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The Myth of the Marketing Unicorn

July 17, 2023

“I need to hire a marketing person,” the business owner says to me. “What do you recommend?” they ask.

You know what happens when you assume…so instead, I ask questions.

“What skills does this ‘marketing person’ need to have?” I inquire. Nine times out of 10, the person lists many of the disciplines in Ross Simmonds’s tweet.

Tweet from Ross Simmonds

Does that job sound like a tall order? It should. Each job function mentioned requires a unique set of skills, demands, and ever-evolving best practices.

Consider PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising. It’s a data-heavy realm that requires deep analytical skills, a love of numbers, and an understanding of budget optimization. It also requires someone – probably a different someone – who can write copy, build landing pages, and setup the tracking systems necessary to analyze the success or failure of an ad. Add to that multiple platforms that make up the PPC world: Google Ads, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Amazon…you get the picture. PPC is not just “one thing.”

Then there is graphic design, a creative domain where an understanding of typography, color, spatial balance, and content architecture are key. Not to mention understanding a suite of tools and a variety of media.

The mindsets, skills, and talents required for those two roles are dramatically different. Add social media, branding, and video to the mix and you have a bridge too far.
But why can’t one person learn all these skills? While it’s not impossible, it’s akin to expecting one person to master multiple musical instruments – at a concert-level proficiency. Mastery takes time, and in a field as fast-paced as digital marketing, there’s not enough time to keep up with the rapid changes and developments in every single area.

Even if you were lucky enough to find a marketing ‘unicorn’ who has a working knowledge in all these fields, the likelihood is that they will excel in some areas and struggle in others. They may deliver a general level of competence but will likely struggle to produce exceptional results across all fronts.

Then there is the workload. Each of these fields is a full-time job in itself. Expecting one person to handle all these roles can lead to burnout, affecting the overall quality of work, potentially damaging your brand, and prompt your “marketing person” to find a job where they can be more successful and concentrate on what they do best.

You’re also likely to spend the vast majority of your budget on their salary and benefits. What you thought might be $60K/year (I’m holding back my laughter) can quickly turn into double that if you’re going to actually do marketing right.

The key takeaway here is that a high-performing marketing team isn’t comprised of one all-encompassing superstar but rather a diverse group of individuals each specializing in their own areas. Collectively, they bring their unique skills to the table, creating a synergistic team that can tackle every aspect of the marketing landscape.

Rather than seeking that elusive marketing unicorn, consider partnering with a robust marketing team. Collaborate with a marketing agency that provides a pool of talent with different areas of expertise. In the long run, it’s a more sustainable and efficient approach, leading to consistent, high-quality work that will drive your business forward.

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