Vendor Claims to ‘Reinvent’ HCM Tech Solutions Confuses Customers

Confused Handwriting

Many HCM technology vendors are trying so hard to rise above the noise they may be making it more difficult for their customers and prospects to understand their solutions’ value. Rather than advertise their product’s ability to solve an employer’s problems, they claim to offer an approach so revolutionary, it’s “reinvented” their category.

A number of HR, technology and marketing experts aren’t convinced this is approach is particularly smart. “When you’re selling to someone who works in benefits, and understands benefits, why would you try to make them change the language they already know?” asked one.

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Others agree. When a vendor’s message begins with the idea of “reinventing” or “redefining,” they say, the company must educate prospects about its new landscape even as it tries to sell.

Terry Starr, an HR marketing consultant based in Northern New Jersey, says such tactics are often part of a company’s strategy to reposition itself as a disruptor. “Having said that,” she added, “the use of the concept of reinvention in communication seems to be overdone.”

The presents marketers with another challenge: Customers become skeptical when multiple players claim to be reinventing a sector, says Mark Willaman, CEO of advos, a Capitola, Calif., marketing platform for HR vendors. “How can so many companies be reinventing things at the same time?” he asks. “The term often is seen as marketing hot air.”

And, adds Starr, when so many companies claim to be doing the same thing, “it means there’s too much noise and it will be hard to break through the clutter.”

In HCM, Reality Sells

Vendors are better off when they focus on what their product actually does and the benefits it offers, said Pat McParland, vice president of marketing for HR Acuity, an employee-relations management platform headquartered in Florham Park, N.J.

For example, McParland said her team wouldn’t claim to be “reinventing employee relations,” even though the area’s processes are often completed “less than optimally” and rely on too many manual procedures, spreadsheets or jury-rigged tools. Rather than talk about reinventing the space, McParland prefers to focus on “doing it right,” meaning manage employee relations in a fair and consistent way.

“We’re not reinventing employee relations,” she said. “We are focused on it, we are specifically built for it and we focus on the why: You do it so you can protect your organization’s reputation and build a better workplace.”

“Reinventing suggests your product is changing something so much that it appears to be entirely new,” said Willaman. “Maybe investors and bloggers will find this interesting and compelling, but do your B2B buyers really care?”

Indeed, Willaman suggests, positioning products as “disruptive” might actually hurt a vendor’s marketing efforts. B2B purchasing departments may be leery of taking a chance on a brand-new approach when plenty of time-tested options are available.

“The reality is that business buyers purchase products to solve business needs, and they often categorize these products,” Willaman said. For example, in background-screening products, customers look for timely, accurate, compliant and secure reports that come at a fair price.

“If you have some unique technology that’s truly a game-changer in the space, that’s great—but don’t lead with it,” Willaman advised. “Don’t start with ‘it’s the first AI screening tool that will disrupt the screening industry.’ That doesn’t tell me much about what you do.”

McParland agrees. “As far as getting attention, I think the best way is to use real stories of people succeeding and sharing best practices with each other,” she said. HR Acuity relies heavily on client sessions, roundtables and “case studies in action” where employee relations professionals can share actual stories of what they’re doing and what works.

“Technology is an enabler, a means to an end,” McParland said. “Bringing it to life through real people makes it work.”

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