Seth Godin argued when choice is limited, hire a generalist. But when possible, Seth seeks out a made-to-order specialist (even if that’s a specialized generalist).
I think that side steps the real point.
The question you and I face goes something like this: Should I spend my time fine-tuning my current skills, or learn something new?
From what I’ve experienced, I think your focus will change based on three things:
- Your current role (i.e. as a consultant, CEO, co-founder, in-house marketer, etc).
- How far you are in your journey.
- Where you stand compared to the competition.
People come to me for help with influencer marketing and content promotion. On the backend, I can discover their problem and find they need help with SEO, social media, Facebook ads, (etc.), which I could up-sell or cross-sell.
Others prefer to be best-in-class doing Facebook ads, and charge a premium to do so. They may learn other skills, like copywriting, analytics, and CRO, but that’s to serve their goal of being the best.
If you want to get a $5/hour raise at your job, first find out what your boss wants worth $20,000. Then show him how you will help him get that in 90 days. You could be learning a new skill, or developing what you already have.
I’m a fan of the T-shaped marketer (or developer, doctor, product manager…) – a breadth of skills, but a deep specialization in 1-2 fields. But I’m also an entrepreneur at heart, who wants to know what works best and the fastest route to get more growth (more in the book Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth).
I was conflicted. I hate writing posts on topics I don’t know anything about. The world is filled with too many hogwash listicles from gurus who know nothing about their trade.
So I solved part of the problem by setting up an Instagram account and experimenting. The other solution was to source advice from other marketing experts.
But what helped the most was using the skills I’d already learned (SEO, social, etc), and applying it to a new field (Instagram).
Thus, I created something I was both proud of and something unique.
As for what will work best for you?
I say decide on what your goals are, both now and in 5 years.
Then figure out what will help get you there fastest.
Finally, go out, make mistakes, learn and grow.