Probably not.  That would be as silly as asking your dentist about a noise coming from under the hood of your car.

But let’s say that you do ask you mechanic about a toothache.  Is it because you think your mechanic can fix it@f1  After all, he probably has a drill laying around, and maybe one of those cool little grinders….  Or are you really asking him, because you trust him and value his opinion, if he can recommend a dentist@f2 

Now the question is, can your mechanic figure out that you’re looking for a referral or does he really want to try his hand at fixing your tooth?

I know this is stupid, but bear with me….

The mechanic’s core competency is fixing vehicles, and there are specializations within the mechanic industry.  The dentist’s core competency is fixing teeth, and there are specializations within dentistry.  If your question to the mechanic or dentist is outside of their core competency both will generally refer you to a specialist.  Think about it, would you take your gas-burning car to a diesel truck mechanic?  And would you really trust the guy if he didn’t refer you to someone that specializes in gas-burning engines@f3

Probably not, but how many people post “What’s the best ESP?” or its equivalent to a social network like LinkedIn?  While the first response to such a question should be, “Compared to what?”, that’s not what I’m ranting about today.  Been there, done that, click here to read about it….

No, today I’m not looking at those asking the questions, I’m wondering about those that feel the need to provide an answer not having much really to base it on. 

Let me give an example taken from some of my favorite Q&As on LinkedIn.

The president of a small company asks the age-old question, “What’s the best ESP?”

It could be that he’s thinking, “I should probably be doing some email marketing, but I haven’t a clue where to start.  I guess if I’m going to send email I should have something to send it with, so I’ll start there….” 

We don’t know what the guy does or if he’s not only the president, but the email guy, too.  But I said I wasn’t going to pick on the questioner this time….  And it doesn’t matter, really, because even better questions get the same answers.

So what kind of responses did this question pull?  One self-described “business leader” was quick to throw out 2-3 small market players.  That was it; he knew those three names.  Glad we got his input.  And what was his background in email?  Don’t know, couldn’t find it….

Now you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that clicking on the name of a respondent shows you their profile.  I know this because my step-father was a rocket scientist and told me checking a respondent’s background on LinkedIn is a lot easier than rocket science.  But I digress….

Next up, a Marketing VP chimes in with their favorite entry-level tool.  Props for being a Marketing VP, but I didn’t see any email experience in your background, either.  I’ve been in the email business a long time (close to 27,040 hours) and I can’t recall ever meeting a Marketing VP with a lot of hands-on email experience. 

One of my favorite responses came from a writer that tossed out their favorite CRM tool as one of the “most highly recommended” ESPs.  Not sure who highly recommended it as the writer didn’t cite their source.  As I’ve said before, I’m not a journalist and have never played one on TV, but seriously, let’s cut a deal.  I promise not to give writing or journalistic advice and you promise not to give any email advice.  Fair?

Of course we have to have someone from IT give an opinion.  This one was kind of interesting.  I think that maybe they were just lonely.  The Sr. IT Consultant gave a lot of time to an email tool, and then recommended another small market player not listed by the “Business Leader” above.  Sr. IT Consultants time in the email space at any capacity?  Zero….

And there also has to be a “strategic communications” person that doesn’t see the irony when they reply with something along the lines of, “I like X and think it is the best.”  I don’t really need to tell you the bevy of email experience this hack had in the email space, do I?

And don’t even get me started on the guy whose question began, “I think that I’m going to become an Email Marketing Consultant, and….”

Okay, now that I’ve vented a little bit, here’s my advice to people that don’t know where to get started in email, read a book.  There are several good ones, so no excuses.  If you’d like a list, drop me a line.  Maybe I’ll add a list of good email reading – if you see it on the R-H Nav I already did….