Marketing Specialists vs. Generalists: Teams of the Future
Technology has enabled consumers to access brands’ products and services faster and easier than ever before. If consumers’ interactions with a brand are anything less than perfect — whether online, in-store or on a mobile device – they won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere, which means the consumer experience must be perfectly executed.
At the same time, digital innovation has made the path-to-purchase increasingly complex: the sheer number of touchpoints that consumers engage with, and the speed at which they switch between the channels, can be dizzying. This heightened consumer demand and zig-zagged consumer journey is forcing marketers to reassess their strategies so that they deliver relevant and coordinated experiences to each individual, at every stage of their journey.
To meet that goal, one avenue that marketing organizations are taking is restructuring their internal teams. Marketing specialists vs. generalists will determine the teams of the future. Traditionally, marketing departments have generalists. Often referred to as the Jack and Jill of all trades, generalists tend to know a little bit about a number of marketing techniques, such as SEO, email marketing and direct mail. But the ability for generalist marketers to flex across all the different needs along the consumer journey is impossible.
For that reason, brands will begin organizing their marketing teams with specialists — trained marketers who can see how customers and prospects are interacting with their brands and create experiences that engage, capture and keep consumers over the lifetime of their journey. By possessing incredible fluency in the channels, content, messages, and offers that resonate with customers and prospects, specialists are able to add more value to each interaction, and create more relevant and engaging experiences that create more authentic relationships.
What the Specialist Role Will Look Like
For any marketer, understanding the audience is the key to success. By aligning along the consumer journey, marketing specialists will gain a deeper understanding of who their customers and prospects are, what they are like and how they behave, so the marketing specialists can deliver more targeted and relevant messages and offers. There are many ways a department may structure each specialist role — specialists may sit at different parts of the funnel, or be responsible for inbound or outbound marketing, for example. Organizations will structure their marketing departments differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to organize the group: It depends on what works best for the brand and what will deliver the best results.
How This Shift Will Impact Current Roles
Marketing specialists will have to embody most, if not all, of the skills that generalist marketers hold today, but will require a deeper knowledge of the newest, most cutting-edge approaches. Previously, most companies employed small in-house teams with big budgets and outsourced much of their advertising to agencies that lived on that bleeding edge. Now, marketing teams tend to be bigger but have smaller budgets, thanks to advancements in marketing technology that have enabled internal teams to accomplish more on their own. By collecting and consolidating data, this technology enables marketing specialists to work together toward shared goals, while harvesting the real-time data they need to respond to changing consumer behaviors and quickly capitalize on optimization opportunities.
Benefits and Challenges of This New Structure
One challenge in this new structure is hiring specialists who possess the right skill sets and in-depth knowledge. Marketing is like an orchestra: There are many different instruments that sound great together, but are less compelling on their own. To achieve a symphony, conductors (marketing leaders) must be able to put the right components together — a group of individuals who are all performing their own roles, and yet together, are perfectly in sync.
As consumers continue to press for more meaningful connections with brands, marketers must also continue to shift if they want to appeal to those needs. By moving from the generalist to the specialist model, brands can ensure that they are creating more coordinated and relevant experiences for consumers that win their business, and their loyalty.
Related story: 5 Hiring Tips for Small Marketing Teams