Specialist vs. Generalist?

specialist marketing assassinI’ve been involved in enough agency pitches and met enough clients and consultants to be able to offer an opinion on whether career marketers should specialise or be a generalist.

There are clear advantages in coming at a marketing challenge from both perspectives.

Being a specialist means you have tangible, recognisable experience within a given customer sector (construction), a specific type of marketing (b2b) or a dedicated tactic (like PR). Customers and clients outsource services like marketing because they want expertise and specialists can provide this in spades, drawing on experience from similar customers. Experience brings credibility and makes business development easier.

But this is also the downfall of this approach. Being a specialist can lead you down Niche Alley.

I personally favour the generalist approach because I believe that marketing is fundamentally the same discipline whether you’re shifting printers, toothbrushes, cars, ipods, cough syrup or legal services.

Experience from working with b2c brands can provide b2b marketers with real creative impact and help them stand out in staid markets. An understanding of how retail marketing works will help companies who embark on their own sales promotion drives. Public sector and b2b experience, where real thought has to be given to the process, contracting, tendering and meeting the needs of multiple audiences demonstrates the ability to operate in complexity.

But as a contracting client, a freelance consultant or an agency, what do you think?

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