The numbers vary depending on who you talk to, but one of the latest numbers I read was that we are exposed to something like 10,000 adverts each and every day. The number of those that actually influence us is up for discussion, but its fair to say that they often go unnoticed, unless we are actively looking for something.
I recently spent a couple of days at HR Tech in the beautiful Paris. I was lucky enough to be a guest of Monster and I have to say they looked after me wonderfully – as they usually do. So HR Tech – there’s a clue in the title, it’s about Human Resources and all things related, and it’s technology focused.
Away from the insightful talks by the likes of Andrea Bertone and Unmesh Pawar there was time to review the various suppliers stands and their offering. What I saw in the most part was noise. White noise. And right there and then I realized how tough this market is.
So almost every one who is anyone was here, I recall SAP, SuccessFactors, Broadbean, Monster, and… that’s it. I realize that I’m not really their target market, but I desperately struggled to recognise and understand who was there and what they did. It’s not that the stands were poorly designed, nor the staff manning them badly trained, it was just the sheer volume of companies that provide software that well… help you to be better at HR. That’s as close as I can get. In fact ironically, it felt like all the world’s HR issues could be sorted collectively by the companies in the room.
My issue with all these companies is the marketing. They are not differentiating themselves, I could not see the clear USP or in fact the elevator pitch that wasn’t replicated by the stand next to them. Sure there were lots of buzzwords, but they were drowned out by mediocrity and vagueness. Sourcing, engaging, socializing, mining, talent, tracking, analyse, candidates, process, all words splashed on the stands and people eager to tell you about their software. I hadn’t realized the size and selection of technology that all seems to do more or less the same thing, but it’s different because (…well I’m not sure). I’m not a tech expert, and nor I would suggest are most HR people and I’m sure this technology is sound, robust and well actually pretty good. The problem is the marketing of it.
I’ve recently finished a book called ‘Different’ by Youngme Moon which talks of brands that in their quest for market dominance actually become less different to each other. They are then lost in a sea of category mediocrity. I agree and what I think is needed is a simple clear message of differentiation, not a feature or a benefit. This, I know is hard because we can all get carried away with the ‘it can do this, this, and this’. It’s the type of thing the guys on Dragon Den murder you over. In today’s world unless you can clearly define what you do, why you do it differently and what the real benefit is to you, you’re just the same as everyone else.
So, coming back to HR Tech, and the trap I think technology firms fall into is that they design something they think is great, and probably is great. But it’s too similar to everything else that’s out there and even if it’s not, it looks like it is. That, or it’s sold as the panacea of HR and then the results underwhelm. So if any of the exhibitors are reading this my advice is be different, find your niche and shout about that niche. Own the niche, not the market.