Tag Archives: Trust Agents

Curious Case of Experts vs. Managers

How do you react to this quote? This is Mark Shaeffer about social media experts, in this post. I quoted him in my post here yesterday:

How many have ever had a real sales job or have been actually accountable for delivering new value in a marketplace by creating, testing and distributing a product on a meaningful scale?   Very few.  Yet these are our marketing “gurus?”

Now wait a minute.

Who says marketing experts have to have sales experience? Why do they need to have been accountable for a new product?

I want my experts smart, experienced, and knowledgeable. I want them to listen. I want them open to new ideas. I want them to give good advice.

But I don’t care if they’ve had sales responsibility; or if they’ve launched a new product. Why should I?

Do I care if my doctor has built a house? Do I care if my accountant can sing? Why do I want experts to be managers?

What about you? Do you think a business expert has to have line management experience? Can a single-person expert really be an expert if he or she hasn’t run a company?

Do you think the best programmer makes the best manager?

“Line vs. staff” was a big deal to multinational executives and managers I consulted for in the 1970s and 1980s. As a consultant and newsletter generator, I was staff. Line managers had responsibility for sales numbers or profitability. And they were proud of it. It was important to their career.

Does that still matter? Or is it confusing makers and managers? And don’t the experts have to close some sales now and then to survive in business?

Not that the idea threatens me at all – I’m safe on this respect, since I’ve built a company, based on my own software, so whatever expertise I claim will pass that “sales or new product” test.

It’s just that experts and managers are like apples and oranges. Different skills. I want managers to be managers, and experts to be experts.


Late addition: I had the above post ready to go when I was dealing with comments from yesterday and picked up Chris Brogan’s defense, here. He picked up on the same underlying assumption:

Have I held a sales job in a big company? Hell no. I’m not a salesman. Instead, I’m someone who equips salespeople with new tools to drive to value. I’m a hell of an opener, and decent with the first 2/3 of the cycle, but if my kids had to eat on my ability to close complex sales? Hell no.

Interesting perspective. Can you trust me? Beats me. I’ll let my work stand for itself. : )

No argument from me there.

(Photo credit: karbunar/Shutterstock)

But Can We Trust the Trust Agents?

I was just getting back to the office yesterday, a Monday morning after a week away — 4 days of business, and 3 relaxing and invigorating days in Yosemite, which is really away — when Dan Levine (@schoolmarketer on Twitter) suggested I read The social media country club on Mark Shaeffer’s businessgrow blog.

Yes, I’m a sucker for contrary points of view. Get a group going, approach consensus, and I want to read the one who’s out in left field. If everybody else is right and this one’s all wrong, so what, I can work that out. But then how often is left field the right place to be?

Mark starts out objecting to rave reviews of Trust Agents, the book by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. It’s subtitle is “Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.” I haven’t read it, but I’ve read a lot of favorable comments. Mark, however, says those favorable comments are the result of group think and myth making:

The “thought leaders” of social media marketing are a country club fearful of saying anything negative or controversial about another club member. The real commerce of social media is trading favors and a negative comment breaks the favor chain.

He paints a picture a lot like the fable of the emperor’s new clothes. You can see with this quote, under the general heading of credibility, that at the very least he’s making his position clear:

Take a close look at the credentials (if you can find any) of nearly any leading social media marketing “expert.”  How many have ever had a real sales job or have been actually accountable for delivering new value in a marketplace by creating, testing and distributing a product on a meaningful scale?   Very few.  Yet these are our marketing “gurus?”  In a communication channel already dominated by porn-peddling, get-rich-quick nimrods, it simply doesn’t help our collective credibility to have our most visible advocates spouting incredibly naive statements about marketing fundamentals they know little about.

I don’t know that I agree; it seems too harsh to me. I don’t think expertise is measured only by job history, or sales history, or middle management in a big company history, which seems to be laying just under the surface of the blogger bashing. And I wish Mark had said which statements in the book are naive. But it’s certainly a very contrarian point of view. And worth considering. So I’m sharing it here.

(Photo credit: STILLFX/Shutterstock)