three people discussing hiring
Dec 13, 2019

Marketing Department Roles: Specialists vs Generalists

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer

When recruiting for your marketing department roles, there’s often a debate of whether you should opt for specialists, generalists or a hybrid of both. As marketing has evolved, a lot of businesses (especially B2B) are now using inbound marketing practices. So, the role of a specialist is becoming more and more important.

Specialists are in high demand and can provide great value to smaller marketing teams. Whereas, generalists are well known for wearing many hats, so it may be cost-effective for the business – rather than hiring for various positions.

But which one is right for your business? This blog will discuss the importance of both and will provide everything you need to know about what value they can bring to your business.


We’ll cover:



What is the Role of a Marketing Specialist?


Marketing specialists are members of the team that focus on a specific discipline in their day to day roles. For example, an account based marketer, content marketer or a product marketer. Depending on the size of the business, the budget allocated and company strategy, employers will hire marketing specialists to help them work towards their overall goals and objectives.

It all depends on the requirements of your business and the demands of your customers too. If your business is still trying to establish product-market fit, for example, then you’re going to need to hire team members that are focused on helping with that.


marketing specialist leading group


A lot of B2B businesses tend to hire marketing specialists early on. If you know that you’re going to be required to produce a lot of content from the outset, you’re going to want to make sure that this is carried out to the best standard right from the off. You don’t want your team to be drowning in work and the quality levels to suffer because of this.

Digital marketing initiatives are so crucial to the success of your business – you need to get them right. Which is why a lot of businesses invest in specialists from the get-go. However, we understand that some businesses just don’t have the budget to recruit specialist marketers for each discipline when starting.



What are the Roles of Marketing Generalists?


As we mentioned earlier, marketing generalists are well-known for wearing several hats – and wear them well, for that matter. Generalists are responsible for a wide variety of tasks – for example, email marketing, content marketing, digital, social and creating strategies – but they’re also responsible for keeping the overall team organised and running smoothly.

Generalists are operators within the team – they carry out a lot more project management tasks than specialists tend to but still have creativity. Generalists can manage projects like implementing marketing automation, website rebuilds or new product launches, or be responsible for the major facets of the business’ operations like lead generation or content distribution.


generalists project management


The best generalists can work with data and utilise it to make the best strategic decisions. They also have strong interpersonal skills and can prioritise tasks to help the wider team reach their overall goals. Plus, they’re usually familiar with popular marketing tools like HubSpot and Google Analytics too.

Marketers can often graduate into generalist roles after starting out as specialists. As they become more senior, they gain more responsibilities and can often pick up a larger wage packet as a result of this.



Can Generalists Carry Out the Role of a Specialists?


The two different areas require different skills and character traits to excel. As technology advances, marketing is forever changing and the number of specialisms is constantly growing too. There are hundreds of different areas within marketing, so it’s difficult for people to know which niche they want to enter into – which is making it easier for people to become specialists.

Generalists are great at spinning plates and keeping different areas of the business moving. Which means that they need to stay educated and continue to further their learning to keep these different areas at a high standard. This may seem like a lot of workload for them, not only having to carry out the tasks in the different areas but having to constantly train in them too.

But ensuring that they get the constant training will better the employee and will better the business too. The employee won’t mind working hard and will be fully motivated to do so because as an employer you’re investing in their development. Plus, generalists are open-minded workers and will want to excel in as many areas of the business as they can.


employee training for motivation


If you’re hiring a generalist don’t expect them to be amazing at everything – as your company grows, you can’t expect one person to carry on doing everything. The quality of work may slip as they struggle to keep up. Make sure you are always aware of what talent is out there so you are proactive with recruitment, instead of being reactive when it’s too late.

Specialists can become overly protective of their work. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – they know what works and they’re not prepared to give it up easily. Which is good for some areas of your business. However, in a B2B marketing environment, the industry is evolving so quickly that you can’t afford to not adapt. Otherwise, you run the risk of being left behind by your competitors.



Is a Mixture of the Two Good For Your Business?


Some businesses may argue that mixing the two isn’t the best idea if you want your business to have a positive working culture. As we mentioned, specialists can become protective over their work – especially if a generalist who may not be as qualified or experienced as them is giving over-critical opinions on their work.

Sometimes, generalist marketers get involved with projects to move them on quickly, which can force them to make criticisms or wholesome amends. The specialist may then become over-protective about their work. For example, a web designer may mock up a website redesign that a generalist might not like. They’ll then become territorial because they feel they know more than the generalist marketer.


web designer


However, the two can work together in different marketing department roles. Generalist marketers need to find a balance. Whilst they let the specialist do their thing, they should still be aware of upcoming deadlines and delighting clients. If the two find the perfect balance, they’ll dovetail nicely and will drive your business towards your overall goals and objectives.

Specialists will challenge generalists – and vice versa. Which means that the decisions that are made will be thought about more strategically. The discussions will be coming from two different business point of views, which will mean that the wider business will always be considered. Not just somebody’s speciality.

Hiring the right balance of generalists and specialists can lead to a top marketing team being formed. When you’re looking to recruit for somebody, you naturally have their overall job outline in mind. However, when you’re a startup, we feel that it’s best practice to not limit the scope of their work – just make sure they have their own focus and one for the team too.


team focuses and employee


It’s good to see which areas your employees excel in and which areas they want their careers to go in. You can’t let them dictate everything as some roles need doing no matter what. Self-identified strengths, weaknesses and interests create the best chance of placing your workforce in the right roles for themselves.


Are You Paying Your Workforce Fairly? Or Too Much?


Specialists and generalists tend to have their own opinions on what they should be paid. Specialists are regarded as experts in their field and feel they guarantee their employers a standard of work worthy of a high wage. Whilst generalists believe that they’re due a nice amount because of the various areas of responsibility that they have.

Responsibility and investment in their career progression are two ways to motivate your employees – but so is the right salary. After all, employees will have their own bills to pay and if they’re not receiving the right amount, they’ll prove to be hard to keep hold of or tie-down in the first place.