Three years ago I was at a dinner and an entrepreneur was telling me and the VP of Marketing of a successful startup how there weren’t enough marketing folks in Seattle. This VP of Marketing disagreed and said there are plenty of marketing folks, but not the ones startups need.

If you go to Twitter or LinkedIn, every other person seems to have a marketing background.  If you open a marketing position at your company, you get more resumes than you would for a front-end developer. The issue could be that there aren’t that many marketing positions available or the supply of marketing talent looking for jobs right now is high.

But the bottom line is that most of these marketing folks are not “Full Stack Marketers” qualified to work at a startup.

Full-stack Developers

Just a few years ago Randy Schmidt coined the term “full-stack web developer” to define a software developer who could work in any layer of the technology stack, from architecture to database, from front-end to business logic, from UX to HTML. We all knew what it meant to be a “jack of all trades” developer at a startup, but the term gave clarity to why “full-stack developers” were critical to build an early startup team. You can’t afford to have a VP of Engineering whose whole job is to manage the engineering team because you don’t have an engineering team. You can’t afford to have a DBA just to manage the database, because your database doesn’t have enough data. At the same time, every week you need a few hours of DBA, a few hours of “VP-ing,” a few hours of architecture design, a few hours of HTML/CSS coding, a few hours of API integration, etc. The solution startups found is to have full-stack developers.

Full-stack Marketing

And that’s exactly what’s missing with most marketing folks who want to join a startup. You have to know (nearly) it all. You don’t have to be good at everything, but you have to have enough exposure and experience at all levels of the marketing “stack” to be able to make good calls on how to spend your time, money and other startups resources in order to maximize the value you bring to the table. It’s not enough to be a brilliant marketing strategist and not know how to execute those strategies. It’s not enough to have a bag full of tactical tricks if you can’t create cohesion for the company positioning. It’s not enough to be a master of Social Media and have no idea how SEO works.

If you are a marketer working at a startup, today you might be strategizing about a new campaign, and tomorrow you’ll have to go open Adobe Illustrator and change the copy on a flyer that you’ll send to be printed at Staples later. In the morning of the next day you might be trying get ahold of the editor of the lifestyle section of the Seattle Times and in the afternoon you are creating 7 ad variations for a Google Adwords campaign, and that same night you and the CEO will be having dinner with the VP of Marketing of a large consumer company and you’ll be discussing a two-year strategy roadmap and bringing product vision ideas back to the team the next morning.

You can look at our own job description for a Director of Marketing at EveryMove to see the kind of breadth we value, which is very similar to what most tech startups are looking for in that role — including marketing consumer tech products, community building and outreach, social media strategy, search engine marketing, public relations, traditional marketing, and more.

It’s a (startup) scale problem

If you think about the startup funnel, where you have thousands of startups in pre-funding stage, hundreds with seed money, tens with a Series A round and so on and so forth, there are very few startups that can get away without having full-time developers on their team from the get go, which means there is a huge pipe of developers being fed at the earliest stages of startup life.

Marcelo Calbucci
Marcelo Calbucci, EveryMove

Marketing is different. Usually startups don’t seek marketers until they are funded or they are getting traction and need someone to be thinking full-time about creating customer awareness and acquisition. It doesn’t mean the startup didn’t have someone thinking and doing marketing, but after a certain point they require someone full-time. Since that only happens at slightly later stages, there are fewer startups and fewer available positions for marketers — a search for open job positions at startups on AngelList shows there are 1,214 job for developers and 144 for Marketing at startups.

Since there are so few “full-stack marketers” startups must make it happen by getting marketing folks from somewhere and often making a bad short-term decision. Talent may come fresh out of college, from big companies, from consultants who have been doing marketing for small businesses, or agencies. But each of those have their own challenges switching their minds to work at a startup. It’s the equivalent of a Google engineer — accustomed to building software for 100 million people to use — joining a nimble startup trying to get its first 1,000 users and which might be running out of money in 6-months. Scaling is not as important as experimenting and being fast. There is a major mental shift that needs to occur and it’s not uncommon for developers to take 6 to 12 months, or more, to “get it.”

Addressing the Root Cause

The real problem here is that marketers are boxing themselves in too early in their career. My recommendation is the exact same recommendation I give to developers who spent way too much of their career focusing on a single technology and becoming experts in one field. I tell them to go do side projects and expose themselves to the knowledge and field of expertise they haven’t be exposed to before. For a marketer, that means to get side-projects for a non-profit, small business or your cousin’s beauty salon. Go learn the things that are lacking to give you a broader knowledge of marketing. If you have never run a Google Adwords campaign, go run one. If you never done SEO for a website, go learn about it at SEOmoz. If you haven’t written a press release in a while, offer to write one for a friend who owns a business, and get a friend or two in PR to give you feedback. Go learn about the latest and greatest of Inbound Marketing.

This is not about being good at everything. It’s about increasing your breadth of experience to make sure you can be as flexible as startups need their employees to be.

Marcelo Calbucci is the co-founder & CTO of EveryMove, a rewards program for physical activity. You can follow him on Twitter @calbucci and on his blog.

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  • Shalendra

    Well said Marcelo. I’m going to write a follow-up post on what marketing entails for startups (including building inherent virality within the product and other channels.) Good marketing isn’t marketing these days. It’s a genuine 2-way conversation that delights and educates your customers evoking their emotions in a meaningful way such that there is a chance that they become your evangelizers.

    • Drew Meyers

      As a business/marketing co-founder, building product virality is what I spend much of my time focused on. Crucial skill, that involves a thorough thorough understanding of your industry and consumer web behavior.

    • Josh Leichtung

      I agree Shalendra. Building marketing into the product is paramount. Of course viral is key if possible.

  • Anne Baker

    What an interesting post! As a marketing consultant to many tech start-ups I couldn’t agree with you more. The days of marketers sitting in an office, running some ads, and waiting for customers to come knocking is long gone. You have to be able to do end-to-end marketing, and not just strategy but execution as well. FAST. “Full-stack marketers” – love it, I’m going to borrow that term, Marcelo. Best of luck on your hunt for a good one.

  • curiousoffice

    Great post. If there’s any trend I’m seeing, it’s that candidates in any discipline need to allow for a higher level of “bleed” in their careers. Developers need to have more understanding of design. Designers need to be more technical. Marketing needs to be more hands and without hard “silos” such as PR, social, branding or email being distinct fields or disciplines. A VP of Marketing in a start-up has to be able to do their own mailchimp template without help one day and then turn around and do an SEO/SEM assessment the next while coming up with great viral/social ideas without a lot of other sounding boards. And, they should be able to contribute to product feature ideas that are of a really high value.

    • Marcelo Calbucci

      That’s right Kelly. I talk about Full-stack marketers, but the same thought-line can be extended to many roles.

  • brian piercy

    Ahem. (Sticks hand in air.) (Waves hand madly.)

  • spike


  • Robert Hammond

    You talked about everything you would hire an agency to do (branding, pr, social, campaigning, etc) but I think you missed out on the most important aspects of marketing: learning the customers needs, crafting a value proposition that connects your product/service to those needs and pricing your offering to win. Maybe it’s just me but those are three functional areas you can’t screw up and they get almost zero attention from startup marketers. Especially marketers that believe getting 25k robots to follow you on Twitter is the key to success.

    • Marcelo Calbucci

      Robert, I didn’t try to cover everything a marketing person at a startup should be able to do, but I did mention that on this sentence:

      “… you’ll be discussing a two-year strategy roadmap and bringing product vision ideas back to the team the next morning.”

  • _Or_

    Perhaps your article is more an indication that you haven’t developed or communicated an appropriate marketing strategy in the first place. Or maybe it’s more indicative of overreach on your part, based on the idea that you’ve made a cursory study of a subject, then concluding that you’re in a position to guide other people in it flawlessly. Bottom line: if you expect a “full-stack” employee of any sort, it’s probably best not to be the founder who’s making wild stabs in the general direction of the tasks at hand, versus, you know, being actually competent in them, donchathink?

    • B Jones

      I would have agreed with you in the past, but my mind has really changed in the past year for three reasons:

      1) Finite resources require multi-tasking by (almost) everyone from time to time,

      2) seasoned marketers are not pre-loaded with every skill they’ll need to work in a startup, and even if they were, they might not be motivated to start up,

      3) when self awareness is not in short supply, smart, nimble staffers adapt — even when they can’t count on anyone else for guidance.

      First, the finite resources. When you know exactly how long your runway is, and the date on which you will run out of money to fund your operations unless you become profitable (seems simple, really isn’t), it alters your way of thinking.

      What I mean is this: we raised a pile of money (a modest pile), and hired the key staff we need to build our product. Even though we believe that business-side hires are totally invaluable and know we need a fully complemented staff, part of our marketing budget has been sacrificed to fill a much more critical product need. The adage “superior marketing makes the product irrelevant” really doesn’t apply. Superior marketing may mask questionable product performance for a little while, but the truth comes out eventually. No product can survive in the emperor’s new clothes for long.

      So dedicating the bulk of our resources to product development means there’s less to go around elsewhere. Given that, we filled the non-technical positions with people who are really excellent at something we need, and won’t fuss too much when asked to spread out over other areas of need. If they have strengths that can be deployed to other areas, we’re glad to use them and, IMO, would be wasteful not to.

      Second, senior-level marketers with an exceptional appetite for risk aren’t easy hires. This may come as a shock, but not all seasoned senior-level marketers have been pre-loaded with the exact skills they need in a startup. Even if they did, it’s not always possible to afford them (given finite resources), promise them job security, or even give them a chance to do what made them excel in their past positions. I.e., these things come to mind immediately: a full team, an idea of what they are selling and whom to sell it to, leadership from someone with a clear, feasible plan (to your point),or even a marketing budget that would be replinished at regular intervals. Those things are not usually available in startups. And this brings me to my third point:

      Third, there are plenty of excellent leaders who aren’t fully versed on a subject, but manage their employees outside their fields of expertise successfully anyway. I agree with you–a founder who reads an article on TechCrunch and immediately lights up with the belief that they are able to execute the subject matter of that article is insufferable. But most founders aren’t like that. They have self awareness and some threshold amount of motivation and intelligence, and so do their marketing staffs. This means the marketers can learn, adapt, and figure out how to do things outside of their fields of training. In any occupation, you really can’t count on your manager to guarantee your success. The difference in a startup is that you never even expect to, you know you have to create the path as you go.

      – BJ

  • Lauren Hall-Stigerts

    The “full stack marketer” makes sense in the early stages of a startup, but what about as the startup begins to grow? Do those jack-of-all-trades marketers become specialists in the areas of strongest interest or strongest need while growing the team? Or does that marketer because the leader of the marketing team and transition to a manager role while procuring specialist marketers?

    • Marcelo Calbucci

      Lauren, I have not got to that point on my startup, so I’m just guessing here, but either this person becomes specialized and an expert in one or few areas, or the person becomes a manager of specialists.

      • Laura Szczes

        Thank you Lauren for that question and thanks Marcelo for posting this. I have always thought managing everything meant I wasn’t truly good at anything, even though I’ve done everything at one time or another. I’ve never thought of start-ups as the place that would get that, but it makes perfect sense. Note: I’m VP of a small ad agency in Seattle and I’m now a manager of specialists but often end up in the trenches.

    • Josh Leichtung

      It all depends on depth of experience, and management ability. A shallow generalist probably won’t survive in a thriving company unless they become a great strategist. The best of all possible worlds is to get someone with a depth of experience that has scaled a company from startup to $XX million.

      Those people are harder to find. Often they feel they have “graduated” and look for gigs at more mature companies. What you need is someone with a startup DNA that has depth and scaled a company.

  • Pradeep Chauhan

    I agree startup marketing is a generalist/jack of all trades type job, but I’d guess people would get that when you say “Startup Marketing “. Maybe you could just add rockstar, ninja, sherpa…to indicate its not a regular gig!

    • Sanket Nadhani

      Oh no, that’s the exact opposite of what I would do. It’s more like saying we have no clue what we are hiring for, but we need someone, so we are going to call you a rockstar and make you slave 18 hours a day, 7 days a week :)

  • Ryan Dancey

    This is a fantastic post. Without a doubt true from start to finish. The idea that you can bring in specialized marketing experts early is really bad. You need one or two folks with a broad coverage of skills in many disciplines. Many of these areas have a lot of overlap with others – there are core marketing skills that allow those who posses them to do an acceptable job in a wide variety of tasks; not as good as a domain expert, but often more than good enough for the requirement of the business at the time.

  • Angel – Weddingful

    Completely agreed. It’s so easy to just look for the wrong short-term hires and end up missing these critical skills required for startups.

  • Robbin Block

    This is what we’ve always called a marketing generalist, and I know plenty of them. Whatever it’s called however, your argument is somewhat spurious. The reason why there are fewer marketing jobs is because non-marketers think that one person can do everything, so they focus more on building a product than on promoting it. Shouldn’t there be one developer who can do everything then too? Considering the competition out there for tech products and services, it’s a poor allocation of resources. Perhaps the better way to start a business is with one full stack developer and one full stack marketer, and keep it an even split as the company grows.

    • Salman Merchant

      A good number of start-ups and entrepreneurs underestimate the Customer Acquisition part of their business model – it’s hard, and for good reason. Everyone’s trying to do it, and no one can make money without it. For every “viral” product that exists, many more find revenue through an actual customer acquisition strategy

      • Robbin Block

        You’re right. Most business plans barely address that part. It’s often dealt with by throwing in a few tactics, like we’re going to use social media or videos to build an audience. Strategy isn’t even considered. There’s often little consideration given to making acquisition instrinsic to the business model, that is, building it into the product itself. As for underestimating the value of a good strategy, that’s probably because they don’t really understand what marketing is or they simply deprecate its value (and the people who practice it).

  • Gail D.

    As someone who has spent there career in this area, and the last 15 in early stage companies, I agree with you with regards to startups. While full stacked is a great analogy on the development side, these folks are market technologist. Glad to be one

  • Gail D.

    Oh and Marcelo, yes I can know the difference of their to there (I know how you like to find the grammar in posts :-)

  • Annie Eissler

    I agree that being responsible for marketing in a startup
    requires a range of skills and experience in the broad discipline of marketing –
    from seat at the table strategist to hands on marketing program development and
    execution. I wonder though if the problem is really a dearth of “full stack
    marketers” in the Seattle business community, or that the marketers that do
    have the breadth of experience are in a place in their careers where a full
    throttle startup gig is just not appealing (or maybe even possible given other –
    such as family – obligations)? I don’t know the answer to that but would be curious to
    know what others think.

  • Ken Evans

    Very well said. Understanding the requirements for a full-stack position (marketing, development or other) takes a management team and/or investors that know how to recruit based on needs not titles. Unfortunately, I often see this need translated into job specs filled with the latest fads, tools and tricks which then drive bad short term hiring decisions.

    • Josh Leichtung

      I have similar experience. Somebody in the boardroom gets the idea that “what we really need to kill it is X…” So they end up hiring somebody that is a virtuoso in X… but they don’t know anything about product, or brand, or messaging, positioning, writing copy that sells, social nuances, design, or PR, or, or, or…

      More often than not, a vertical marketing virtuoso gets hired.

      Doing one thing really well is great. However, without a strong brand concept marketing strategy, and product vision in place, the virtuoso more often than not ends up flailing about, not understanding why they aren’t seeing the success they “should.”

      The fallacy starts back at the boardroom. As you said Ken, needs, not titles. Inevitably, it isn’t a marketing expert that provides the initial impetus of who to hire and why.

      If you are a successful VC, or developer, or even a successful entrepreneur, consult a successful startup marketer who knows what it takes to launch a company and product. A success in one field doesn’t make you an expert in all fields.

      • Robbin Block

        Very well said. It’s like “Shark Tank.” Just because you’re an expert in real estate, doesn’t make you a good marketer of peanut butter.

  • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    The term “full stack web developer” is curiously both insightful and narrow-minded. If you’re hiring web developers, you’re not hiring full stack developers by definition. The term I would use is “full stack developer”, and that’s the kind of developer I would always prefer to hire.

    As to marketers, I think Marcelo has the right idea and some good advice to offer. I would expand it just a bit as I think a “full stack marketer” includes not just marketing but sales. Someday, a company may grow to have separate sales and marketing people, but in a startup, you have to do both.

  • Adam Lundquist

    This article just grabbed me. I have been trying to explain to people what digital marketing is like and I hate saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”. The way that things change seemingly every day keeps us in a constant state of learning and each new skill we must be at least decent in.

  • Ryan Critchett

    Two words. Hell yea.

  • Sanket Nadhani

    Nailed it. Adding on to your point, I would say “One good engineer is equal to hundred mediocre engineers” applies to marketing too. Get one good guy who can take care of things right from strategy to writing copy and design direction, and you have a winner. You wouldn’t need a brand guide because that guy and everything going out from him is the brand, you wouldn’t need an SEO guy to send in keyword reports when making that new landing page because he knows the top 10 keywords and the long-tail keywords that work for you, you wouldn’t need analytics reports from a separate guy when trying to improve the homepage because he knows it all.

    Lesser back and forth, faster decision-making and of course none of those “This doesn’t reflect our brand correctly” conversations.

    I am writing a blog post on this soon.

    • Josh Leichtung

      I agree with you. The biggest issue to me is the constantly evolving business insight you get with a startup. Each day there are important nuances, and realizations, some small, some enormous. The shortest distance to the most powerful marketing is having the inside marketeer leading the charge.

  • joy larkin

    Mind. Blown. This is what I do – down to the skill set. I work with early stage startups, although I think of it as an operational role (getting things done, developing processes, being jack of all trades) moreso than marcom based marketing.

  • Jeff Ogden

    Good post, Marcelo. Could not agree more that marketers need broad skills in many areas. The biggest thing marketers fail at is the lack of deep understanding of buyers – buyer personas. Good buyer personas drive ALL downstream marketing activities. This is why marketing starts with buyer personas. (Sorry, but I have to mention that Find New Customers teaches a Buyer Persona Workshop.)

  • Jody S-R2i

    An full service marketing agency that understands how cash is king for start-ups could help solve this talent/recruiting challenge for entreprenuers. Finding the talent in an agency where interchangable parts and minds can be leveraged is always an option as well :-)

  • Bob Crimmins

    Really good post, Marcelo! You successfully boiled down (as you often do) one of the trickiest aspects of early stage success: you always need more skills and expertise than you deserve or can afford.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts about a new-ish, marketing-ish role that I only recently learned about, namely “growth hacker”.

  • Liz

    I agree that it is best for startups to work with a marketer (either staff or contacted) that knows a bit about everything, but I would point out that it is not good to expect 1 person to be able to handle 100% of the marketing needs. A great marketing department is made up of strategists, project managers, creative, copy writers, and copy editors. A marketing manager is the PM/conductor. It never works out when a startup founder hires a strategist or PM and expects them to be able to make great online videos, design a website, or sales tools. It just doesn’t work.

    • Bob Crimmins

      I don’t mean to answer for Marcelo, but I believe he would agree with most of what you say. The “start” part of startup very often means that you don’t have resources to hire a team (internal or outsourced) who can do 100% of what needs to be done. What Marcelo is suggesting is that startups need really good marketing generalists that can do lot of stuff pretty well. The startup knows that the caliber of the work won’t likely be as high if they could bring on a team that’s awesome at everything. The startup needs to get to a point where they can invest more in a team of awesome, experienced specialist in everything they need to. As I read it, Marcelo was not proposing that startups higher a strategist or PM and expect them to do everything. In fact, I dare say Marcelo was saying he DIDN’T want to hire someone like that but rather he wishes there were more marketing professionals with a broad experience with lots (not necessarily all) of the marketing disciplines that startups need most… whether or not they were ever a strategist or PM at anytime in their career. A really smart, experience and versatile individual contributor may very well be magnitudes more valuable to some startups than a strategist or PM who lacks solid production skills and scrappy attitude..

      • liz

        Thanks Bob. I should have been clearer – I was speaking in response to my own experience and just trying to add to the conversion. I wasn’t trying to say that Marcelo was claiming that startups should expect their marketers to be experts at everything. Sorry for the confusion!

  • Tim Capes

    I think part of it is also that developers have an easier time picking up a variety of tools across an entire stack; freedom to experiment has become part of the development culture at most company, and nearly all top large hirers encourage participation in hack-a-thons. Many marketers are more boxed in both in the corporate culture and in the limitations on very applied events: how many marketer hack-a-thons have you seen advertised in the past year? How many developer hack-a-thons have you seen advertised in the past year?

  • locable

    This is an interesting problem especially given that the Foster School of Business was recently ranked by one publication as the #2 Marketing program in the world. I believe it was specifically an MBA ranking (as an MBA with a marketing focus from 2010 I’m quite proud of this) nevertheless the undergraduate marketing program is also incredibly strong.

    As the CEO of a startup that I founded while in B-School, I can say that all of my marketing classmates sought out larger organizations, in part due to compensation (b-school is expensive) and in part due to availability and recruiting.

    That said, most startups and people in general mistakenly confuse advertising or promotion with marketing. Marketing is broad and nearly all encompassing – or at least it should be. If you’re marketers are not intimately familiar with and providing input to the product in a startup you’re already doomed, this is even more true when you’ve adopted lean startup principles where the marketers and sales people are the primary source of feedback.

    That said, startups are just hard as every member regardless of skill-set is expected to run through the regular wall to clear a path and there just aren’t a lot of people that volunteer to take on that type of friction on a daily basis.

  • Simon Hawtin

    Thank you Marcelo for this great post. I completely agree with you as this is EXACTLY what I’m doing now. I work for a start-up company that’s been going 2+ years. In a nutshell, I get my hands dirty! I’m involved with every single facet of the marketing of the firm, from collecting reviews from customers, to onsite conversion optimisation, to managing our affiliate relationships. And I think it’s fantastic! I’m getting such good exposure to many different areas in marketing and it’s allowing me to really build up my knowledge and skill set. I know that in the long-term this makes me a much more valuable resource, particularly for a start-up. And you’re spot on with not having to be an expert. Much better to hire one person who knows 50% of everything rather than one person who knows 100% of something and nothing else.

  • Mark Evans

    Marcelo: Your post resonated as it describes what I do as a consultant who does startup marketing. The variety is one of the big reasons why the job is so interesting. I do agree with your take on the lack of startup marketers, which likely has to do with the fact it’s difficult to find people who are “five-tool players”.

  • Lisa Fernow

    Great post. There’s another way to get the full skill-set besides hiring one jack of all trades – and that is to selectively bring in specialists “on demand”.

    • Marcelo Calbucci

      Lisa, my experience bringing in specialists has not been great. A lot of marketing tasks requires a deep immersion understanding the product and the consumer, so in general it takes a couple of months so that a PR firm, branding agency, SEM / SEO shop, Community Manager, creative agency start getting the full scope and appreciation for the product/customer, and that usually means two months of “wasted resources”. It works, however, if you have a someone leading marketing at your organization and doing all the thinking and project management, then you can get someone else to execute exact to “spec” without doing too much creative thinking.

      • Josh Leichtung

        Dead right Marcelo.

        In a startup, the current thinking and best insights are constantly evolving. When you have a versatile marketeer that can do it all, they automatically stay up to date. When you have someone inside leading the charge with multiple outside vendors, they need to communicate the same message to all vendors, and keep everyone of them up to speed with current thinking. That is harder than it may sound.

  • Drew Meyers

    A marketing school integrated with an incubator program? Staffed with dedicated, experienced marketers to mentor those students through their daily responsibilities & to help them problem solve how to approach different scenarios they run across.

    • Josh Leichtung

      An incubator staffed with experienced marketers. I’ve not been impressed by the marketing developed in many incubated companies of which I’m aware. Never did a study, just haven’t been impressed.

      Wouldn’t think a marketing school integrated with an incubator would be the best for the incubator, though it might be a great playground for neophyte marketeers.

      • Drew Meyers

        ” I’ve not been impressed by the marketing developed in many incubated companies of which I’m aware. Never did a study, just haven’t been impressed.”

        Think that goes to lack of great marketers on the teams – too much tech and not enough marketing? Or think it means they just need better mentors w/ marketing expertise?

  • Robert Moore

    Interesting artilce. Whether you’re in a big company or a start up, keep you skills current. If you are in a silo’d structure, take the time to learn how your specialty drives increased value in a larger strategy and vice versa. Connecting with customers requires you to be flexible in learning how to reach them on their terms.

  • Jamie Burns

    I was always worried that I was to generalist in my previous roles. I had a few years recently where I really specialised in a field – but now have more cross over skill-set so happy bunny at the moment. Thanks for the very interesting post.

  • Will

    Seems to me that DistilledU is making a stab at this space starting with SEO first… They also touch upon “Full stack Marketing” explained through T-shaped individuals

  • Barry Hurd

    Having been in this space for a while, I’ve been collecting contacts in this type of peer network for a good amount of time. I’m amazed of the disconnection that occurs with in-house marketers, digital firms, and various PR/Marcomm agencies at scale.

    There is also a severe gap in skillset vs business acumen, and another gap between success in a phase of growth as compared to maintaining traction long-term.

    The gap in skillset vs acumen seems to be the largest issue, as many junior marketers have either failed to apply skills and actionable results or they’ve invested in educations that were out of date before they even took the course. Senior marketers who have developed the general understanding often fail to keep up to date with digital trends, and have an extreme difficulty dealing with high salary requirements and minimal startup paychecks.

    The secondary problem is that there is a lack of experienced marketers who know how to apply communication programs at scale, often arising from corporate marketers with big budgets being retained by mid six-figure salaries to manage multi-million dollar marcomm budgets.

  • Aki Taha

    I enjoyed this post, and FWIW, think many of your points also apply to recruiters. As with marketing, there are regrettably few “full stack recruiters” who can source candidates, move them through the process, and close them. And there are fewer still who can do the branding, planning, and process work – *around* that day-to-day recruiting – which enable a startup to scale hiring when the time comes.

    Part of the issue, at least in recruiting (and arguably engineering), is that a lot of the big guys – Facebook, Google, etc. – vacuum up so many recruiters. On the one hand, it’s hard to fault a recruiter who wants to be at a great company, where they have a massive name brand behind them, where the pay is great, etc. On the other, the work tends to be very niched (and process-heavy); you miss out on the breadth of the hiring challenges you’d face at a startup; and to your point, Marcelo, you risk boxing yourself in, career-wise.

    But, IF one aspires to make an impact at a startup at some point, then the advice to a recruiter would be the same: get out there and work on as many parts of the (increasingly complex) recruiting equation as possible: source, process and close candidates; recruit individual contributors, and execs; work on engineering and non-engineering roles; learn to work with different types of hiring managers, with companies at different phases of maturity, to see how hiring issues evolve. Assuming you’re passionate about recruiting, you’ll enjoy the intellectual challenge of getting to “connect the dots” as you move through the stack, so to speak. Which will no doubt make you better at solving recruiting problems, and making hires.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking read!

  • Shalendra

    As promised, I wrote a follow-up post on startup marketing. It’s here –

  • Wendy Cobrda

    I find it difficult as a “Renaissance Marketing” person to get hiring managers to allow people like me in the door. Senior, seasoned recruiters love us because we have hands on experience across industries. Those who see us in action love that we deliver — because we do get our hands dirty, we find ways to solve problems regardless of budget constraints. For many of us, it’s not about the position, but the work. Full-stack marketers are not easy to find, should you find one in your path, snatch her up!

  • John Fox

    I was looking for a new/better way to explain what I do… thank you!

  • anne weiler

    Consider whether someone is capable of learning. Some marketing fundamentals are core and you can learn new tools to get the message out. Also, the type of stack you need depends on the customer you are going after. Consumer and enterprise have different types of requirements (no matter how much consumerization of IT happens).

  • Gonzalo Mannucci

    This article makes me feel loved and understood. Great piece. Proud to be a full stack marketer!

  • Gonzalo Mannucci

    There is a subtext here for Recruiters: Assess candidates based on the”impact” they had at every job they held, not “how many years” they were there. Impact beats “doing time” any day of the week.

  • Saqib Rasool

    Right on and very well said. Thank you Marcelo for writing this blog. I think this phenomena of specializing really early in career, is due to industrialization and maximum production output philosophy/fallacy. e.g. Large firms rarely hire good full stack people to lead initiatives at upper and middle management level. It’s a machine vs. man issue.

    Startups and innovation need full stack people, period. Here is my own wish list: Designer, who understands, aesthetics, function, brand, and user engagement.. CTO with understanding of business model and technology design, development, instrumentation and operations.. CFO who knows projections, excel, tax, stock, revenue models, and quickbooks, etc. etc. and now that you think about it, same goes for doctors too. I need a really good full stack doctor, not a network of patient pushers. How do I find one? No idea. Yet there are people in every field, that are full stack and well rounded. These people are rare gems. But in this new economy we are living in, full stack people are becoming desired. Your article helps a push in that direction.

  • FullSlackMarketer

    This makes sense, but there’s also the fear of spreading oneself thin. Companies and industry seldom appreciate all rounders. :/

  • Trevor Cherewka

    Thank you for finally helping determine my title. Great article.

  • Paola Taylor

    Thanks Marcelo. Inspiring!

    Your article, Marcelo, made me think about baby stage marketing
    and project management maturity. When I talk about baby stage marketing, I am
    referring to running a 1 to 2 year old department in a company going through
    constant growing spurs, aiming for the sky.

    There is a blessing in disguise in such an environment: you do no
    longer need to justify your work as there is plenty of it to go around. As your
    department starts sharing the love, recognition flies in from all of the corners in the office. You cherish it. You know you have done good work.

    Then you wake up to see that you have a laundry load of projects
    to run (endless). To top it off, your product people get “product
    trigger-happy”. You share in the joy. You love those products after all, and it
    is always so much fun to create, and create, and create…

    As a good parent, you must resort to common sense, and use your
    best project management skills. You assess your priorities, you determine your
    most important projects, your stakeholders, the scope of your projects, your
    budget and your resources! I am no party pooper, but if you want to get the
    best out of that baby, have it learn to handle things one step at a time. Of
    course, always stay flexible! Work is no fun if you do not.

  • KJ

    What do you call a full-stack marketer who happens to be a full-stack developer?

    • Ken Wallace

      A unicorn!

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  • mehrad

    This is useful for marketing. Thank.راهبند اتوماتیک

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