HR Tech is over. Most of us have traveled back to our homes and offices. Like every other consultant/analyst/blogger attending the show, I bring you my HR Tech debrief. Mine is written from the Vendor Marketing/Sales/Messaging perspective. You’re not going to get product analysis here…
HR Tech lived up to it’s reputation as the premier show for HR Vendors. Over 2.5 days, I met with hundreds of vendors formally or informally. I’ve been attending these shows, since 1998 or ’99, and the vendor feedback I heard was consistent this year, but even more emphatic on the value of attending the show:
- While there are fewer buyers at this show than others. HR Tech attracts THE RIGHT BUYERS.
- The Public &/or Analyst Relations opportunities were abundant at the show. Whether pursuing a formal process, or capitalizing on the presence of media and analysts, briefings were happening all day and night.
- The business development and partnership opportunities are unmatched on the show circuit. Nowhere can you attend a show and have nearly every possible potential partner visible, and with Executive Representation.
- M&A traction starts and leaps ahead at HR Tech. This is off the radar, but rampant. Over meals, drinks, chatter at the tables, etc. It’s where relationships are born or bolstered that lead to deals.
- Competitive Intelligence. It’s not just an oxymoron (see, there’s still a little vendor in me) – If you want to get a feel for your competition, direct or indirect, you’ll get a highly concentrated dose at HR Tech.
- Networking. Looking for a new marketing or sales person? Looking to network into a new position, or try to see which vendors are doing something interesting? Walk the exhibit floor.
- Fun. The parties at HR Tech have grown in size and stature over the years, and Vegas took it to the next level. But, I don’t have any details for you – because what happens in Vegas…. you know how it is. However, I do have lots of pictures, and for the right offer I’ll delete the files.
- ….and the most overlooked, and perhaps the most important when considering all of the above: Friendship. If you have been in this market long enough to go to more than 1 HR Tech, you will see current and old friends or colleagues that you just wouldn’t see throughout the year. You will make new friends – if you are open to it and attending the parties. I’ve witnessed that spark of friendship (old or new) create the partnerships, customers, M/A discussions, Networking, Fun, and even personal relationships leading to everything from friendship to romance over the years.
The Vendors lived up to their reputation at the show, also. Differentiation was almost impossible to discern. This has always been a challenge in this market, but as the fragmentation has increased steadily in all segments over the last 10 years, it keeps getting more and more difficult. A concept vendors have to get used to is that they are not just competing with vendors doing exactly what they are doing, but with all of the vendors competing for mind-share and/or budget-share. The rampant problem of vendors speaking vendor speak to buyers that speak a very different language is exacerbated by the fragmentation. Some specific contributing issues that jumped out at me were:
- Messaging. As an analyst/consultant at the show, I have the same problem the buyer has. I heard/read all or most of the following from so many vendors, that what the vendors messaged to me was almost irrelevant: (paraphrased, of course) “We help you: get more social; Find better talent; Engage your employees; Increase Collaboration; Improve (insert type) Quality; Get better insight and visibility into your enterprise; improve your employee satisfaction; improve your employer brand directly, or indirectly; with a better ROI; and we’re in the cloud – REALLY in the cloud.”
- Social Media. You may have read my post on the HR Vendors failing at Social Media in the wind up to the show – (if not find it here). The volume of “posts” (blogs, twitter, forums, status updates, etc.) on each of the days of the show equaled, or surpassed, the volume in the previous two weeks. Can you imagine an HR Tech Buyer looking at his/her smart-phone anywhere at the show and heading over the booth #XXXX because they just saw the single tweet about how they can win a free “insert something 20 other vendors are giving away” or because of the messaging from above showing up in their feed? I can’t.
- Really poor booth skills. The VP of Sales & Marketing in me just cringes as I watch show attendees walk by a vendor’s booth and the booth staff just smiles and stands there with their hands in their pockets, or squeezing their stress-reduction toy, or even worse – not paying attention at all and talking to other staff in the booth. The bulk of the vendors have small booths. How you interact and engage with traffic that is drawn to the bigger, more exciting, presence of other vendors really matters.
HR Tech, or any trade show, success really depends on the pre and post show execution. A constant issue, as I meet with vendors, year after year is the lack of insight into success attributed to any show. This is all about how you organize, track, and manage, your pre and post show activity.
The Vendor Noise at the show gets greater and greater every year. It gets more and more impossible for the HR Tech Buyer to sift through it. If you’re not looking at your Branding and your Message Map before the show, with an eye on differentiation – and integrating it into a well planned strategy, I’m not sure you should be there, except of course for the parties….