Do you need a marketing Ron Swanson or Obi-Wan Kenobi leading your team?

Sideways shot of two men competing over whether FCMO vs. full-time employees are better.

Your business is growing. 

You know that you need marketing help, but it can be very confusing to decide which direction to take. 

Does your business need to hire a full-time marketing person? Do you need a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (fractional chief marketing officer)? Or will you be fine just utilizing the general marketing knowledge of an employee?

Does it even really matter which person you have in the marketing chair?


Oops, sorry to yell in all caps. 


Sometimes hiring a full-time marketing person is the right choice for a business. And sometimes a business really needs a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer. 

But if your organization has different freelancers, marketing vendors, or multiple marketing staff and no CMO, you need someone in the marketing chair. Seriously. Like, yesterday!

And almost more than the title (Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. full-time marketing person) — it matters whether that person has a strategist or a generalist mindset.

Marketing Strategists vs. Marketing Generalists

Unless you have a marketing background, the difference between a marketing strategist and a marketing generalist might be confusing.

They both work in marketing.

They both take responsibility for a business’s growth.

But their focus, level of specialization, and perspective are not the same.

In a way, it’s the difference between a pilot who can plan out where you’re headed and a trail guide that knows the local flora. Or the difference between a Ron Swanson and an Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. full-time CMO question aside, a key trait of a great marketing leader is being a marketing strategist.


Swiss Army knife representing the difference between a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. full-time marketer.

A marketing generalist is kind of a “jack of all trades” — a Swiss army knife of the marketing world. They have a little bit of knowledge about many platforms and marketing concepts.

If you’ve ever seen the TV show Parks and Rec, the character Ron Swanson would be more of a marketing generalist. 

Focus and specialization

Ron Swanson knows a lot and is quite good at a few things (woodworking, the saxophone, barbequing…). A marketing generalist usually has a couple areas of deep knowledge (like pay-per-click advertising, SEO, writing content, writing sales copy, etc.).


However, a marketing generalist like Ron Swanson would rather do things himself (correctly) than train someone and oversee their progress. Ron Swanson is focused on details, not overarching strategy. In choosing between a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. a full-time CMO, a big-picture strategy mindset is key.

If a Ron Swanson is slightly immature or insecure (as IF he could be insecure with such an epic mustache… but track with me for a minute), he’s reluctant to share his knowledge because he doesn’t want to be replaced. And because of this, when he leaves — he takes his knowledge with him, leaving your business without the institutional memory of the way things were done. 


Unsurprisingly, marketing strategists are strategic thinkers. They’re focused on developing long-term marketing strategies that align with the overall business goals. In choosing between a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. full-time, you want your marketing leader to have a deep understanding of how to uncover consumer behavior and market trends. You need someone skilled at analyzing data to gain insights to drive their strategies. 

Marketing strategists are more like Obi-Wan Kenobis. 

They’re big-picture people. They guide and mentor others (even punky padawans like Anakin) and are able to develop integrated campaigns that are designed to achieve specific business objectives. 

These strategists don’t usually have the broad knowledge of a Ron Swanson. But they DO have a lot of experience and specialization in developing more focused marketing plans and bring a fresh perspective to the table. They trust the specialized expertise of their team and seek to collaborate with and utilize the strengths around them.

A marketing strategist doesn’t always have the deep knowledge of a generalist. But a strategist CAN herd cats, so to speak! Generalists are more focused on the specifics of a task, not with delegating assignments and making sure employees deliver. When you’re weighing the benefits of a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. full-time CMO, it’s important that the person you choose can effectively manage others.

A marketing generalist is not a cat-herder. Ron Swanson isn’t a cat person.

When is a non-C level marketing person the best choice in the Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. full-time decision?

I like to say that today’s marketing strategist is tomorrow’s CMO.

An Obi-Wan marketing strategist has been in subordinate positions before (he was Qui-Gon Jinn’s padawan, remember?) and knows how unruly he could be. An Obi-Wan has learned how to manage people that have “challenging” traits and can point them in the right direction.

If you have a marketing person in your business who has a marketing strategist mindset, they might be a great choice to lead your marketing efforts. Even without a title, these people are incredibly skilled at adapting to different situations and can handle a variety of marketing tasks.

With the right training and opportunities, this person has the makings of a CMO who can lead people and creatively look toward the future.

Why not a Ron Swanson?

You might be asking, “Whether we hire a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. full-time CMO, why not a generalist? Ron Swanson is very competent (and has an awesome mustache)!”

Let’s be clear: Every business needs generalists! They are NEEDED to oversee day-to-day tasks.

However, a business needs a person in the marketing chair who can (herd cats, teach padawans) lead people and think outside the box. Marketing generalists frequently don’t have the capacity to thrive with that responsibility. In deciding whether you need a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. full-time CMO, it’s vital that they have this type of innovative leadership mindset

While their knowledge is valuable and essential to a successful business, marketing generalists often have trouble operating outside of their experience. Generalists can feel uncomfortable outside of their knowledge base and require a lot of direction when things get abstract.

Marketing generalists don’t have the experience to look ahead and ask, “What are our company’s goals and objectives? How can we build a plan to support those goals?”

Marketing generalists have the propensity to lean into their areas of comfort and expertise — and can (unintentionally) neglect things that are important to get their organization where it needs to go. At some point, a generalist’s knowledge will “tap out.” 

Marketing strategists look toward the future. Marketing generalists tend to maintain the status quo. 

As you weigh the pros and cons of a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. full-time CMO, also consider whether they can grow and lead your business into the future.

You need an Obi-Wan leading your Ron Swansons

If your business doesn’t have someone with a strategist mindset (or if your budding marketing strategist needs some time to grow), it’s time to consider a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer.

At 8 SIGNAL, the goal of our fractional marketing services is to help your business succeed with innovative marketing strategy. We want to see your business grow and NEED a full-time CMO — and exemplify the strengths of a marketing strategist in the interim.

We have the expertise gained working across sectors and industries to uncover underlying issues stalling your business’s growth. It’s our passion to help your team develop the metrics, tools, and processes to see you thrive.

Do you need a strategist to lead your team in developing and implementing effective marketing strategy? Find out more about Fractional Chief Marketing Officers and how we work in this blog post.