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Hiring an overseas marketer is like having Messi play in the A-League

There’s a lot of chatter around the digital skills gap in Australia, especially for the more analytical digital marketing channels like search engine marketing (SEM), web analytics and performance display. It’s true, we’ve been hiring specialists from overseas for years!

A LinkedIn search for SEM reveals 24,880 matching profiles in Australia. 3,271 of these profiles include the US, 2,912 the UK, 2,118 French, 1,733 Spanish, 1,134 German and so on.

Checking for 12 major location or language keywords, the aggregate is more than 50 per cent. One could argue that search marketing professionals are more talented with languages than the average population. Considering that SEM is a numbers driven game, this is probably not the case.

Bringing highly skilled specialists into the country is a bit like importing Porsches and Ferraris and driving them on Sydney roads with NSW speed limits. Or in sports terms, bringing in football players from the Champions League to play in the A-League.

Before someone calls me an arrogant, ungrateful immigrant, please bear with me for a moment…

I am not saying that European or US marketing specialists are smarter or in any way better professionals than ‘Australian-bred’ professionals. They/we are not.

However, we do bring in highly skilled specialists who are used to working with sophisticated web analytics tools and reporting, including landing page, sales funnel and merchandising, A/B testing and multi-variate testing.

In the US and Europe, specialists measure performance against KPIs including CPA, ROI, GMROI, COCA/CAC, LTV. Businesses often work around flexible allocation of budgets, inter-channel and inter-day/week/month, according to multi-channel attributed performance KPIs and aggressive targets in an extremely competitive market.

Compare that to working in the Australian market, where:
• universities spend millions of dollars in online marketing, but often do not measure their cost-per-lead by channel, and almost never know their cost-per-enrolment by keyword.
• a credit union can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on search marketing without any web conversion tracking. When asked by their SEM agency to which KPI they should optimise the campaigns, the response is “we will let you know when we are not happy”.
• a multi-billion-dollar fashion brand is proud of having stopped their AdWords ads without any negative effect on their online sales, instead of asking themselves what this might say about the quality of the SEM campaign implementation.

• the market leader in a $30 billion retail hardware and home improvement category does not even sell their products online.
• companies regularly invest significant time and money in big bang approach IT development projects that stall all other digital investments for years, instead of looking at incremental changes and testing available SaaS solutions on a cost-per-performance basis.

The largest skill gap in Australia is arguably found at the executive level, where budgets are allocated, strategic directions are given, targets and KPIs are set and decisions on tools and technology are made that have a long-term impact on what highly skilled professionals can achieve.

One solution might be to upskill the market through training and education at executive level. This would ensure that specialists are more operationally effective and can mentor local graduates on best-in-breed tools, best-practices and optimising online marketing budgets to performance KPIs across channels.

The more immediate challenge right now is that for most traditional organisations, online is not considered a significant part of their business. Would the Champions League be the Champions League without the money behind it?

This is the proverbial chicken and egg dilemma. Suboptimal online experiences lead to lower online market share, provoking less emphasis on online at the executive level, circling around to a suboptimal online experience.

Fortunately, the solution to this cycle is simpler and it’s coming soon. The market entry of a player like Amazon is not equivalent to a Champions League player entering the A-League, it’s an entire Champions League team arriving, with training staff, technology and analytics methods. They might even hire locally straight away, training hires on existing tools and best-practices developed over the years in highly competitive markets.

In the above scenario, they bring their own money too, meaning the percentage of consumer budgets spent in online vs physical stores will increase significantly. This will act as a catalyst for Australian traditional businesses to refocus, upskilling the digital market in a much more pressing timeframe.

This is great news for digital marketing professionals in Australia. It might be a harder pill to swallow for businesses that react only when the market conditions have already changed.

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Nikhil Gupta

July 18, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Great article Andreas!
Absolutely agree to the point, that entry of Amazon in Australia is going to be a game changer, perhaps in more ways than we are anticipating.
Regarding developing a culture of digital marketing, I think “Outsourcing” is also one of the things that Australian Businesses should embrace more in this field.