August 22, 2013

Is the Full-Stack Marketer a Myth?


The full-stack marketer is red-hot. Everywhere you turn, there are articles about how the full-stack marketer is “on the rise”, and how we need more full-stack marketers.

A growing number of startups are looking for marketing people who can do it all: create content (blog, videos, case studies, etc.), design, code, evangelize, socialize (in-person and through Facebook, Twitter, et al), media/blogger relations,  presentations, SEO and advertising.

But do full-stack marketers exist? Are there really “five-tool players” who are great at everything? Or are there marketers who are jacks of all trades but masters of none?

My take is the latter is currently more realistic given the diverse range of skills that someone needs to qualify as a full-stack marketer. Frankly, I don’t believe there are many people who can do it all right now.

Yes, there are people who can bring a variety of skills to the table but nowhere near the growing mythology about magical skills around the full-stack marketer.

So why is the full-stack marketer such a hot concept? 

Here are a couple of theories:

1. Startups are terrified to hire marketing people.

Why? These are people who have different skills and ideas. As a result, startups think they can mitigate the tactical and financial risk by hiring a marketing person who is multi-talented. Even if the startup can’t completely embrace marketing, the full-stack marketer can stay busy doing non-marketing things. In other words, hiring a full-stack marketer is like hiring a marketer but not really.

2. Given the current obsession with lean startups, it makes sense to have people who are multi-talented, including the marketing person.

No startup wants to be un-lean because it’s sexy to drive the business as efficiently as possible. Every hire and expenditure is scrutinized because it’s the way startups are supposed to be run. In the lean model, hiring a marketer is a luxury, but hiring a full-stack marketer can be justified as long as they can do marketing and a whole bunch more.

In an ideal world, a full-stack marketer would be an awesome hire but there are not many people who fit the bill right now.

In the future, it’s possible that more “full-stack marketers” will emerge as skills such as video creation and coding become commonplace. People armed with these skills can blend their communication and writing expertise to become full-stack marketers.

To be honest, the quest for full-stack marketers is admirable but unrealistic.

So let’s throw the ball in your court. How would you describe a full-stack marketer?

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