Under the Influence of #InfluenceHR in San Francisco

George LaRocque kicks off #InfluenceHR.

George LaRocque kicks off #InfluenceHR.

George LaRocque and the Starr Conspiracy hosted #InfluenceHR at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, CA on June 5th. The event featured top practitioners and solutions providers from various segments of the HR industry.

Over 90 industry leaders were in attendance. Over half of those being in Director-level and C-level positions. The stated purpose for #Influence HR was to:

  • Learn how new models of B2B marketing get your message to your audience faster
  • Understand how to effectively target your marketing messages
  • Hear about the growing secondary market of partnerships and alliances
  • Learn how market consolidation affects your company’s brand

Following is a recap from the event that has me “under the influence”.

1. Revenue-driven Marketing

Keynote Speaker: James Thomas (@jthomas_44), CMO @Allocadia

“We’re not talking about the cool stuff, we’re talking about the things that actually make an impact on customers”.

“Connecting people to jobs is one of the most stressful things in people’s lives, and that is one of the great things about HR Technology.”

Jim was at Talemetry, where they wanted to drive more engagement through email campaigns, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, and overall social sharing. However, this is not what it takes to drive a marketing organization. Instead, you should be looking at “Revenue-driven Marketing”. Understanding spend, impact, and results is critical to success and survival in marketing. There’s never going to be an unlimited amount of funds.

“Revenue-driven marketing” allows you to tie the budgets you have, to what you spend money on, to what the impact of the spend was.

“Marketing is hard in the HR space, and there are lots of new players coming out with new technologies”.

Macro-trends include a:

1. A shift to the cloud for marketing services (i.e. Eloqua & Hootsuite)
2. A shift in buying (70% of sales process is complete before anyone talks to the prospect)
3. The CMO has become critical to a company (marketing budgets, marketing plans, and return on marketing investment)

Big issues that need to be tackled:

  1. Budget data: it’s in spreadsheets and locked in the ERP
  2. Plan data: not captured anywhere outside of powerpoints, not connected
  3. Marketing ROI data: typically captured in multiple campaign systems (salesforce.com, Adobe, etc.)

“HR Tech Marketing is Hard! Not Impossible!”. While it’s hard for marketers, imagine how hard it is for the customers to make sense out of it all.

The ability to spin up technology and products is easy, the ability to turn it into revenue is a challenge. As such, “Marketing Performance Maturity” must take hold. The maturation flow goes: Activity to Campaigns to Functional/Regional/Program to Marketing Objectives to Corporate Objectives”

What you really want to do is look at what your investment strategy and results strategies are. Can you go into a meeting as a marketer and say “here’s how much revenue I’m going to generate, and here’s what the investment is going to be”? It’s a “Predictive Return on Investment”. Investment forecasting is a big piece of being successful.

“Your corporate objectives come first. You can then align your marketing objectives, identify marketing metrics, and decide which marketing activities will get you there.”

“Juniper Networks doesn’t track campaign performance, they track narratives (sales plays) and how they perform”.

Surveying customers, and performing customer advocacy, provides information that is critical to telling you where to spend your time and money.

Bottom Line:

1. Focus on revenue – not just likes
2. HR marketing is hard – but it’s still marketing
3. Kill the spreadsheet

2. Customer Success

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 9.29.45 AM

Howard Tarnoff shares the “Customer Success” of Ceridian.

Speaker: Howard Tarnoff (@htarnoff) – Senior VP, Customer Success @Ceridian

“Black belts are good at making flow charts and holding meetings”. Black belts made Ceridian a rigid place, and everything was about Ceridian and their processes. It was not about their customers, and didn’t end up being good for Ceridian.

Yesterday’s marketing mandate was to “drown out the competition by marketing more STUFF than they have”.

Thus, they created a Customer Success program. Their Customer Success program drivers included: 1) Prospects – 75% of B2B buying cycle complete before engaging sales, 2) Sales & Marketing – “Fire drills and marketing demand for content, and 3) Customers – uncover advocates, recognize successes and keep them engaged.

“Start by “showing” your prospects the results. This can shorten the sales cycle by 20%. Efforts around “Peer to peer conversations” and promoting SME’s can help show success with your product”.

“Ceridian customers are doing a great job of telling our story for us. We hand them a microphone, and provide plenty of opportunities for them to be heard. When customers succeed, Ceridian succeeds. Ceridian gives them personal and professional recognition to motivate them as well. We then took it a step further by introducing gamification to the customer success program. Points for telling a story, points for attending a meeting, etc.”

Ceridian’s Customer Success (XOXO Program) Components:

1. The XOXO Team: Building relationships and facilitating events
2. XOXO Match & XOXO LinkedIn: Network and connect (match is the “e-harmony component matching customers”)
3. XOXO Awards: Recognizing excellence at events
4. XOXO Portal: Review, accept, or decline opportunities

Ceridian has a specific person matching clients, advocates, and prospects to connect and talk about their products and systems.

Ceridian has a portal that allows customers to log-in and connect, see the accomplishments of others, and claim rewards.

“Customers Success = Ceridian Success”

“Your customer wants to benefit from mutually beneficial Peer to Peer engagements, not just do your company a favor.”

3. Who is the Enterprise Learning Buyer?

Participants: Lance Haun (@thelance) & Steve Smith (@StevenWadeSmith) from The Starr Conspiracy; Michael Rochelle (@michaelrochelle), Chief Strategy Officer @Brandon Hall Group.

“Since 2008, companies have had to achieve organizational efficiency, and have done that well”, says Steve.

Lance says that “buyers know that the learning landscape is changing, and they are frustrated by the technology they have today, and they are open to learning about new HCM systems”.

“Learning is no longer the outcome, performance is now the outcome with Learning management. Only 40% of organizations are creating a learning environment. It’s difficult to create a sustainable system of learning with de-centralizing the workforce” says Michael.

Michael continues, “with SaaS, it should be called “Surprise as a Service” instead of “Software as a Service”. You need to be culturally ready to adapt, not just technologically ready. The key here is that you have to have an organization culturally ready to make change and adapt or you are destined to fail”.

“The biggest opportunity right now is in solving learning issues. Most HR buyers understand the need for learning. This audience is the ripest for buying talent management solutions as nearly 80% of buyers see themselves needing learning services”.

“With learning, on-boarding and performance management are both key to success. 94% of learning buyers believe that the working style of employees is different today and that new approaches and technologies are needed”.

Michael continues, “the learning buyer is now serving “digital natives” in their workforce, and need help from vendors to understand making this a natural (and cool) transition”.

More than half of the learning systems today have little integration with other HR systems. “This is a frustrating point for buyers, and progress is slow” says Steve. The result is that half of enterprise companies (>500 employees) have 2 or more learning systems in place. Learning buyers are beginning to understand that this can be a very big mistake. Some of the world’s largest companies even have as many as 100+ learning systems.

Michael says that the first step in integration is consolidation.

Less than 20% of users of learning managment systems are a proponent of the technology…ouch!

4. How Technology Helps Build Better Customer Relationships

Panel Moderator: George LaRocque (@glarocque), Director, Go To Market Strategy @The Starr Conspiracy

Panelists: Jim Mooney (@jmooney), CEO @RO I Innovation; Chris Newton, VP of Business Development @Influitive

In HR, thought leadership has turned into content marketing.

Jim says, “no one likes to be sold to, but everyone likes to buy. Most people are doing their homework long before they engage in the sales process. When you do engage you want someone who is informed and has the answers you need right now. It’s not about product knowledge, it’s more about the voice of your customer. Whether it be an approved quote in the beginning or an arranged call for a reference toward the end. It’s marketing’s responsibility to prepare the sales team to be more responsible”.

Chris says, “marketing helps sales prepare your customers and advocates for having the proper peer to peer conversations on your behalf. This, in turn, helps the marketing team prepare the proper materials to improve the process for the future”.

Chris says to “put in your “own company name + review” in a Google search box and see what your results are. This will help you understand where your opportunities are and where your prospects are looking for information on you.

“You may be shocked to look at your prospects on LinkedIn and see the current customers you have are connected to many of your prospects. Make it easy to bring those two together for a candid conversation” says Chris.

“Advocate Marketing” is the next big wave in HR marketing.

Jim says the challenge that they see today is that the churn in the sales ranks. Because of that, you need to take a “tribal knowledge approach” and have marketing build it and package it for each phase of the sales cycle. From a content perspective, if a prospect takes an action in one place, you lead them the next piece in your cycle. You can also see exactly what piece of content is being consumed at which stage of the buying process, and you can then spot trends and package materials more effectively.

Chris says to be more proactive in showing your customers love, and making them more successful in their jobs.

If you are a small startup, Chris says to pick out multiple advocates from each customer since you may not have a higher number of customers. You should also lean on employees, investors, family, and friends to include them in your advocacy program.

Jim says to “make sure you capture to voice of your customers so that you can make yourself look bigger to establish credibility and shorten your sales cycle”.

Instead of asking for a reference ask your advocate if they’d like an opportunity to “meet and network with an executive from XYZ company” says Chris.

5. How Emerging Companies and Products are Disrupting the HCM Sales & Marketing Status Quo

Panelists: Craig Bryant (@simplesider), Founder @Kin; Michael Overell (@mboverell), Co-founder @RecruitLoopPeter Kazanjy (@Kazanjy), @TalentBin

Pete says “when you are an early stage startup you need to steal what works as well as do what may be more innovative. TalentBin had lead generation off-shore, and entry-level lead generation reps. The Senior reps would then conduct the demos. Once deals were signed they were passed to Account Management for farming, renewals, and growing deals. This was a philosophy they borrowed from LinkedIn and salesforce.com. We had to steal what worked”.

On the innovation side, Pete says that “content marketing is largely dogshit. Doing an in-depth article that really helps users will help you stand out. Don’t just try to write another Top 10 Buzzfeed article”.

Michael Overell says “one of the first things we did with RecruitLoop was hire a Growth Manager to help drive inbound leads and provide sustainable growth. As a startup, we’ve not paid for any advertising. 80% of our traffic comes from our blog, and we’ve blogged 3 times per week over the last 18 months. This has created a huge inbound engine that has related directly to revenue generation”.

Craig says his company focuses on small businesses as prospects, and they’ve have grown their company small on purpose. The reason they are winning business is because of their product focus. Accounting and bookkeepers are their typical users on the client side. The key to their success is that they know they have to create an amazing experience for the end user. In a small company it’s too easy for an unhappy user to dump your system. Their design and user interface has to be far superior to their competition.

Pete says “you’ve got to start with more defined roles as fast as you can to be successful. As soon as they had a product with legs, and a good slide deck, they hired a sales development rep specifically to set up more demos”.

*Question: How do you optimize the money you have (as it’s not unlimited)?

Craig says Kin uses a PR firm to get slots on specific publications where they can write authentic articles related to their field. They also spend money on Google for maximizing keyword search. However, the bulk of their time and expense goes directly into the product.

Pete says that they wanted to know that a certain amount of dollars spent would equal a certain amount of dollars in revenue. Most of the money that TalentBin spent was on humans. This is because they had a repeatable sales process in place. They knew exactly what to expect from a human making a certain amount of contacts, setting a certain amount of demos, which turned into a certain amount of deals. Another tool they use is InsideSales.com‘s software to create templates around the levers that you need to push. Not knowing the levers is like putting a billboard on US101, and that’s an expensive shot in the dark.

Michael also says that adding humans is big, and the biggest par of their budget. They also want to make sure they use technology to make things more productive. Tools Michale mentioned include salesforce.com, Hubspot, and Influitive.

*Question: What was your least successful initiative?

Michael says “sometimes you forget that there is a human on the other end of the phone, and mistakes can be amplified very quickly. Email campaigns, and screwing them up, can be an easy way to turn off prospects”.

Pete says “one of the keys to sales is to be consultative. Ultimately you’re going to screw up, so you need room for forgiveness. TalentBin likes to tone down the formality, and try to relate to the person so you can get a pass in the future”.

Craig says that pricing was a big challenge for them early on. 60% of their target customers are using Google apps, so they have to sell around that. They started with annual pricing and found out that was a big mistake. They discovered they needed a more fluid pricing model.

Pete says going from being in an early-stage startup, and then being purchased by Monster makes for an interesting perspective. As a small company you can move quickly and make lots of change. As a big company, it is much more difficult to relax standards and make change.

6. Unlocking the Secrets of the HR Buyer

Speakers: Elaine Orler (@elaineorler), Founder & President @Talent Function; Mark Lange, CMO @Chief Outsiders

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 9.34.56 AM

Elaine Orler expertly breaks down how to approach the HR buyer.

Elaine’s keys to success:

1. Know where your buyers are going: You’ve got to listen to what the buyer wants, and understand the projects they are focused on. The buyer looks at it as a scary process.

2. What are they driving toward?: Are they on an optimization journey or a transformation journey. Optimization means narrow budget and we’re fixing this widget. Transformation means we’re looking for something very different and it’s going to make change. Scale the time you spend based on what the needs are. You’ll need to do a lot of coaching in a transformation project.

3. Why are they making a shift?: They may be looking to reduce cost, or are they looking to disrupt the way they are looking to do things?

*Selling products is more experience-based and much less transactional.

*At the time Kenexa, Taleo, and SuccessFactors were purchased the customer contracts were good for 3 years. Those contracts are now coming up, and customers are ripe for the picking.

4. What are they trying to fix?: The people that are using the product day in and day out, what pains do they have? Those are the issues you need to address.

5. Who’s along for the ride?: Who is involved in the decision-making process? The vendor that wins the deal is usually the company that focuses the most on the end user. The end-user feel connected to your solution and convinces their leaders that your product is what they need.

6. What are they most afraid of?: There are negatives and positives to each solution. You’ve got to understand these to make an effective case for your product.

*The average number of tools recruiters are required to touch per week in a corporation is 8.

How to fit in?

1. Build Rapport
2. Practice Empathy
3. Say No (Once in a while)

Mark brings a few new questions:

1. Who’s the buyer?

2. Who’s the Influencer?

Mark says that, “the people with the most power, may have the least amount of knowledge about your discipline”.

“We are often at odds with the C-level executives as we are taking power away from them. They are now becoming a broker of services versus having one throat to choke. That’s why you see Oracle’s PeopleSoft being purchased even though it receives a D- rating”, says Mark.

Mark adds, “You’ve got to coach your sponsor, and arm them with messages to get the sale at the C-suite”.

…and that folks is when my computer battery went dead, and this article ended:)

18 thoughts

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  6. Jason,
    Thanks for being at the event and for blogging out day! This is a great piece! Funny thing about the title – way back in high school I had a band called “Under The Influence”. I hope we see you in Vegas at InfluenceHR this October!

    • Thanks George! I like the idea of a double play with #InfluenceHR and #HRTech. That will be one heck of a week!

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