We live in a complex, multi-channel world but many of us marketers only have a narrow range of skills. Today, all businesses need broad marketing skills and experience, and they must have a clear marketing strategy.

Developing effective marketing strategies for any business requires broad, deep marketing and business skills and experience. I call this the ‘Generalist Advantage’.

In practice, the marketing landscape is dominated by specialist marketing agencies: these agencies have valuable specialist skills in narrow areas, like web design, SEO, Google Ads, Social Media, PR or branding. However, they often do not have a broad, overall understanding across most of the key digital and traditional marketing channels, or sufficient knowledge to understand your business and help you develop your strategy.

Having this understanding of business is essential to ensure your marketing is on a clear, solid path so that your business can achieve its goals and your aspirations.

To achieve your business’s ambitions and full potential, you could have a marketing strategist on your team, inhouse, or an external marketing consultant, who:

  • Really understands your business.
  • Knows how to take your business in a clear, yet agile, long term direction.
  • Knows how to package up and present your Products and Pricing (the key ‘Ps’ in the marketing mix).
  • Understands how to fix and improve your business model, positioning and profitability.
  • Can develop a clear, differentiated proposition (sales pitch/USP) with powerful, real selling messages.

Too many of the so-called ‘marketing strategies‘ peddled by marketing agencies or inexperienced marketers are not strategies at all but narrowly focused tactics and campaigns, or strategies based on weak assumptions. These strategies aren’t based on solid long term foundations built from rigorous research, analysis, and stand-out creativity.

To get your business’s marketing and growth really working, you need to have a clear marketing strategy before you spend any of your budget on marketing campaigns or tools. The approach has to be strategy-first, tactics second.

You Need a Marketing Strategist with Broad Experience on Your Team

I’ve been a chartered marketer for nearly 30 years and have worked with more than 250 small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) across many sectors.

Because of my broad experience in business and professional marketing, as well as my lifetime of learning, I hope that I find it easier than most marketers to see the big picture and provide creative long term, strategic solutions. (My qualifications include an MBA, Chartered Marketer, Diploma in Digital Marketing, Chartered Surveyor and a new certificate in Growth Coaching – apologies for the pitch!).

That’s why I deliver genuine, full-service marketing consultancy at Real Marketing Transformation, from strategy to tactics. Most projects start by creating a strategic marketing plan, then progress to executing a multi-channel plan with specific marketing projects and campaigns. I often work with my clients over 6 months to 3 years or longer.

Because I work on both strategy and implementation, your marketing always follows a clear strategy, a clear long term direction. The benefits for your business are that I can solve complex marketing challenges with straightforward, practical, creative business solutions.

To find out what my clients think of my marketing services, please watch one of my video testimonials.

Your Business Needs a Clear, Long Term Approach to Marketing

In practice, too many small or medium sized businesses (SMEs/SMBs) do NOT have a clear marketing strategy – research shows that many spend less than one hour each month on strategy, when their business really needs a long term, carefully considered approach to marketing and the long term.

Having a marketing generalist on your team is a significant advantage for any small or medium business. It means that you can work with one marketing consultant who covers all bases, rather than several narrowly focused agencies who work in their own uncoordinated silos, costing your business significantly more overall.

Marketing strategies have to be executable, and having worked for many clients long term as their Virtual Marketing Manager, I understand how to make strategies work.

That’s why I now also offer ‘Fractional Marketing Director’ (or Fractional CMO) services. This follows the current trend in the US and London to have a highly experienced marketing consultant on your team to lead your business’s marketing on a ‘part-time , fractional basis’. You get strategic direction to drive growth, without the high overheads of a full-time salary. (‘Fractional’ means part-time and virtual, apologies for the jargon!)

My clients benefit from my speeded-up approach to developing marketing strategies and plans – captured in the flow diagram below. This fast, rigorous ‘thinking process’ brings together and speeds up the marketing analysis and research required to develop creative marketing strategies.

xample Real Marketing Strategy & Plan_Flow Diagram 2 950pxBut Generalists Are Often Under-Valued

Our world encourages hyper-specialisation and the skills of the generalist are often under-valued. The real challenge is how to ensure your business benefits from the many advantages of breadth and diverse experience.

“Our greatest strength is the exact opposite of narrow specialization. It is the ability to integrate broadly,” as David Epstein states in ‘Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World’ (2019).

This is the often overlooked antidote to the popular theory (or myth?) that to become an expert in a narrow area, all you need to do is practice it for 10,000 hours.

“Compared to other scientists, Nobel laureates are at least twenty-two times more likely to partake as an amateur actor, dancer, magician, or other type of performer. Nationally recognized scientists are much more likely than other scientists to be musicians, sculptors, painters, printmakers, woodworkers, mechanics, electronics tinkerers, glassblowers, poets, or writers, of both fiction and nonfiction.”

As psychologist and creativity researcher Dean Keith Simonton observed, “rather than obsessively focusing on a narrow topic, creative achievers tend to have broad interests”.

Your Business Needs Broad Perspectives and a Marketing Toolbox

With the rapid pace of change and an increasingly complex world, modern businesses need ‘range’ – or breadth of knowledge and experience with wide perspectives – to work out effective strategies. Our businesses need: “…the ability to make connections across different domains and ideas: ‘everyone needs habits of mind that allow them to dance across disciplines’”.

One good tool is rarely enough in an interconnected, fast-paced world. As the historian and philosopher Arnold Toynbee said, “No tool is omnicompetent. …There is no such thing as a master-key that will unlock all doors.” We need to be able to dip into an entire toolbox.

The most successful problem solvers, which effective marketing strategists are, spend mental energy working out what type of problem they are facing before matching strategic options to it. They don’t jump in with off-the-shelf so-called ‘strategies’.

Because Many Business Sectors are Complex, ‘Wicked’ Environments

Domains where patterns repeat again and again and can easily be recognised – psychologist Robin Hogarth calls ‘kind’ learning environments. In ‘wicked’ domains, the rules of the game are often unclear. These more complex worlds do not have obvious repeating patterns, and meaningful analysis is often late and inaccurate.

As David Epstein writes in Range: “In a ‘wicked’ world, relying upon experience from a single domain is not only limiting, it can be disastrous.”

But, not enough leaders and managers appreciate the value of diverse range and knowledge acquired over many years.

“The labs in which scientists had more diverse professional backgrounds were the ones where more and more varied analogies were offered, and where breakthroughs were more reliably produced…”

The scientists working in those labs had a wide variety of experiences and interests, who could draw on their range of knowledge to make ‘analogies’ and find creative solutions to challenging problems.

“Knowledge is a double-edged sword. It allows you to do some things, but it also makes you blind to other things that you could do,” writes David Epstein.

“As Karim Lakhani put it after his Inno-Centive research, a key to creative problem solving is tapping outsiders who use different approaches…”

Breadth of Experience is Invaluable

Research demonstrates that length of experience did not make the most successful creators stand out, but breadth of experience does. Broad experience makes creators more likely to innovate.

When facing uncertain environments and ‘wicked’, complex challenges, breadth of experience is invaluable. However, when facing less complex, common, ‘kind’ challenges, narrow specialization can work well.

“The problem is that we often expect the hyper-specialist, because of their expertise in a narrow area, to magically be able to extend their skill to wicked problems. The results can be disastrous.”

Cross-domain collaborations allow creators “to take ideas that are conventions in one area and bring them into a new area, where they’re suddenly seen as invention,” stated sociologist Brian Uzzi.

I particularly like his neat description of human creativity as an “import / export business of ideas”!

But, as InnoCentive founder Alph Bingham said to David Epstein, “break-through and fallacy look a lot alike initially.”

David Epstein also analyses successful careers and demonstrates that executives with more varied careers are “more likely to have novel strategies . . . which is key to a sustainable competitive advantage,” according to Gina Dokko, from the University of California-Davis Graduate School of Management.

In ‘Range’, Epstein compares Tiger Woods, who started playing golf when he was just 3 years old and became a hyper-specialist before declining in later years, to Roger Federer. Roger only took up tennis seriously when he was about 17 after contemplating a football career then dominated the world of tennis until he was in his late 30’s. This demonstrates how some of the most successful, elite athletes benefit from having broad experience in their youth and delayed specialisation.

Effective marketing strategies address complex problems and require the broad experience and creative solutions of general practice marketers, not narrow specialists. I call this the ‘Generalist Advantage’.

See my video testimonials or case studies, spanning the technology, ecommerce and retailing, food and drink, tourism and hospitality, professional services, education and property sectors.

Contact me, Christopher Lamotte for a no-obligation Marketing Transformation Call today to discuss your marketing challenges.

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