Has marketing entered the specialist era?

Is now the time for new kind of communications business that connects marketing specialists with corporate marketers?

Its been obvious for a while now that the generalist media era is coming to an end. No longer do a handful of large media outlets determine our news and entertainment the way they did during the last century. Increasingly we are turning to a multitude of specialist media providers to satisfy our many needs. Media consumption is splintering so rapidly that it’s difficult to keep track of the vast array of options available to us.

marketing specialists

Marketing "connectors" assemble teams of specialists

One hangover from the generalist media era is the full-service agency. Whilst “everything under one roof” may have been feasible when there were only a handful of media options, in 2010, with a ridiculous number of feasible marketing options available….Free to Air TV, Subscription TV, Radio, Digital radio, Press, online press, outdoor, SEO, SEM, social media, inbound marketing, micro sites etc…. its seems ludicrous to believe that one shop can do it all.

We all know its nearly impossible to be good at everything. We’ve all heard the saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Yet so many agencies are having trouble accepting the fact that it’s time to let go of the whole pie and begin specialising in certain ingredients instead.

A few days ago Marc Andreesen advised the old media to “burn the boats”. In particular he was referring to the print media who have been attempting to straddle print and online for the last decade. Andressen feels that these guys need to commit to one or the other, ideally burning their original platform to wholeheartedly embrace their digital futures. Unfortunately too many of these organisations are finding it impossible to let go of their old business model, and perhaps they can’t.

Likewise, agencies seem reluctant to burn their full service boat. Its served them well for a long time and the glory days weren’t that long ago.

But the writing is on the wall. Marketers understand that the world has changed and want to be presented with the best options. They’re increasingly sceptical of anyone who tells them they have all the best people under one roof ready to provide solutions to all their marketing needs.

Is it realistic to believe that the agency who delivers killer TV creative can also nail the SEO component? Or the SEM strategy? Or craft an effective social media plan?

Marketers know they need specialists to assist in each area. And the areas of specialisation are becoming narrower, not wider.

The biggest challenge they now face is where to find all these specialists. The full service agency made it easy. One shop, one account manager. If this is no longer viable then how does the poor marketer sift through the plethora of “experts” to assemble their new dream team?

The answer may lay with another specialist. The connector. The connector is essentially a marketing consultant who understands the broad needs of the client and then introduces the best specialists for each aspect of the job. The connector works with a wide range of specialists, understanding where each of them fit in the bigger picture.

The best analogy is your family doctor. In many ways your doctor is the connector. He can offer quick advice on the general problems but refers you to  range of specialists for the more technical stuff. The doctor is often then the collector of the specialist reports and communicates them back to the patient / customer.

You trust your GP to refer you to the appropriate specialist, say an orthopedic surgeon, but you’d be very concerned if he suddenly offered to do that knee reconstruction himself.

Likewise, marketers should be wary of the generalist agency who claims to be able to address all their requirements.

What do you think, have we entered the specialist era or is there still a strong argument for full service agencies? Will we witness the rise of the marketing “connectors”?

5 Responses to “Has marketing entered the specialist era?”

Great post Craig. Specialists are definitely required, the jack of all trades agency model cannot cope with the rate of change from the social web. New thinking and energy from the social network feeds the network. Collaboration of specialists servicing business and in collaboration with the traditional models is the new supply change to leverage the business opportunities digital provides.

Comment by Fi Bendall on March 10th, 2010

I agree an excellent post. You are 100% correct about the concept of a “connector” and the role that a person such as this could play in assisting Marketing Managers from large corporations who invariably have enough on their plate let alone to keep up with evolving marketing trends. The next question for ad agencies is the role of a connector. Is the role of a connector to point the client in the direction of the services of the very best specialist independent marketing services (e.g TVC’s, print, SEO, graphic design etc)? Or as I suspect may happen, the ad agency Pricinpal gets a bit to clever and has the connector offer the services of the very best specialist independent marketing services but these specialist “independent” marketing services are surprisingly based under the same roof as the connectors ad agency and is owned by the same Principal. In summary I think the concept of a connector, if independant, is a great idea.

Comment by Go Knights on March 12th, 2010

This Connector role, is one that I regularly play with clients, as a business coach. Business owners often don’t know how to tell if areas of their business are working as well as they could, and even when they suspect it may be so, it is often not easy for them to know ‘where to go’ for expertise in all these areas.

Opening up avenues between different providers of service to business is a critical step in discovering good Connectors – and making sure they have adequate options to use to recommend to business owners, in a variety of disciplines. That’s really a recommendation to look at our current business network and see if we have developed relationships outside of the industry we’re in, to expand our network to work effectively across networks and extend the reach of each member in our network. And ensure that each member is someone who is both capable and inclined to open doors for others.

Comment by Lindy Asimus on March 20th, 2010

Great Post. The segmentation of the marketplace is definitely becoming more and more splintered. To think that there can be an “ad agency” without some sort of intermediary is absurd today.

As Lindy pointed out, business coach as consultant/connector is a perfect fit, especially for one who has positioned himself in the proper relationships.

Copywriting has been specialized for years, though we do still have the occasional die-hard generalist.

I think this fits very well with a collaboration-in-lieu-of-competition mindset, one which I have held for years.

Comment by James on April 8th, 2010

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Comment by Has marketing entered the specialist era? | MarketingTypo.com on April 20th, 2010

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