Should B2B Marketers Hire a Generalist or a Specialist Marketer?

Jan 11, 2017

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When hiring a B2B Marketer, how do you decide whether to look for a generalist or a specialist? Making the wrong hiring decision can have dire consequences. It can be an expensive strain on your time, your team’s energy and your results. In a world where marketing skillsets must evolve to keep up with technologies and approaches, how do you know if your detailed job description should be for someone with a broad set of skills or an expert in a particular area?

Your needs now..and 3 years from now

We recommend taking a long-term perspective by imagining the ideal candidate in your B2B company for the next 2-3 years, and asking yourself the following set of questions:

  • Do you need them to be able to contribute to various departments in the company as the role requires some cross-functional overlap or do you anticipate their need in one specific area?
  • Would you rather have them explore multiple marketing areas so they can determine their key areas of interest or do you expect them to remain focused on one subject matter?
  • Do you have the budget required to compensate multiple experts or can you only afford to hire one person who can execute multiple tasks across various marketing disciplines?

Once you’ve established your needs, you will have a better sense of the person that best fits the position. If you’re still struggling to assess your situation or determine which direction you should be leaning towards, take a look at this short Assessment tool by Hubspot – This article also covers the various pros and cons of hiring a specialist or a generalist marketer.

No Consensus on the right answer

Marketers are very passionate and divided about this topic. When polled its community members on whether marketers should be generalists or specialists; 53% of the respondents felt that marketers should be generalists in contrast to 47% who that felt that marketers should consider specialising in a marketing sub-set.  

The T-Shaped Marketer

While I was conducting my research for this article, I stumbled upon a third type of marketer called the
“T-shaped marketer” – This type of marketer is a hybrid of a generalist and a specialist. They undertake a bird’s-eye view when understanding the different disciplines of digital marketing, but specialize in one (or a few) areas, as shown below:

(Image Source)

A T-shaped marketer is best equipped to succeed in a fast-moving environment, typically found within a small to mid-sized company. They’re also quite useful when layoffs are happening, and you require a well-rounded individual who is capable of imparting knowledge across other departments or functions within your company.

For larger companies with multiple divisions or layers, bigger budgets and requirements in one focal area, hiring a marketing specialist seems to be the ideal route to take. The volume of work required to support several business units or stakeholders warrants the specialized skillset.

To sum up, your decision to hire a generalist, specialist or a T-shaped B2B marketer should not only be mapped back to your current needs and objectives, but also to your future needs as a company. This requires taking a forward-looking approach to visualising where you’d like the department and role to evolve in the next couple of years before developing your detailed job description. While there’s not necessarily a wrong answer, there’s certainly an ideal answer for your situation.

GET LIFT’s Approach

At GET LIFT Agency, we work with many different marketing specialists (either full-time employees, freelance contractors or through partners) in areas that we specialize in, such as content marketing. However, we’ve found that T-shaped Marketers (specialists that became generalists over time or vice versa) are the best fit for our client services teams. While our clients often have a wide range of issues, there is often a specific area such as marketing automation, content marketing or buyer personas where the most help is required. So a T-shaped marketer can take a 360-degree view, hone in on their area of expertise, and then bring in specialists for other areas. We are currently hiring for a B2B Account Supervisor. Toronto-based B2B-marketing generalists should apply!