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    The rise of the Generalist

    Mark Fells

    21 Apr 2023

    Its a conversation we have with many clients. The truth is that delivering commercial growth in a digital world seems to become ever more reliant on technical specialists – CX, UX, paid channels, SEO, social, hypotheses and modelling, optimisation, CRM, testing, and increasingly AI… The list seems endless and the MD/CEO confusion understandable. Some of the very biggest organisations can afford to contemplate in housing everything they need. But most leaders can’t, or don’t want to. So how do they balance the conundrum?

    1. Define the outcomes

    The best plans should have clear growth outcomes expressed in hard commercial terms. These need to be addressed above the specialism level- ‘we want to increase profit margin by x’ ‘increase share and profit by customer of y’, reduce our operating costs by a and drive margin by b’.

    2. Express how you get there

    Here’s where you need to think about the customers, channels, costs, platforms that you’ll want to use. Not in finite detail but enough to understand broadly what you’ll need. To drive frequency of purchase for example you may know that your digital ecommerce stack will need a serious overhaul. BUT that should be after stage 1. Be wary of the team that shout ‘we need a new website- that will fix it!’

    3. Work out what capability and capacity you have in those broad areas

    Do you have an ecommerce team? Do you have a CMO who knows digital well? Do you have any digital product expertise. But one thing to avoid: don’t assume you need specialists in the in-house team. In our experience generalists who are relentlessly commercial and smart are better leading teams- you can then make the call as to how you provide them with specialists – in-house or externally.

    4. Decide how you fill the specialist gap

    More often than not third parties working with your in house senior generalists are a great combination. You get the commercial focus of a third party who you can contract and use as and when you need them. Growth is a constant focus. The need for specialist tasks more ad hoc. You need a Swiss army knife more often than you need a scalpel after all…

    BUT get a great third party- one that has generalists leading its own specialists so the commerciality runs deep in the engagement, and as a client you have a kindred spirit as your main contact. Find the right one and you can bring them in at stage 1 and they can help build the growth plan AND shape delivery.

    Ready to realise the true commercial potential of digital for your business?

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