By Mark Miller

Business2Community, May 30, 2017 —

Today’s varied, multifaceted digital marketing environment has produced professionals that come in a variety of forms and flavors.

Some are compelled to become flexible, multitalented marketers by necessity. Like a Swiss Army Knife, they’re ready to take almost any job (even if they’re not always the most effective at it).

Others are digital marketing specialists. They’re more akin to a wood ax or surgical scalpel; exceptionally well suited for one kind of task but less adaptable to other jobs.

Both kinds of marketer have a place in today’s business world, but will typically thrive in some environments better than others. When looking for potential career moves, it’s wise to focus on opportunities in places where your contributions will be most valuable and you’ll find the most satisfaction.

The Digital Marketing Specialist

Many marketers are focused on doing just one kind of marketing, and doing it very well. These professionals tend to be extremely precise and consistent with their work and methodically get better over time. Like a cog in a big machine, they serve a very specific but very important purpose. Think email marketing experts, SEO consultants, PPC analysts, mobile UX designers, video content strategists, etc.

“Specialists” bring extensive expertise and comprehensive authority on their area of mastery.

“Specialists” bring extensive expertise and comprehensive authority on their area of mastery. We find as digital marketing recruiters that the best marketers that fall into this category tend to be about 80% laser-focused on their niche, and 20% spread around understanding the basics of complimentary fields. They know enough about other disciplines to communicate and collaborate with peers, but couldn’t easily trade jobs and produce big results.

If you fall into this category, you tend to consistently produce higher quality work and better results vs someone who hasn’t put in the time and effort. But you might struggle if you get a new assignment that falls outside of your comfort zone or when you’re not getting the cooperation and backup you need from your team members. Specialists tend to perform best in these environments:

  • Highly competitive marketplaces: Some industries and markets are filled to the brim with competitors vying for customer attention. When a space is crowded, it takes a highly optimized, focused digital marketing specialist to stand out from the crowd. You can provide that master’s touch needed to differentiate a brand and stand out, something that a less specialized marketer would probably be unable to do.
  • Agencies: Whether independent or insourced, marketing agencies by nature tend to be specialized. And even “full service” agencies usually have internal teams focused on particular responsibilities. Agencies can be a great place to bring your niche skills to bear for a variety of clients who have a specific need.
  • Established players in consistent markets: Large, robust businesses with a set, predictable marketing strategy and stable leadership will rarely have major unexpected needs. That allows them to lean on more advanced, specialized expertise for long-term campaigns and initiatives. Specialists can find a place in large teams alongside other highly focused complimentary talent.

The Generalist

Recent trends in marketing, especially the quickly evolving and diversifying demands of a modern digital marketing strategy, have led to a generation of jack-of-all-trade marketers who have experience in a buffet of different, related fields.

These professionals tend to be self-sufficient, adaptable, well-rounded marketers with an immediate “make things happen” attitude. Imagine someone with strong copywriting skills who can develop content, create email campaigns, manage social media accounts and keep everything working in an automated system, for instance.

If you’re a generalist, you’re probably comfortable multitasking and constantly jumping from project to project. You can do a little bit of everything…

If you’re a generalist, you’re probably comfortable multitasking and constantly jumping from project to project. You can do a little bit of everything, and have a proactive mindset toward figuring things out and getting them done. Your work might not be a masterpiece, but it’s functional and does the job.

Of course, that broad experience comes with a cost. No one can be a master of everything. Juggling so many responsibilities spreads even the best marketers skills thin. You’re unlikely to produce mind-blowing deliverables or disruptive insights; but you can but a business on the radar and keep it there.

If you’re more of a jack-of-all-trades, you’ll probably thrive most in these environments:

  • Organizations with minimal marketing needs: Some companies, even very large ones, operate in industries with a limited amount of major buyers and sellers that are all already aware of each other. In cases like this, an aggressive and comprehensive marketing team might not be called for; personal relationships frequently overwhelm the need for extensive marketing capabilities. Instead, a modest crew of well-rounded, flexible marketers is often all that’s needed to oversee those middling marketing needs.
  • SMBs: Organizations of modest size and tight marketing budgets are prime candidates for digital marketing generalists who can bring the basics in everything. When it comes to digital marketing, it’s usually best to have all your essential bases covered rather than focus on one tactic like SEO consultants while neglecting the rest.
  • New departments and experiment teams: When a business is trying something new and needs to build an entire infrastructure from scratch, it’s typically more effective to start with a foundation of very versatile individuals who can start getting momentum going on all fronts. You can help lay the groundwork and prove that there’s potential in this new idea with your flexible, make-it-happen talent.
  • Tumultuous markets: In some business environments, priorities can change at a moment’s notice and resources must constantly be shifted around different areas. Marketers who have a history comfortably moving between projects and adopting new roles are best suited to such dynamic marketing strategies.