Marketing is a broad discipline, encompassing lots of different skills and specializations. The old-school days of ad-agency-style divisions between Copy, Design, Strategy, Media and Account Management are gone. In today’s competitive landscape, it’s very common for marketers (and even designers and developers for that matter) to have “slash” jobs, such as Marketing Manager/Designer or Designer/Developer or Copywriter/Digital Marketer or Designer/Videographer.
I used to like to call these cross-over career ninjas “unicorns” (as in, beautiful but rare and extremely valuable). Except that now, the demand for unicorns is growing.
Jack of All Trades
But, just because it’s a common approach, is it realistic to expect that any one person can excel in every different skill set, or that this type of specialty consolidation is the best direction for the industry? In my own decade-ish long career, I’ve been a jack of all trades, working across many industries and doing everything from writing to event planning to project/account management to videography to website planning to data analysis to budgeting to market research – and I’m sure I’ve missed a few things.
This range of experience is not unusual in today’s marketplace. The upside is that a background as varied as that is rich, and creates well-rounded professionals who are comfortable with change and confident jumping into any project and running with it. It means that you can do a lot with a small team, and run very lean.
…But a Master of None
However, it also means that you can’t become specialized. That’s not an insult; it’s difficult to have a hand in that many activities while still honing a deep expertise in any one area. Today, marketers are expected to have traditional marketing knowledge plus digital literacy, financial fluency, and data analysis acumen. According to this Marketing Week article, it’s “no longer sufficient for marketers to have a superficial knowledge of any subject.” Well, that’s a daunting thought…
Become a Lifetime Learner
As a marketer, I believe you should make an effort to constantly expand your knowledge set. Be well-read. Don’t focus exclusively on things that seem to fit “marketing”, because those edges are broadening every day (who among us hasn’t seen an undefined project roll into marketing’s responsibility, as the “catch-all” when no other department seems to fit?). Try to learn as much as you can across as many topics as possible, from technology to psychology to economics to statistics and everything in between, and focus on tackling the skills that most elude you personally (I’m looking at you, algebra) so that you’re always pushing your own boundaries.
And Find the Right Team
But – and this is a big caveat – be realistic and remember that no matter how much you learn, you just can’t know everything. Be honest about your limitations and instead, find strength in numbers. Seek out people (teammates, colleagues from other departments, external support) who can help fill the gaps in your own expertise, and lean on them.
I believe the best approach for anyone managing a marketing team is to learn enough about every discipline to understand what you know, and, more importantly, what you don’t know. That way, when you’re talking to a specialist, you know the bounds of what’s possible, but you also know if they’re telling you something that isn’t true. Then, and this is especially important for projects that are more technical or complex, leave the execution to someone who has an expertise in the field. It will ensure a better product, and alleviate stress for you – leaving you time to go learn something else!
So, did this post leave you wondering if your marketing is making the most of your skills and knowledge – or if you have the right support team? Take our short assessment to find out!