Beware! The Online Expert

January 8, 2016 | Justin Gray | 3 Comments |

You know what is probably the easiest thing to do on the internet?

No, it’s not finding screener copies of The Force Awakens. It’s finding an expert — they seem to be everywhere.

We’ve all seen them. Content Ninja. Marketo Expert. Marketing Guru. As the Wu Tang Clan once mused, if you want to know who benefits “you gotta read the labels.”

The web’s lack of validation between maker, message, and reader makes it a hotbed for self promotion and, frankly, lies.

Take, for example, the label of Marketo Expert. At LeadMD, we have 22 of them. Two of them are actual “Marketo Champions” and became so after experience, not a title or a test. In the future, it will be a significant challenge for them to keep up that label. Why? Because when you’re in the trenches full-time, there simply isn’t a lot of time to sit there and spend time blazing trails on the Marketo Community or worrying about accreditation.

If you look at any online communities right now, often including Marketo’s, it’s the same people asking questions and answering the questions of others. Often, they independents or employees with time on their hands. They that take on a few clients per year or have administered the marketing platform at a job or two. They always shout the loudest.

Using definition of “expert” is a set up for blown expectations. But what exactly should you be on the lookout for? Let’s jump in.

Make sure that the expert has the stats to back up their expertise.

I’m always surprised by how few people take advantage of LinkedIn recommendations. You want to see references from 2-3 companies that look like you and are looking to implement the same process. And with an expert, this should be no problem.

At LeadMD, we’ve failed more than most people have tried. The fact that we’re upfront about it, and share much of what we’ve learned along the way, resonates with people. We’ve taken the hits and dealt with the pain along the journey so you don’t have to. To contrast, it takes no effort to make yourself some all-knowing “ninja” on LinkedIn, or say you are a “guru” of something on Twitter. It’s a matter of hitting keys on a keyboard.

What’s more, if you check out someone who is calling themselves a guru or ninja, very rarely do they have a healthy customers page. If no one is out there telling their story, or they are getting no referral business, many times they’re competing on price alone. The complex systems that underpin much of modern business shouldn’t be left to the lowest bidder.

Being social or wasting time?

Cast a wary eye on the person who seems like they are always on social media. Sure, Twitter is a grind and it takes a significant time investment to really see success. But are you trying to be a Twitter king, or run a business?

It tends to be a facade. They don’t have much of substance to actually do and therefore everything goes into tweeting and following up on comments.

Social media has changed the way we speak and communicate, however it’s often extremely self-promotional . You have to go deeper than that. If someone is spending all their waking hours online everyday, what are they doing? How do they get that expertise? Sharing the stories of their past failures, successes means a lot more than any titles.

Don’t get carried away by credentialism

Being Marketo Certified essentially means that you’ve passed a very simple baseline exam. It’s much the same as claiming you’re an expert at driving because you were able to obtain a driver’s license. But there’s a lot of mileage between a commuter and Jeff Gordon. So when hiring a consultant, I’m looking for the person who has gone out there done it 500 or 1,000 times. It’s only through breadth of experience that you are able to learn the “tricks” and pitfalls that lie along the way. The things they don’t teach, the quirks that can only be learned by doing.

Talk specifics

The definition of a guru to me is, well, you’ll just know after talking to that person for an hour. Pose a question to them. Something difficult. See if they are able to answer with excited detail, rather than grand sweeping statements. This is not an uncommon interview tactic, many high accountables like this method.

There is nothing more frustrating in the LeadMD interview process than trying to talk specifics, and being served steaming B.S. We know you believe Lead Nurturing is so “critical to success.”

But how do you go about it? How do you align message and timing and persona? How do you measure results in terms of influenced revenue? 98% of experts we speak to don’t.

Details, details, details

As with anything complex, it comes down to the details. And detail only comes in doing something over and over. When you understand something, you begin to realize this only trait “experts” truly share is humility.

The ability to understand that there is always something to learn from, something to do different the next time, is the hallmark of a rainmaker, not their social handle.

Most any facet of modern business systems require someone that can both understand how all those pieces work together and orchestrate it. The term “full-stack” is a direct response to this need, but unfortunately the latest to be baptized by the snake oil of rampant promotionalism.

False Prophets

There’s safety in labels, I get it. You’re looking for something and that person seems to have it, it’s right there and it seems so right. They have the talk, the swagger and the title. It always works out … until it doesn’t.

When I hear those special words, it makes my stomach drop. It’s so rarely true but there’s so much conviction, so much faith. It’s as if the statement carries with it all of the hopes and disappointments of my own past as well, all of the chances taken, all of the truth realized.

After the shine is dulled and the patina of reality begins to harden over what was such a shinning example of good-intention, only then do we see the folly in that boastful proclamation. And yet I hear it almost every day: “We’re going to hire a marketing automation expert!”

Good luck with that.


  1. […] “marketing automation ninjas,” hustlers, and the like. Those folks often turn out to be false prophets with easy-to-obtain credentials and a lack of verified experience in the […]

  2. […] “marketing automation ninjas,” hustlers, and the like. Those folks often turn out to be false prophets with easy-to-obtain credentials and a lack of verified experience in the […]

  3. […] “marketing automation ninjas,” hustlers, and the like. Those folks often turn out to be false prophets with easy-to-obtain credentials and a lack of verified experience in the […]

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