Bob Van Rossum is president of Atlanta-based MarketPro, an executive search and staffing firm specializing in marketing personnel. BtoB Editor Ellis Booker recently spoke to him about the job market for search marketing specialists.
BtoB: It goes without saying that search marketing is growing phenomenally; a recent Jupiter Research report predicts search advertising revenue will overtake display advertising revenue on the Web by 2010. Given all that, are search marketing specialists going to be difficult to find?
Van Rossum: It’s the newest area of marketing. There aren’t many people out there with a lot of experience in that area. [The experts are] mainly small companies
BtoB: What sorts of people are being hired?
Van Rossum: They are hiring people who are writers with experience with keywords for keyword optimization. And they are looking for people who understand what the keywords ought to be. The latter skill is harder to find.
BtoB: So one can find these people?
Van Rossum: Yes, both are out there right now. [But] in six to nine months from now it’s going to be much worse. Soon the Fortune 500 will wake up to the fact that they need these people, and when they hire eight of these people…
The Fortune 500 has not identified the need for these people. Today that’s mostly outsourced. [But] they will start to pull the function in house. Right now they are outsourcing 80% of the work; over time they will outsource like 30%.
BtoB: Who will feel the pinch?
Van Rossum: Anyone without the budget to pay somebody. It is going to a very-candidate driven segment of the market. It will look like 1999 all over again. As the search engine marketing talent community gets increasingly tighter, it’s the small to medium-sized marketing / interactive agency that will not be able to keep up with the increasing costs.
BtoB: How do you find candidates?
Van Rossum: We’ve got 85,000 marketers in our online system, and 5,000 in our internal system of people we’ve interviewed. So we start every search with a strong pool. These folks will be more at the boutique small agencies, and will be, in some cases, freelancers or from smaller b-to-b companies.
BtoB: Does geography factor in, too?
Van Rossum: We work predominately in the southeast and in big cities, so it’s hard to answer your question. I would be surprised if you found them in a place like Augusta, Georgia.
BtoB: What’s the premium a company must pay for these employees?
Van Rossum: Right now, we’re seeing a premium of 15% to 20% higher than what it would be for a more traditional marketing role. If [you] pay a print copywriter $75,000 to $80,000, this person will be $95,000 to $100,000. And the gap will grow. It’s a situation where it’ll get worse before it gets better.
BtoB: Other than higher salaries, are there other issues with these job candidates?
Van Rossum: This generation is younger. And as a generation, while they’re very focused on salary and compensation, they really have to enjoy what they do on a day-to-day basis. [It’s a trait] of the generation more than search marketers.
Another thing you’re going to see: Do the mangers have the skill set to manage this talent? The answer, initially—until they take the time to sit down and learn more about it—is no.