This is a blog post that I started months ago but recent events have made me want to finish it and post it in the hopes of spreading awareness and hopefully starting some fun dialog.
There have been dozens of threads on Topliners touching the issue of hiring marketing automation gurus. But today we’re talking about unicorns.
Here’s the scenario I see on a regular basis. An employer shares a job posting with me and I look it over to find that the list of requirements is a mile long and among them are things like this:
- More than 7 years managing Eloqua platform
- Eloqua Masters Certification required
- Eloqua Luminary Certification required
- Must be physically located in Pittsburgh, PA
- Minimum 5 years of experience developing for API protocols including REST & SOAP
- Expert at data architecture, data cleansing and integration
- Minimum 5 years administering SFDC or Oracle CRM
- Expert at modern marketing best practices and intimate with the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall and related principals
When I see these posts I tend to shake my head and think, oh great. Another unicorn hunt.
The first problem we might notice in postings like this is the fact that it bridges two if not three completely separate and very different job roles. To explain, let me ask you. How lucky do you think you’d need to be to find someone who can code REST API integrations in their sleep while quoting SiriusDecisions best practices, while being able to design and implement an effective data architecture plan for sales and marketing? Then, let’s add the fact that this person must live in Pittsburgh. Tell you what, if you find someone like this and are able to hire them, you might want to go out and buy a lottery ticket.
The truth is, there are only a few people on the entire planet who could satisfy all of these requirements. Only one I can think of at the top of my head actually and his name is Ryan Schwartz. Unfortunately for perspective employers, I’m sorry to say that you probably can’t afford him and Megan Eisenberg will never let him go. ;-)
Now, even if you remove few of the requirements you’re still sitting on a profile that very, very few people will be able to meet. I like to call the people who fit this profile unicorns. That’s not to say that they don’t exist, but that your chances of snagging one are so slim, they might as well be a myth.
What tends to make matters worse with some of these postings is that these employers are asking for the world, and in return, they’re offering a very meager compensation package. I’ve seen a few of these that were only offering $45k a year. In those instances, it takes a great deal of self-control not to laugh aloud at the people posting the position.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not beating up on (or making fun of) the employers here. I get it. I’ve been there. They have a mile-long list of deliverables and a set budget that they’ve got to meet and they believe that if they hire the right person, they’ll get there.
The problem is that most of these employers don’t realize how incredibly rare these unicorns are and they don’t realize how fierce the competition is in finding these people. So, let’s break this down really quickly.
If we were to drop a few of the job requirements (such as API development, Luminary certification and SiriusD expertise) and just look at trying to find an expert rock star in marketing automation. We’ve still got a massive challenge on our hands. I would estimate that there’s no more than 200 people on the entire planet who will fit this rock-star role.
The main problem we’ll run across is the fact that almost none of these people are looking for a job. And if they are open for opportunities, few of them will ever actually go on the market. All they need to do is let slip to the right people that they’re looking, and bam! They have a job offer inside a month. Applications, resumes and interviews are after-thoughts.
Employers must realize also that it’s not just other companies who are building out their MA teams that they have to compete with for this small talent pool. Marketing automation is in a massive growth spurt. It’s unprecedented. More and more companies are moving to MA than ever before and the majority don’t have the staff or expertise to launch their projects. Therefore, they rely on services & implementation vendors to do it for them. These vendors are certified Eloqua implementation gurus such as Relationship One or Deloitte, Accenture (just to name a few). There are dozens and dozens of them out there and in order to keep up with the explosive demand from their customers, they have to nab these MA experts like expert snipers.
So what’s a company to do?
If they’re determined to go out and snipe one of these unicorns, there are a few options. First, they’ll need to be flexible on a few things. Most notably, they’ll need to be flexible on location. Unless the employer is located in the bay area, or other high-tech major metropolitan local, the chances of them finding a unicorn who already lives within commuting distance of their office is going to be pretty slim. My first suggestion would be to allow this person to work remotely or at a remote office (if the employer is a large corporation with offices all over the place) location. This will dramatically improve the chances to snag one of these unicorns.
If the employer is obstinate about the unicorn working in their home office in Pittsburgh (for example), they need to be prepared to pay for a full relocation package. And I would add that if the office is in a slightly less desirable location (we’re comparing Pittsburgh to San Francisco here), the employer should also look at some sort of signing bonus.
Which leads into part B of this first step and that’s compensation. Keeping in mind that this is most certainly a seller’s market and that these people can seriously pick wherever they want to work, employers had better be prepared to pay a very competitive salary. Employers must also come to terms with reality in that if they only have a headcount budget of say, $60k, they likely can’t afford a unicorn. Again, these unicorns are so rare, so valuable (in that they can improve your marketing efforts to the tune of millions of dollars in revenue) and such a hot commodity, if employers aren’t offering an extremely competitive salary, they should start looking at my second option below.
Option 2: Grow a unicorn!
How do you think the existing unicorns came into existence? As much as we’d like to believe it, they aren’t created when a fairy taps her magic want on the head of a random marketer while walking down the street. When you look at the resumes of the existing unicorns out there, there’s one thing they all seem to have in common. At one point or another, they spent time as a developer (or other highly technical role) of some sort.
Growing one is actually pretty simple. Here's what you do: Hire a web developer with a good head on their shoulders and who is passionate about learning new things. Why a web developer? Not only because they’ll find email, form and landing page creation to be an absolute breeze, they’ll pick up concepts such as lead scoring, CRM integration & data cleansing in short order. There are several reasons that developers are such fast learners when it comes to marketing automation. They are experts at analytical thinking, problem solving and creativity because they’ve had to spend countless hours debugging code and web application architecture. They also, having built many applications similar to the MA platform itself, can easily understand how the platform should work and why.
So, go find (or recruit internally if possible) a good web developer who’s ready for something now and eager to learn. If you need some bargaining material to get them to come over to the dark side, you can let them know that marketing is a lot more fun than IT. The budgets are bigger, you get to travel to cool places and let’s face it, marketers are a lot more fun to be around.
Once you’ve found someone and brought them over, enroll them in all the trainings. From an Eloqua perspective, get them their Masters certification ASAP. Get them connected on Topliners. Sign them up to attend local user group meetings and most certainly Modern Marketing Experience where they can meet other unicorns who are generally presenters.
Do all of this and in less than a year, you can have a unicorn on your hands. Understanding that they'll be contributing from day one because with minimal training they can be creating your emails and landing pages. The overall plan is not necessarily easy or quick, but it does work. The largest objection I tend to hear about this approach is that the employers need someone yesterday. In response to this, I tell them that if they absolutely can't go with option 2, they'll need to go with option 1, which means that they're going to need to be prepared to pay, since this option is generally the more expensive one. I also like to remind them that while they're growing their unicorn, they can lean on these implementation partners to do some of the heavy lifting.
The last thing I’ll mention here is that once you have grown (or if you were lucky enough to recruit) your unicorn. You had better treat them right. Make sure their compensation is appropriate but most importantly, make sure they’re loving their job. I’ve seen many unicorns stay right where they are even though they’re being offered more money elsewhere, just because they love their job. But the moment they feel unappreciated or they're just not enjoying their job, they'll raise their hand and someone will scoop them up.
Now, let’s have some dialog. Has anyone used the grow approach? Has anyone found success sniping existing unicorns? Did you have difficulty with locations?
Update: In response to this article, a few have made a great point in saying that the unicorn you're growing doesn't have to be a web developer and they're right. You can grow a unicorn out of people from many other areas within marketing or IT. You'll just need to make sure they have a keen, analytical, problem-solving mindset and ensure they're a fast learner who hungers to learn more. Since we're talking about email, mobile and web technologies here, this person will need to be a tech wiz. Even if they're currently in a non-technical role, if they're undaunted by new technologies and quick to figure things out, i.e., the person who usually steps in to show co-workers how to do things on their phones/tablets/pcs, they're likely a good candidate for growing into a unicorn.