With impressively large rounds of funding, big IPOs and even bigger acquisitions over the last two years, the HCM industry – and the number companies and products within it – is growing at breakneck speed. As a result, Gartner estimates the HCM market will expand to $8.8 billion by 2015.
Both disruptive new startups and the enterprise giants are vying for their pieces of the pie, especially now that HR departments are ready to replace decades-old legacy systems that are well past their expiration dates.
With so many vendors trying to get noticed, it’s nearly impossible to stand out (and not just on the tradeshow floors of HR tech conferences). How are buyers supposed to differentiate one vendor from another in the ever more crowded HCM landscape?
HR tech buyers are tuning out the noise
This challenge is not unique to this industry. Mirroring how they behave as consumers, B2B customers in general have become increasingly wary of traditional advertising and marketing over the last five years or so, turning to their peers for genuine recommendations and reviews instead.
Today, nearly 60% of a typical B2B purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a salesperson and word-of-mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50% of all purchasing decisions.
When you consider how well-connected and experienced HR tech decision-makers tend to be, those numbers could be a lot higher in the HCM space, especially when a budget of $500,000 or more for a single piece of software is at stake.
You can bet that these executives — typically more educated and from a wider variety of professional backgrounds than most — will be doing their due diligence.
For them, these systems are an investment and not simply a transaction. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of large employers use their HRIS/HRMS for more than seven years, so HCM buyers aren’t just looking to buy a piece of software; they are driven to build relationships and won’t be wooed by traditional sales and marketing approaches.
Why you should encourage your customers sell your product for you
As a vendor, it’s up to you to not only establish and nurture relationships with customers, but also harness the enthusiasm and passion of those happy customers to create new ones. Getting your customers to advocate for your company is the marketing equivalent of a royal flush, and once you stack your deck with even a handful of these, it’ll be hard for your competitors to catch up.
This strategy is called advocate marketing. More and more companies (including HCM vendors like WORK[etc], Ceridian and others) are starting to build advocate marketing programs within their organizations to mobilize their customers and other fans to write glowing product reviews, provide genuine referrals, recommendations and references, and participate in content creation and social conversations.
When your customers love your product, you provide them with a fantastic advocate experience and you make an effort to recognize them for their advocacy, congratulations — you’ve won the jackpot! In an industry that’s all about people, it only makes sense to mobilize your own greatest human capital asset — your customers — to grow your business.
As Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President for Ceridian HCM, explained at InfluenceHR in June: “We provide customers with a podium and a mic to tell our story. Our customers do a much better job telling our story, and with far better credibility than anyone in our marketing organization can.”
Smart HR tech marketers are starting to implement advocate marketing programs in order to mobilize their happiest customers and other fans, and leverage the relationships they have with their colleagues and peers in the industry.
Leading cloud-based HCM vendor Ceridian first implemented a cutting-edge customer advocacy program called Ceridian XOXO in 2013, and have since engaged with more than 1600 customers to generate over 260 references to help Ceridian salespeople close deals faster, record at least 35 new video testimonials and get volunteers for more than 20 case studies.
Web-based CRM, project management and collaboration platform WORK[etc] launched its advocate marketing program, the WORK[etc] Insiders, via an insightful blog post by the company’s founder and CEO, Daniel Barnett. “By far the best marketing we’ve ever done, is the marketing we never actually did,” he muses. “That is to say the best marketing has been the marketing our customers have done for us.”
Online recruitment marketplace RecruitLoop sourced one third (33%) of its monthly deals from customer advocates in the first two months of the company’s advocate marketing program, The Loop. “It makes the community feel loved with a minimum of effort and has allowed some of my more inactive recruiters to become a source of referrals,” says Jenn Steele, Head of Growth at RecruitLoop. Read Jenn’s review.