About a year ago, I was at a meeting with a potential new client. As we were talking, the CEO lamented how it was so hard to find people with my set of skills. My smart-ass -- but sadly accurate -- answer was, "Because everyone who’s been doing this as long as me became a spammer and are now rich.” His response: "Why didn't you?" To which I responded, "Because I'm a f-ing idiot.” (By the way, they did indeed hire me, and I later realized my liberal use of the "F" word probably had a lot to do with it).
It's no secret among email marketers that good help is hard to find. My clients ask me to help them fill positions; my friends in the biz ask me for references; and on more than one occasion, I've received emails from strangers asking for introductions or suggestions. Recently, I received such an email from someone offering her services should my company need an extra freelance resource. I was able to refer her to another friend looking to hire; the fit was good, and everyone was happy. But those stories are few and far between. More often than not there are more companies looking to hire experienced email marketers, than experienced email marketers looking for jobs.
Another colleague recently said to me, "we are looking for an experienced low-level email marketer.” My advice was to hire a smart person and train her, because an experienced email marketer is already mid-level, just by experience. I have followed that advice many times in my own career, and it has worked out well. However, sometimes you need an executive-level marketer with email marketing experience. In that case, I suggest the following options:
1) Use your network. Sometimes networking works, especially if you have a brand that people want to be a part of. Will the marketer get to do something bold or new and use his/her brain, as opposed to just hit "send"? Be sure to communicate that in the job description and through the word of mouth of your network.
2) Poach the talent. Sorry, folks, but sometimes a girl (or guy) has to do what a girl (or guy) has to do. Pay close attention to what's going on in the industry, and I don't mean your vertical specifically, but in email marketing. Who’s doing it well? Who’s the best at integrating other channels into their email marketing programs? Figure out who’s responsible and who works for them and make them an offer they can't refuse. It's just business, after all.
3) Hire internally and train from within. Sometimes this can work for mid- and upper management as well. If you are or have a manager with great email skills, who wants to move up in their responsibilities, give them the resources to promote and train internally. As much as we all like to think we have a very specific set of skills, email marketing can be taught.
4) Look to your partners. Whether it's your vendors or your agency, choose companies that supplement your lack of expertise. Most email service providers offer professional services through their in-house expertise. Other add-on vendors who are in the business to enhance your email program can also provide an additional level of email marketing support. Assess whom you’re working with and what they can do to help. Your success will reflect positively on them.
5) Hire a consultant to help with strategy, put the operational processes in place, and train your team. Whether you are looking for some short-term or long-term help, email marketing consultants can bring in the experience across a broad range of industries to identify inefficiencies in processes and fill the gaps. A good consultant will also willingly play a short-term role in helping you train employees.
From my perspective, the lack of capable, experienced email marketers is not the problem; it's in the approach to solving the problem. If email marketing is critical to the success of your business, take some time to give it the attention it needs.