Let’s Dead “Full Stack Marketer”

On a recent Reddit thread in r/startups, a young founder asked the group for advice on the proper way to hire for a marketing position. Specifically, he wanted to know what terminology to use in the job description. This brought out a slew of answers, such as: customer advocate, digital marketing manager, community manager, and so on. Here’s what I came in with:

Marketing Generalist. That’s what early stage startups need, then try to specify the prioritized roles. A digital marketing manager is quite different from an experiential marketing expert (those are the dudes who do live events and manage ambassador programs). Just like you’d hire for a tech role, call out exactly what skills they should have and prioritize them. You’re not going to find many CMO-level/type marketers who can really strategize for long-term growth but also want to deal with managing college ambassadors (that’s typically done at a lower level).

That got me questioning myself: What exactly is a “marketing generalist”? Is this the best advice to give a young founding team? Am I propagating the “full stack” myth? I view “full stack” to mean you have an effective grasp of the major umbrella marketing disciplines. You’re well-rounded, probably a little better in some areas than others, and you won’t find yourself completely out of your depth in the majority of situations.

But maybe there’s a better way to define this (unicorn?) role?

Personally, I think a marketer who focuses on being full stack at the detriment to deep exploration of one or two specific disciplines puts himself in a tough position for future value to employers. Listen to Cody Boyte relate his experience with this exact situation. The inherent challenge for us startup peeps is that an early stage team needs someone who has experience and knowledge in all aspects of marketing, but as soon as it’s time to hit that growth stage, as Cody pointed out, the specialists come rolling in.

I SAY WE TRASH “FULL STACK MARKETING” AND START TALKING “MIXED MARKETING ARTS” (MMA)

What’s a Mixed Marketing Artist, you ask? Much like a successful mixed martial artist (see what I did there?!!), it’s someone who is well rounded in most marketing areas but killer in one or two. You can keep up with any type of challenge, but you’re favored to succeed when the match-up suits your expertise. An MMA has value to an early stage startup because he can do a bit of everything, while easily transitioning to a growth company where his expertise will be utilized heavily. And while tactical strategies are a necessary foundation to any growth / acquisition plan, much like a fighter in the octagon, there’s an art to translating the game plan to real life execution.

My ultimate advice to the startup in that Reddit thread was to check out the graphic below — and read this article — covering the various marketing channels one can seek expertise for.

The ideal scenario for a startup like theirs is to find an MMA who has special expertise in the channels that will matter most in 6 months to a year. That requires a bit of foresight and general knowledge of your customer base and acquisition strategy, but it could mean the difference between hiring (and onboarding) two different people versus just one who actually grows with you.