Advice for #HRTECH marketing departments as of March 16th 2020.
A quick Google search of “never waste a crisis” attributes the quote to Winston Churchill. After a little more digging, it turns out that it wasn’t him.
I suspect many marketers are working hard at their newly remote desks figuring out how to position their products and companies to leverage the current crisis. There is already a significant flow into my inbox and social media feeds.
It is true that HRTECH can play a role in helping organizations cope better with this crisis. Whether it is analytics tools to help identify employees in risk areas, or mobile elearning to educate the workforce on rapidly changing policies, or leave management tools that can help manage rapid changes in sick leave policies, or engagement tools for connecting with newly remote employees… I’m sure the temptation to get out a quick thought leadership piece or webinar and come up with a clever discount acquisition model is pretty overwhelming.
I would like to propose a little more caution.
This weekend I posted two short comments on Linkedin and Twitter.
#HRTech Vendors. If your marketing department is planning to tell the world how your analytics/HR/employee engagement tool is going to help deal with Covid, my suggestion is to quarantine the marketing department. #hr #employeeengagement #coronavirus— Thomas Otter (@vendorprisey) March 14, 2020
Relying on software industry analysts and management consultant blogs for advice on Covid is about as useful as using epidemiologists to evaluate enterprise software.— Thomas Otter (@vendorprisey) March 14, 2020
I’ll write another post about the second tweet later, but I’m quoting it here to remind me to follow my own advice.
A couple of vendor marketing people thought I was being a bit harsh, so let me expand it into what I hope is a more helpful proposal. So what do I suggest #HRTECH marketeers do before they press the launch button on their COVID19 campaign?
- If you quote statistics, are you quoting from leading epidemiologists and institutes? For instance WHO, Robert Koch Institute, John Hopkins. Time stamp your work, because things are changing fast.
- Management consulting firm reports are not a primary source, so don’t justify your marketing by quoting someone else’s.
- If you are writing for a US audience, say so. The healthcare systems and employment laws differ by country, so don’t make broad global assumptions, or transpose US perceptions onto the rest of the world. Ditto elsewhere.
- Is your campaign adding to the signal or the noise? Do we really need another post about the pros and cons of remote working? Ask yourself if an HR leader would benefit from stopping what they are doing to read or watch your presentation, white paper or webinar. Just about every vendor will be jostling for attention. HR doesn’t need to be triaging vendor communications too.
- You are a software company. Supporting remote working is something you should have been doing anyway, so announcing that you are doing remote work doesn’t interest anyone.
- It is unlikely that you have a product that someone could buy today that would help them in the short-term. If customers have deployed your product, helping them use it better is goodness, so focus more closely on customers that have your software rather than simply marketing to new ones.
- Test your message on people outside marketing. How would someone with a sick family member view your campaign?
- Think very carefully about offering discounts / free software. Make sure that is sustainable for your business model, and make sure that it doesn’t alienate existing customers.
- Imagine that someone reads this in two years time. Will they respect your brand, or will this seem opportunistic marketing at its worst?
- Are your customers asking you for help and advice? What does your user group expect from you?
- Remember that you are selling #HRTECH, not developing a vaccine.
- If you really have something worth saying, then say it.
I'm a venture capitalist at Acadian Ventures, investing in the future of work.