By Marcus Isherwood, Creative Media Managing Director
Some recent debate on LinkedIn started tongues wagging (but thankfully not too many fingers pointing!) in the office about the benefits of marketing specialists vs Swiss Army Knife-style generalists plus some chat about the ‘introduction to marketing…’ masterclass industry.
The debate isn’t ending any time soon, but essentially I’ve found in 20 years of business that entrepreneurs want to find the right balance for their skills, budget and needs. That’s why I’ve put together some brutally honest advice on this below.
But first, what’s the Creative Media team’s take on the debate? Well, Conor (our Content Marketer) is fond of a rambling metaphor and managed to sum up the consensus here with, as usual, a rambling metaphor.
Here’s the gist: If your car is broken what do you do? Take the thing to the right type of mechanic for the fix needed and go about your day. But you don’t ask the mechanic to give you a three-hour masterclass on vehicle ECUs.
Also – especially with today’s technology – even if you did this, you generally wouldn’t decide the half-day intro means you’ve become your own mechanic and can now avoid paying others for fixes and repairs ever again.
He also ranted on about different types of cars and things for a while too. But we stopped listening.
Instead, I’ve been thinking about three essential takeaways from the debate for business owners:
1, Look in a Mirror for Your Weakest Link
Bet we can tell what age you are by whether you read that in an Anne Robinson voice.
Anyway, in the LinkedIn era more value is put on confidence and ‘have a go’ than on deep dive specialisms. Let’s be blunt: an entire sector exists to tell people they can learn a profession in a few afternoons.
What should business owners do? Well, while your competitors chasing their tail, look hard in the mirror to establish the things you DON’T know about marketing.
Ask others, ask them again and keep asking until you get an entirely honest answer. That’s where your gold is, that’s where the week link is and that’s where your time is worth more than the next training course you’d planned to sit through.
You might need help tying your marketing strategy to business goals, you might need help making your brand perform better or you might need a smarter approach to content.
All in all, you know a lot when you know you don’t know. In fact, there’s a serious edge to be found in committed self-criticism and resulting action.
2, Free Up Time for Your In-House Team
A simple rule very much applies to any in-house marketer/s your business already has in place: play to your strengths.
Let’s be extremely frank: I’ve very rarely seen a great writer with the same level of talent as a designer, I’ve yet to meet an outstanding technical whiz with an equal flair for content and it doesn’t take long to see if someone’s nature home is with strategy or tactics.
Investing in help for your in-house people means freeing up their time to concentrate on the crocodiles closest to the boat.
For example, a long-term content marketing campaign, rebrand or website overhaul takes a substantial commitment of time to deliver well. Outside help can take on this work with specialist knowledge while leaving your people to do what they do best.
Not every business can afford to invest in expert help with very specific areas, but the benefits are clear.
3, The Right Learning, for the Right Colleagues
For our clients, helping their in-house team with deep dive training into a marketing subject is a smart investment.
Would we discourage basic, overview courses? Yes and no.
The rule of ‘you know a lot when you know you don’t know applies’: yes, use courses to teach yourself the basic theories, methods and lingo behind effective marketing. But use this to find the areas where you need specialist help to truly create and execute a plan built to perform.
My view of any course is that it should be built around a specific outcome with one eye on how the knowledge will give you a genuine edge over your competitors. Otherwise, why invest the time?
Conclusion: Get In and Drive
No more car metaphors after this one. Promise.
Marketing is simple: set the right plan and keep your eyes on the road. Your ‘pit team’ will look after the fuel, fixes, set-up and much more.
Too many people take the wrong courses, tinker with the wrong skills and end up dropping in reactive tactics. It delivers little but a muddled race and an expensive season.
Get specialist help if budget allows, treat generalism with a huge pinch of critical self-awareness and give your in-house team as much support as you can afford. Good luck!
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