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What is a Marketing Generalist?

Posted by Susan Mees on Jul 14, 2021 11:55:17 AM

If you’re thinking about testing a new channel or building out a marketing team, but you’re unsure where to start, you might want to consider hiring a marketing generalist to set you on the right path. 


This article will help you understand what a marketing generalist is, what kind of work they do, who they work for, and how they can help a business like yours grow. 


What is a Marketing Generalist?

A marketing generalist has general knowledge and expertise across multiple areas underneath the umbrella of marketing. Most marketing generalists today also identify themselves as T-shaped marketers. A T-shaped marketer possesses a broad knowledge of marketing as a whole and deep knowledge in one particular area. 


What’s the Difference Between a Marketing Generalist and a Marketing Specialist?

Marketing generalists are versatile and can move seamlessly from one focus area to another. For example, a marketing generalist could build an email campaign one day, manage the social media publishing calendar another day, write a press release the next day, and perform basic SEO keyword research the day after.  


On the other hand, a marketing specialist focuses their efforts entirely on one area. For example, you might hire a marketing specialist to build and manage email marketing campaigns. Or you might hire a marketing specialist to manage your paid media channels. 


What can Marketing Generalists do?

Marketing generalists typically perform well when the team they are working on is small. Because they have broad experience across multiple areas, they are used to spinning many plates at once. They can efficiently jump from one task to another throughout the day, depending on where the most significant need is at that moment in time. 


Marketing generalists are effective project managers and organizers. They’ll typically do as much as they can on their own before reaching out to someone with more expertise to take a task or project past the finish line.


Marketing generalists are also great at running early tests and exploring channels to help leaders decide if areas are worth investing in or if a full-time specialist is worth hiring or not. 


What Can’t Marketing Generalists do?

If you decide that a channel is worth optimizing, it’s best to bring in a specialist rather than a generalist. 




Because marketing generalists can only take strategy and execution so far before they’ve exhausted the general knowledge they have in the area or channel they’ve been helping you test.


Hiring a generalist to perform the work of a specialist will often cost you more money because a generalist will have to spend time obtaining deeper knowledge on a channel, while a specialist can dive deep right away with little hand-holding or time wasted. 


In other words, a generalist is usually just dangerous enough in every area of marketing to help you get things rolling but usually not skilled or experienced enough to help you optimize and scale. 


Who Can Benefit From Working With a Marketing Generalist?

Startups can particularly benefit from working with marketing generalists because they typically don’t have the budgets to hire an entire team of marketers early on. 


Startups also don’t always know which channels will bring the most ROI for their business, so they bring in marketing generalists to act as growth hackers. A growth hacker is someone who can design lean tests across multiple channels to determine the right path forward. 


Marketing generalists can also help companies that have decided to transition budgets from traditional marketing to digital marketing but aren’t sure where to start. Most marketing generalists are digital marketers who have the experience and skills needed to help a company make this type of transition. 


What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Marketing Generalists?

There are a few common misconceptions you should know about before hiring a marketing generalist. Here are three worth noting:


Misconception #1: Marketing generalists are specialists in everything. Some people make the mistake of believing that the generalist they’ve hired has deep knowledge across every marketing area. That’s wrong—a generalist typically has enough experience and expertise to get you started in many areas but not enough to help you go deep everywhere. 


Misconception #2: Marketing generalists can be effective no matter what company they work for. Just like when you hire a full-time employee, you have to recognize that not every marketing generalist is the right fit for your business or team. Some marketing generalists do better working in particular industries. Some prefer to work with startups as opposed to well-established companies. It’s your job to find the right fit. 


How do You Know if You’re Talking to a Really Good Marketing Generalist?

If you want to understand whether you’re talking to a good marketing generalist, look for these signs:


  • A good marketing generalist will ask a lot of questions about your company, your products and services, your audience, and your goals
  • A good marketing generalist will challenge you and push back when needed
  • A good marketing generalist will know their limits and know when to ask for help
  • A good marketing generalist will be able to advise on different areas of marketing, but probably not go too deep on strategic planning or execution 
  • A good marketing generalist can spin a lot of plates at once and isn’t intimidated by a fast-paced working environment
  • A good marketing generalist can work with little management or hand-holding from you

How to Know When it’s Time to Hire a Marketing Generalist?

The best time to hire a marketing generalist is when you:


  • Are just starting to think about building a marketing team but you’re not sure which roles to fill first
  • Are interested in testing multiple channels to understand which one could drive the most ROI for your business
  • Only need marketing support for a few months before you’ll be ready to hire someone more permanent 
  • Don’t have the budget to hire multiple marketing roles right now 
  • Need help switching from traditional marketing to digital marketing
  • Want to talk to someone who knows about growth hacking 

Need Help Finding the Right Marketing Generalist for Your Business?

GrowTal can connect you with experienced marketing generalists you can trust. Want to learn more about our experts and our process? Reach out to our team today to tell us exactly what you need help with. 

GrowTal is the most exclusive network of top marketing talent.


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