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HR Tech 2010 Observations: Innovate, Market Well or Be Ignored...

The picture to the right tells you everything you need to know about product competition at the 2010 HR Technology Conference in Chicago this year.  The picture shows 2 of the 4 pages of vendors displaying on the vendor floor at the show.  There are countless others walking the expo and conference floors as well.

They're all looking for a little love from prospects.  It's a crowded scene.  It's hard to cut through the Hr tech clutter.  The ones who are managing to cut through the clutter are all doing one of 2 things:

--They're innovating to solve a problem (sometimes one you didn't know you had) and deliver the solution in an interesting way (which these days, btw, often includes a heavy emphasis on collaboration via social media), and/or:

--They're marketing better than their competitors.

It doesn't have to be both.  To cut through the clutter of a big show like this, the solution has to be jaw-dropping in its utility OR the marketing has to be so good you want to look.  Either will work, both are preferred.

Here's my rundown of the vendor scene related to which vendors cut through the clutter via an innovative solution or interesting marketing.  It's important to note that I'm sure there are a lot of great providers I'm not going to mention.  The darwinian reality is that with so much going on on the vendor floor, you don't have long to make an impression.  I asked 6 or 7 of my friends attending the conference, "who do you remember and why?", and the consensus was frightening - all could only remember 5-6 providers in the clutter of the show.  It's also interesting to note that just because you get a "best product" award, you're really not guaranteed anything related to mind-share. Here's what the group said:

Vendors with mindshare through superior innovation:

--Jobvite - Your referral program just got hooked on crack.  Jobvite's that good related to making everyone in your company a recruiter via the social tools you love.  Go check them out if you haven't.  Elegant solution.

--The Ladders - Many in the recruiting community love to crack on this team for the candidate-side fees, but the innovation is clearly there.  Solutions they've created recently include features like open rate percentages by recruiter (hello! How about that to determine which recruiter on your team knows how to run a campaign..) and a mind-blowing RPO-light type service called FitFinder.  They're innovating based on the unique platform they've created, and it's scary how much they're thinking about new tools to provide value to the service for employers.

--Rypple - The golden child of the HR Tech show for the last couple of years.  Disruptor in the performance management scene.  Good stuff, easy to use.

--I Love Rewards - The little kid darkhorse of this group. I'm not a big rewards and recognition guy, but when I got cornered to view the solution, I was impressed.  It's your basic points=stuff web-based play, but they take the recognition to a new level - they allow you activate the recognition feed on all the big social networks, and if someone clicks through to view the employee in question on something like LinkedIn who just got recognized, you can insert banner ads to drive your brand as a great place to work.  Oh - and when those clicks to your career site happen, the employee gets rewards points. Nice...

Vendors with mindshare because they know how to market:

--Sonar6 - A big cardboard box was their booth.  You wrote on it when you stopped by.  Great pre-show marketing to drive awareness.  Cut through the clutter and was the most memorable.

--StarrTincup - They served beer on the floor.  Big crowd around the booth as a result.  Not really selling anything, just serving up beers.  Lots of buzz (literally) as a result.

That's my show wrap.  All in all, a great show, but the theme remains... Innovate, market well or be ignored.  Thanks to Bill Kutik and HR Executive Magazine for having me in Chicago, look forward to next year in Las Vegas...



Yo KD:
Thanks for the kind words. And, of course, you're right on target. I'll add a thought to the marketing side of the equation you present above. David Ogilvy (the easiest guy to quote in the world because everything he ever said has been captured in free "famous quote" databases) once said ... (and whenever a sentence contains the phrase "once said" you're forced to pay attention) "Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea." But as you can see from the folks you highlight above, big ideas aren't based on money. They don't necessarily require big budgets. Sometimes, by merely defying convention alone, a big idea is born. Convention is to spend tons of money on a big, fancy booth at HRTech. Sonar6 (who should open an ad agency because they're so good at marketing, and thankfully for Starr Tincup, they're even better at software development) defied convention by dropping a cardboard box on the show floor. It was brilliant because it was both unconventional and on message ... "We build software, not exhibit booths." That's a big idea that most companies would have been scared to pull off. As for Starr Tincup ... having a party on the show floor is just what we wanted to do. It defied convention, only because we were being ourselves. That's another big idea in this market - just be yourselves. Marketing well isn't hard; just find your big idea and then don't get scared. Go ahead and jump off the bridge with it.


My mom is gonna be so happy that you think we're the Golden Child! :)

Thanks for the props. We're trying hard to both innovate on a hard problem and market differently / well.

And - we're proud to be in such great company. All firms with great people & products.


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