4 Reasons to Be Wary of the Specialist

(NOTE: Not this Specialist.)

Someone who claims to be a specialist is, by definition, claiming to be devoted to one particular subject or even a branch of a subject. That devotion, then, is meant to imply expertise and excellence.

This can be a very good thing. In medicine, for instance, a pulmonary specialist is a handy person to have around if you’re having lung surgery. Home builders will often sub-contract various parts of construction to specialists – roofers, concrete, framing, cabinetry, flooring, and so on. In short, there are some very good arguments for specialization.

When it comes to marketing or branding for an organization, it can be tempting to follow the above formula and assume that using a specialist for each area is a good idea. Hiring a company to build a website that specializes in sites for your type of organization, for instance. Then hiring an SEO specialist to get you better listings in search engines. Then hiring an agency that specializes in PR (or A/V, or media placement, and so on) specifically for your type of organization.

What happens when you follow this approach?

1. You may end up with a “canned” website. That you don’t own.

There is a reason that many web development shops choose to specialize in one or two areas. Re-usable code, copied from one client to the next, that serves the same function over and over and over again.

“What’s wrong with that?”

First off, good luck getting any changes made that are specific to you. You want your form to have an additional field? You’re probably going to pay a hefty sum, if you can even get the company to implement the feature at all.

Even worse, website specialists such as this will often re-use designs as well as framework code. To compare to home construction, not only will you have the same floor plan, you’ll have the same paint, trim, molding, shingles, brick color and house number as a similar organization.

Worst of all, good luck if you decide you want to take your website business elsewhere (even in-house). You’ll soon find out that you don’t own your own website. Oh, the actual content of the site may be yours, but the structure, the back-end content management system, and so on? Not yours.

2. What they specialize in might not be the best thing for your company.

SEO specialists (should) make only one claim – better search engine rankings. They may go on to say that this will lead to more website traffic, boost sales, make you better-looking, and so on, but in reality, the one thing they are specializing in is getting you placed higher on a search engine listing.

“What’s wrong with that?”

In many cases, the changes that an SEO specialist will suggest for your website will, in truth, make your website worse, in a variety of ways. Moving all of your pertinent text to the very top of the page and making every possible keyword bold can help your search engine performance, but it makes your site lackluster (at best) and might drive away your freshly-search-engine-lured visitors (at worst). We’ve even seen some SEO specialists advise that all of your content for your site should be on one page.

3. They might not see the big picture.

The funny thing about devotion is that it can lead to a bit of tunnel-vision. So much time and energy is spent focusing on just one particular type of organization, that there is little room for anything else.

“What’s wrong with that?”

Specialists who work day-in day-out with the same types of clients in the same types of medium can wake up one day and find that the rest of the marketing world has passed them by. The easiest way to view this mindset is to look at the case of Borders group, one of the largest bookstore chains in the nation. By focusing so hard on brick-and-mortar expansion, and not looking at what the rest of the world was up to, they managed to completely miss the boat when it came to online bookstores. While this is not likely the fault of a specialist, the concept is the same – being unable to see the forest for the trees.

This can lead to real trouble when it comes to your marketing ventures. If you’re working with a full-service firm that has a greatly varied type of clientele, you’re avoiding two pitfalls at the same time. Your agency won’t have stagnant, dated views due to an over-focus on one industry. And they will be quick to evaluate (and potentially embrace) the latest innovations and trends in marketing.

4. Mixed messages.

This one is pretty simple. Having multiple sources for your various branding channels is a slippery slope into too-many-cooks territory.

“What’s wrong with that?”

Nobody likes spoiled broth. In the case of branding, having one agency that cooks up your online, broadcast, print and outdoor message means knowing that your message will be consistent across all mediums.

Kalvin Kingsley is the operations director at KK BOLD. He specializes in specious arguments over the space-time continuum, Special-K, and/or spacious skies.

Posted on August 22, 2012 in KK BOLD, KK BOLD BLOG, Social Media

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