‘Full stack’ is usually a term applied to developers that can code both front and back ends of a project.
It’s a term that’s increasingly being used to describe that rare breed of marketers that’s able to deliver across the 3 key skill areas of creativity, technology, and data. But individuals that are truly competent across all the marketing functions are so rare they’ve even been dubbed ‘unicorns’.
To really call themselves ‘fully stacked’, a marketer needs to offer skills as wide ranging as copywriting, email marketing, strategy creation, advertising, SEO and social media.
They’ll obviously need proficiency in mobile marketing, quite possibly app store marketing, and very likely PR too. Depending on the content they’re creating, they may also need video marketing skills or skills in direct marketing or events marketing.
Some marketers stretch themselves even further into more technical areas such as UX and design. Others stray into growth hacking, where there’s overlap with developer skills.
This approach works best when the marketer understands their own limitations and knows when to bring in an expert designer or developer.
Although some marketers get away with dabbling in technical areas, these are focused skills and it’s rarely feasible for someone to really have the capabilities to complete a complex project when their skills are spread this thinly.
A skill set in high demand
Full stack marketers are in high demand for projects with big ambitions but little cash for resourcing – in other words, start-ups. It’s their flexibility of approach that’s particularly useful when there’s little resource and much to do.
When there’s a marketing strategy to design and implement from scratch, a full stack marketer is able to see the big picture and achieve growth by understanding which marketing approaches will work best.
They may be highly employable, but their skills also lend themselves to running their own projects.
Full stack marketers tend to have the vision to get projects off the ground and they’re usually entrepreneurial, so many will end up running their own business in the end.
The best way to keep a full stack marketer is probably to give them independence. They’re likely to thrive when left to figure the best approach out for themselves.
The biggest mistake that companies make is expecting a full stack marketer to be an expert in all areas of marketing. Although a marketer may have a good understanding of the landscape of tools and techniques, this doesn’t mean they are completely up to date on everything.
Full stack marketers need to know when to take a step back and hand over to someone with specialist skills. For start-ups, it’s usually the case this may be once the project gets funding to bring in more focused skills.
It’s also important to understand that a full stack marketer can’t implement everything themselves.
Someone with a broad understanding of the marketing mix is best suited to creating a marketing strategy and directing a team how to implement it, but they’re unlikely to succeed in implementing all the marketing activities on their own.
The weaknesses of full stack marketing
In theory, full stack workers are great to have on any kind of project because of their enhanced visibility of all parts of the process.
In practice however, it’s much more common for an individual to have strengths in a few main areas and be weaker across a wider range.
By employing someone claiming to be full-stack, you may just be bringing in a jack of all trades who doesn’t excel in any particular area – potentially leading to mediocre marketing.
Government departments have become notorious for requesting workers who are competent across multiple areas of digital. They think they’ll save money by employing a developer who also offers UX skills or a designer who can also code.
Invariably they’ll try to pay less than the market rate for either one of these skill sets. Positions go unfilled for a long time as recruiters try to hunt down these unicorns.
A better approach would be to separate out the skills and probably get a better result by employing two people.
The concept of a full stack marketer is seen as a new one. But perhaps this demand for marketers with the full range of skills simply recognises that marketing is an evolving skill set; one where intellectual curiosity and continuous professional development is the key to getting results.
To some extent, all marketers should aspire to take a full-stack approach as this gives them better visibility of the entire marketing landscape, and help them spot opportunities to achieve their goals in different ways.
Although many marketers are specialised in terms of what they do, most parts of the marketing skill set are constantly evolving.
In digital, very little stays the same for long and no one can afford to focus purely on one area of the marketing mix. Any marketer that isn’t constantly learning is likely to fall behind quickly. The concept of full stack marketer really just describes someone who manages to stay on top of it all!