Julia Burns

The Power of Ideas and Leopard Print Boots for HR Services

Posted on 24th June 2015 by Julia Burns

"In strode an assured woman with a clear purpose, leopard print ankle boots, and the biggest smile I can remember, offering me her hand and introducing herself as the HR Director."

In strode an assured woman with a clear purpose, leopard print ankle boots, and the biggest smile I can remember, offering me her hand and introducing herself as the HR Director. Having been in the business for just a few months, she was meeting us to talk about the recruitment and engagement challenges she was facing, and how Man Bites Dog might be able to help her tackle them.

She knew precisely what she needed to do now and had an insightful plan for the next two, three and five years. There was no business talk, no acronyms, no mention of being a ‘strategic partner’, yet her knowledge, understanding, vast experience and enthusiasm were instantly obvious. There was no denying that here was exactly the strategic partner that the CEO needed – and then some.

For the last twenty years, there has been much talk of HR taking its place on the board by proving its strategic savvy, and we are finally getting there. With the help of a raft of HR services, time is being freed up for HR Directors to examine the bigger picture, ask challenging questions and put genuine engagement at the forefront of decision-making. With the UK’s productivity puzzle still looming large, it’s time that employees took centre stage.

But here is the rub. With so many HR services now being available at all stages of the employee journey, standing out is a challenge. We recently carried out research into the issues facing Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) in a number of B2B industries and found that those working in HR services are the most likely to find it difficult to sell because their market is overcrowded.

In this environment, differentiating is increasingly tough, with two fifths (42%) of CMOs admitting their offer is intangible. Industry awards and imperceptible differences in software or processes are simply not enough to mark out an HR service. The ones that we see thriving are those that add a hard business edge to perceived soft HR issues by proving three things:

  1. They measurably improve performance;
  2. They easily help HR departments make better, quicker people decisions;
  3. They are based on genuine insights and expertise.

It’s this third area where marketers can really make a difference but much of the content that companies produce at the moment is not based on truly compelling expertise, with nearly two thirds (62%) of CMOs admitting that their ideas are not cutting through competitor noise.

This is for a multitude of reasons with a lack of time standing out as a key barrier: for two thirds (67%) of CMOs it is hard to invest in thinking because their success is measured on outputs. Almost nine in ten (88%) think that if they had time for creative thinking it would ‘significantly increase’ the impact of their team. Without time for contemplation and wider thinking, they are pushing through ideas that they are not convinced by – and they are proving ineffective as a result.

For two thirds (67%) of HR services firms, driving ideas-led conversations is a key element of their business’ development strategy. Added to that, a large proportion (58%) of CMOs worry their business won’t survive unless they actively generate demand.

In this environment, it’s imperative that CMOs actively carve out valuable time for generating insight into their customer’s challenges. At the very least, they should be talking to colleagues who are dealing with clients daily and experience trends and issues firsthand; attending events beyond the usual HR conferences to spark creativity; and looking to others industries to see how to execute campaigns in new and innovative ways. Each idea should then be interrogated to make sure that it will lead to action:

  • Will it make an HR Director think? Is it original or does it move an existing debate on?
  • Will it make the decision-maker feel? Is it relevant to them on a professional or personal level?
  • Will it lead the HR Director to do something? Does it have a strong call to action that aligns with what you sell?

And so back to the well-heeled HR Director… this is the person that ideas need to chime with, through online activity, in the well-read HR tomes or at one of the almost overwhelming HR events where a dozen others will be selling similar wares. Are your ideas ready for her?

Let us know what is causing your crisis of creativity and we’ll come and meet you to develop a solution.

Julia Burns, Account Director, marketing and public relations consultancy, Man Bites Dog julia.burns@manbitesdog.com

 

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