Hire Up

Even the most traditional companies don’t need to be convinced anymore that Internet advertising and marketing is no longer optional. Today companies from the Fortune 1000 on down, which were reluctant to explore the Web in the late 1990s, are shifting their resources online.

The proven return on investment of Internet advertising is one reason; another is that user-generated content sites such as MySpace.com and YouTube.com offer new opportunities to reach customers more intimately and effectively.

Internet advertising growth has soared during the past three years due to improved advertising technologies and the spread of broadband Internet service. PricewaterhouseCoopers expects the Internet to receive 10 percent of total global advertising by 2010 compared with less than 3 percent in 2002.

Areas of Increased Spending in 2006 vs. 2007 eMarketer estimates that total U.S. Internet ad spend was $16.4 billion for 2006, a 30.8 percent gain over 2005’s $12.5 billion figure, and predicts that online ad spend will reach $23.8 billion by 2008.

EXPERIENCED EMPLOYEES ONLY

This drastic surge in online advertising has dramatically increased the need for skilled employees. Advertisers who have know-how selling and measuring online campaigns, and marketers who can create innovative Internet initiatives, are in high demand. And as companies understand the power of ROI-based online marketing efforts such as affiliate and search marketing, there has been a sharp increase in the demand to hire performance marketers.

Compounding this demand is the advent of Web 2.0 venues such as YouTube, Facebook and Second Life. Similar to the situation created by the late 1990s’ Internet boom, today there is a very small ready pool of experienced staff for the opportunities that Web 2.0 present because the venues are so new. Finding staff to manage the explosion in user-generated content, and leverage its marketing potential, is proving to be challenging.

This increased demand for qualified talent has recently been felt throughout the industry – from recruiters to employers to merchants. Smith McClure, division director of the Minneapolis branch of The Creative Group, is a recruiter for both traditional and online marketers. He says that demand is up and that the market for qualified talent for online marketing jobs is getting tighter.

Jane Paolucci, vice president of marketing for Coremetrics, a provider of on-demand Web analytics, agrees and says it is getting harder because business is growing at such a fast pace.

Todd Leeson, vice president of marketing for Jobster, says the number of searches for online marketing and online advertising jobs on the Jobster online recruiting site has increased threefold over one month – from October 2006 to November 2006.

During the fourth quarter of 2006, Sean Bisceglia, president of Aquent’s marketing staffing, a global marketing and creative services staffing firm, also noticed a major increase in the number of companies looking for online marketers. He says that 20 to 30 percent of his day-to-day job openings are for online marketing positions and that they are the hardest to fill because there are not enough specialized people.

In fact, an Aquent Marketing, Staffing and Spending survey found that the top three areas that corporate marketing departments planned to increase money for in 2005 were branding, Internet marketing and advertising. But in 2006, Internet marketing took the lead as the most sought-after position in the industry.

Two San Francisco Bay Area recruiters who are feeling the pinch are Sal Castillo, who owns his own group; and Marni Mires, a recruiter for the high tech executive search firm Quest Group. Mires says that Quest recently had candidates with multiple offers and that companies need to pull the trigger within two weeks or risk losing the candidate to another offer – a very different market than just a couple of years ago.

Castillo says that today’s online marketing jobs are very specialized: therefore, it is harder to find candidates that match all of the criteria: “Fifteen out of 100 resumes match the job skills that I am looking for.” Stephanie Schwab, vice president of marketing for Converseon, says “For every 100 resumes we get, there are about five or 10 that I’m interested in calling, and of those, about three to four that I want to meet.”

HIRING FOR SEARCH POSITIONS

According to Forrester Research’s report, The State of Retailing Online 2006, search marketing was responsible for 36 percent of new customers for online retailers in 2005. Search is the only advertising media where customers tell merchants what product they are looking for – and it is more effective than other advertising because the advertiser can tailor its targeting and message to each specific searcher’s need.

John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., an international outplacement consulting firm, says “Companies cannot afford not to put their dollars in this area because it is so focused.”

FathomOnline’s CEO Dean DeBiase says, “If you’re not present in the search results, your competition will be.” This fear is causing companies to rush out and hire search marketers en masse.

Percent of New Online Customers for Online Retailers/Marketing Spend Mix (2005) Challenger says that SEO and search marketing are really hot markets for hiring. Jobster’s Leeson says they have seen an increase in the demand for search engine marketers by companies of all stripes “ever since Google revolutionized the way that people advertise through AdWords.” Quest’s Mires says that she gets a lot of requests for search marketers – especially for people who have established relationships with Yahoo, Google, MSN and have lots of online consumer experience.

Chris Raniere, CEO of Revcube, a software provider for multichannel online ad campaigns, says that the hardest job for him to fill is for search marketing. He says that anyone with more than six months of experience working with Google and running campaigns is very hard to find.

And recruiter McClure agrees: “People with big-scope experience from Yahoo and Google have their pick of positions because all of the Fortune 500 are doing search now.”

Coremetrics’ Paolucci says that experienced search people will get harder to find. A 2006 Coremetrics survey asked 120 marketing professionals in the U.S. and the U.K. about the methods they used to reach customers. It found that 31 percent of respondents think SEM is the most important skill in their current role and 60 percent of respondents feel that SEM skills have become more important over the past two months.

Data from MarketingSherpa’s Search Marketing 2007 Benchmark Guide finds that SEM professionals with zero to one year of experience can command $55,000 to $75,000 and those with three years of experience can get $80,000 to $100,000. Mid-level managers with SEM experience of just one year can fetch $85,000 to $100,000 and those with three years of experience can command $110,000 to $125,000.

Converseon’s Schwab says she can find junior-level people out of college with one year of Internet experience and hire them as account coordinators in their search group for approximately $40,000.

HIRING FOR AFFILIATE MANAGERS

Others say it’s much harder to hire affiliate managers. “Hiring for search employees is competitive but easier than hiring for affiliate managers,” Schwab says, explaining that it is the hardest position for them to fill because the skill set is so broad – including coding, graphics, communications and affiliate relations.

Three years ago, affiliate management was a one- or two-day-a-week job but today it’s a full-time job, according to consultant Shawn Collins, who does some outsourced affiliate program management. He says that hiring for affiliate managers “has been difficult for as long as I can remember” and says it is because the job requires experience and relationships, which take time to build.

Consultant Andy Rodriguez agrees that hiring an affiliate manager is challenging because the person has to wear many hats. He says that out of the 12 people he has hired, only two of them have worked out. “They were overwhelmed – it’s difficult – it is not a straightforward job,” he says. Rodriguez says that he spends 20 to 25 percent of his time reading during the week to keep up to speed on the industry.

LinkConnector’s CEO Choots Humphries says the qualities LinkConnector looks for in an affiliate manager include someone with a technical background so they can walk affiliates and merchants through code; the ability to communicate well in writing and speaking; strong analytical and problem-solving skills; and they must be smart enough to understand that the affiliate management industry is fluid and constantly changing and they have to want to keep up with it.

Humphries says being located in the highly educated population of Research Triangle has helped their hiring efforts. In addition to using staffing companies like Manpower and job sites like Monster, LinkConnector hired a full-time director (now LinkConnector’s COO) to be responsible for staffing their merchant and affiliate relations department. Humphries says this was key to their success in staffing because it is very difficult to convey the requirements of the job to someone outside the company – an in-house staffing person was “in a better position to know exactly what qualities would work well within our network and industry.”

Humphries says the company has hired 20 people and only two have not worked out because of the demanding and fast-paced nature of the industry.

Justin Johnson, affiliate manager at SierraTradingPost.com, looks for affiliate managers who have great communication skills, are enthusiastic and self-motivated. He says the technical aspects of the job can be learned. Johnson says his company has been able to find the majority of its personnel in the Cheyenne, Wyo. area, with some people willing to have a longer commute from Fort Collins, Colo., or Laramie, Wyo., which is 51 miles away.

Schwab notes that for senior-level people with affiliate experience, it is very hard for Converseon to hire because they have to compete in New York City where there are others like LinkShare and CPA organizations such as Azoogle and Neverblue, as well as tons of agencies and merchants.

One remedy for hiring affiliate managers is to outsource, a trend that consultant Collins anticipates will increase. Collins worked as an outsourced affiliate manager for Payless Shoes from 2001 to 2006 because of the limited pool of talent in Topeka, Kan., where Payless is based.

Most-visited Vertical Job Search Engine Websites A lot of the bigger brands outsource affiliate managers to agencies such as NETexponent, Converseon, PartnerCentric and Pepperjam. PartnerCentric’s CEO Linda Woods describes why outsourcing is popular: “Companies need an affiliate manager, so they run an ad on Monster.com. They can’t find talent in their town. They come to PartnerCentric. They don’t need to hire people, pay salaries, pay benefits or train people. We do it for them. The arrangement could go on for years.”

WORD OF MOUTH

It seems every company in this industry believes that word of mouth is the most powerful way to find top-shelf candidates.

Coremetrics’ Paolucci says, “The No. 1 way we find people is through referrals – there is a network out there.” PartnerCentric’s Woods adds that a lot of their employees encourage other people to join. Schwab says that Converseon’s best hires are always word of mouth and that the last senior-level affiliate they hired came through a referral.

In November 2006, The Conference Board, which follows business cycle indicators for the U.S. and eight other countries, found that almost half of all job seekers (49.2 percent) rely on word-of-mouth leads from friends, colleagues and other people in their personal network to find jobs. In fact, 27 percent of employers found their jobs from networking.

JOB SITES

Another method is the job boards, which are growing in popularity. In fact, in the first week of 2007, employment seekers increased job search Web traffic by 31 percent, according to market researcher Hitwise. Among the top employment sites for the first week of January were CareerBuilder with 13.73 percent; Monster with 11.51 percent and Yahoo HotJobs with 5.3 percent.

Schwab says Converseon has not found people through Monster or Yahoo because they are too broad, but do use MarketingSherpa, MediaPost, craigslist and Shawn Collins’ AffiliateManager.net for affiliate marketing positions, which PartnerCentric’s Woods uses as well.

Increasing in popularity is a number of niche job sites such as the aggregator site Indeed.com, Dice.com for technology jobs and some industry-specific sites such as OnlineMarketingJobs.com and its sister site JobsInSearch.com.

Hitwise reports significant increases in market share at vertical job search engine sites. Visits at Indeed zoomed 302 percent and Jobster’s share jumped 355 percent from July 2006 to January 2007.

Other sites that are changing the way people look for jobs are the social networking sites such as Jobster and LinkedIn. These sites enable companies to find passive candidates – those who aren’t looking for a job, but are interested in hearing about new opportunities.

Staffing firm Aquent uses Jobster to build online networks of contacts within the marketing community – it is a way for them to manage passive candidates and referrals. Jobster posts user-generated content by those who come to share their experiences – so employees reveal the real scoop on companies.

Many recruiters, such as Castillo, use LinkedIn on a daily basis because it is a good single resource. He says the personal information is updated and correct and consistent in quality across the board. Heidi Perry, vice president of marketing at gaming publisher PlayFirst, says her company found other candidates from LinkedIn and is trying it for an online marketing associate position because “online marketers tend to run in circles.”

LinkedIn’s subscriptions for accessing people outside of one’s personal network cost $20 per month. Big corporations, such as Microsoft and Salesforce, pay between $10,000 and $100,000 annually to let their internal recruiting staff use LinkedIn’s database for potential hires.

GOING VIRTUAL

Some companies are venturing into the virtual world of Second Life, which has grown explosively and is inhabited by more than 2.9 million people from around the globe. AKQA, a global marketing and technology services company, says that it will use Second Life as a hub for recruiting because they believe that the Second Life community is full of early adopters and trendsetters, which are the type of people they want to hire.

As the economy continues to bubble along and online marketing becomes ever more desirable, it will be important to watch if the supply of online marketers keep up with demand.

PartnerCentric’s Woods thinks it will: “There is more talent than there used to be. When I started my consultancy four years ago there were times when sales were exceeding the capacity to service them and it was quite a juggle finding experienced people.” But Woods says that is in the past. Now Woods thinks there are more affiliate marketers around in general, and because affiliate managers can work remotely there are more candidates to choose from nationwide.

Tracy Cote, executive director of human resources for the agency Organic, says that the market is hotter but they are receiving more applicants – she has seen a 65 percent increase in resumes from November 2005 to November 2006.

“Certainly more people are training as affiliate managers as more programs come online. But if the growth of programs continues, there will continue to be a shortage of qualified people. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle,” Converseon’s Schwab says.

One source of online marketers are the former Google employees who are reportedly leaving because they feel limited and restless in their jobs (and many received huge payouts and stock options when the company went public). This could be a tremendous source of talent although these smart people may start their own companies.

In just a few years, the face of the recruiting process has changed considerably. Niche and social networking job sites have dramatically altered how companies find talent – the pool of contacts has drastically widened and the days of reviewing resumes to learn an individual’s work history and level of education are disappearing. Today recruiters can “Google” an applicant’s name to find out if they are who they say they are and candidates can place on their resume a URL that links to campaign examples of their work.