Is Specialization Bad for Startup Marketing?

We’re starting to run a Scrumban process in RapidMiner marketing. Scrumban is a great way accelerate output by creating more transparency around priorities in the hectic world of startup marketing. We’ve got our Scrumban board, with all colorful kanbans beautifully laid out into various columns.

RapidMiner’s Scrumban board, blurred

As we get into Scrumban, we often find outselves blocked by kanbans that require specialized expertise. For example, our product marketing team is swamped with important messaging and enablement work. They can quickly become a blocker for the demand generation and events teams who require messaging for campaigns and tradeshow booths.

Our team structure is pretty typical of tech marketing. We’re a team of 7, and as our CMO I’m still pretty hands on with things. While I’m not particularly great at anything, I’m pretty good at lots of things. And I’m certainly not afraid to push myself out of my comfort zone to learn new things. In the Scrumban process I’m able to pickup any kanban and do my best to move it forward.

In a startup like RapidMiner, versatility is really important. Marcelo Calbucci coined the term Full-Stack Marketer, a reference to the full-stack developer who is equally comfortable working on back-end and front-end development projects. The full-stack marketer needs to be equally comfortable with writing content, optimizing for SEO, executing a campaign, expanding reach with PR, enabling the sales team, review metrics, etc.

Now it’s really hard to be great at everything, but maybe that’s not the point? Functional specialization becomes more important as companies scale, but for startups marketers being locked into the job description you were hired for limits your ability to impact the business. And maybe more importantly develop your own skills, especially if you’d like to run marketing someday.

The path to CMO is paved by versatility.

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