularly for companies just starting to develop their marketing strategies.

·        Adaptable
If you suddenly find your marketing strategy changing direction it can be good to have a generalist marketer on your team who can quickly adapt and shift marketing focus.

·        Best for a small team
Small marketing teams may function best with one or two generalists who can work on several marketing channels to achieve a far-reaching strategy.

·        Quicker to hire
It can be easier to find generalist marketing professionals particularly at junior levels as many marketing degrees and qualifications give graduates a broad base of knowledge to start with.

Cons

·       Quantity over quality
It’s no coincidence we use the phrase jack of all trades, master of none. Generalist marketers have a broad knowledge of many marketing channels, they can tell you why you should direct your strategy in a particular direction, but not enough expertise to explain how to achieve the best results.

·        Less efficient
If you have a small team of generalists who must manage many different workflows, they may struggle to achieve everything required to direct your marketing strategy and effectively grow your business. Simply put, there are not enough hours in the day for one person to do everything.

·       Require more training if needed to specialise
If you find your marketing strategy developing over time and being directed into new or more specific areas, you may find your team of generalists require more training and support in order to allow them to become specialists.

What is a T-shaped marketer?

So, what if neither a specialist nor a generalist fits your needs? This is where T-shaped marketers come in! They are often considered the “specialist generalist” of the marketing world.

T-shaped marketers have developed a broad range of knowledge covering different digital marketing tactics, with in-depth knowledge that focuses on one or two specific areas. This allows them to develop a basic understanding of all the principles of modern marketing with specific knowledge of a few key areas.

They are called T-shaped marketers because their skills, when put into a diagram, resemble a T. With the horizontal part of the T representing knowledge in a broad range of areas and the vertical part of the T representing the depth of knowledge in a specific area.

T-shaped marketers combine the adaptability of a generalist with the focus of a specialist. Ultimately this means they can create a more holistic marketing strategy focused on one or two pillars.

How can DMCG help

Successful marketing teams start with talented individuals that can collaborate effectively to drive performance and results. Our global talent consultancy at DMCG Global helps to quickly connect marketing agencies and brands with the right individuals anywhere on the planet. If you are looking for marketing professionals and would like a bespoke, high-quality recruitment service, our expert consultants will be happy to help. Get in touch below to find out more.