This is part one of a four-step strategy to get more customers and clients in the Human Resources industry.
We’ll be looking at:
- Is Your HR-Related Business Blending Into The Background?
- Most HR Businesses Do Not Differentiate Themselves
- How To Make Your HR-Related Business Stand Out
- Segment Your Audience – Basic
- Segment Your Audience – Advanced
- What To Do When You’ve Identified Your Target Market
- A Two-Line Formula To Differentiate Your HR Business
- A Special Twist For Your Two-Line Marketing Proposition
- A Real Life Story
Trying to work out how to make your HR-related business stand out? Take a look how this HR business describes itself on its website home page:
We will help you bridge the gap between vision and performance. We will enhance your existing or new business with our practical HR advice and leave you with sustainable HR programs for the future.
How does that make you feel?
Do you feel like you’ve discovered the Human Resources firm that’s exactly right for your business?
Have you ever been on holiday in a lovely foreign land and visited the local markets?
There were probably whole rows full of stalls selling very similar products.
You’d never been to these markets before so you probably had no emotional attachment to any of the particular shop owners.
How did you tell them apart or decide where to buy?
I’d say that price was a big factor in your decision on which stall to buy from.
It reminds me of perfect market competition theory . . .
For all those stall owners, it’s not a great way to do business, right?
Yet why do so many businesses do it this way?
Bring up those holiday memories in your mind, recall the crowded market, and see all those identical stalls stretched out before you . . .
Now read some meaningless mission statements from real HR firms.
- Our range of comprehensive HR solutions address the specific needs of your organisation with the single-minded goal of making it easier for you to create and manage a work environment that delivers results and sustainable commercial growth.
- Our highly experienced Human Resources Professionals supply advice and add significant value to companies on an as-needs basis.
- And the one we saw earlier: We will help you bridge the gap between vision and performance. We will enhance your existing or new business with our practical HR advice and leave you with sustainable HR programs for the future.
“Comprehensive HR solutions; Delivers results; Sustainable commercial growth; Add significant value; Vision and performance; Sustainable HR programs” – sounds like a round of Business Buzzword Bingo.
If your business looks and sounds exactly like every other one of your competitors, then people can only really judge you based on price or reputation.
The big firms like Heidrick & Struggles, Ernst & Young, and others have reputation all sewn up with their swanky corporate offices, global reach, and huge marketing budgets.
So it comes back to price again.
In other words, if you look and sound like all the other stalls in the market, you’ll have to lower your price and hope that the customer randomly decides to buy from your stall.
The first step in my four step process to get new clients is called Step 1: ‘Become Super Attractive To Your Target Market (see all 4 steps here).’
In that article, I recommended taking a few minutes, days, or even months to become laser-focused on the types and categories of clients that you want for your business.
Understand their needs, wants, questions, and concerns. Also consider what they don’t want or need (see the Real Life Story below).
You can spend months on this or you can sketch out a one page outline during a lunch break – both approaches work.
Stop being all things to all people – connect with your people. It will pay off for you.
Now, you may be thinking that it’s really hard to work out your exact target audience or to work out what to say to them so let me show you a few little tricks you can use.
Whenever I want a business to become super attractive to its target market, I always start by working out who it should be aimed at.
The easiest way is to come up with some ‘buyer categories’.
It might sound difficult but it is just a list of your main customer categories and some background information to guide you.
It’s important to break it up because all categories are different as they all have different needs and pressures and frustrations.
For example, for my HRwisdom business, I divided it into the following categories:
- HR Professional
- External Consultant To Companies
- Business Owner
I did this because they were all looking for different things and, to be honest, I just put the Student category in there so they wouldn’t mess up my database.
HR professionals are usually in mid to large-sized companies with decent budgets and support behind them.
Business owners like you and I have a lot more to contend with so they are looking for different things – they’ll also want things that are quick, low cost or free so they can solve an immediate problem. They may well spend money on larger services later but they’ve got a lot of things on their plate so it may take time.
HR professionals will know what they are looking for and will be prepared to spend more because they are buying for a large corporation. They will, however, often be quite slow moving as they don’t control the budget – they have to get approval from the powers that be. They also need a lot of proof to back up their choice – their reputation is on the line.
Do you see how that works?
Instantly, I knew, at a very basic level, who was coming to my website and what drove their behaviour.
I could also tag visitors, track their sign-up process, purchases, and so on using Google Analytics and my CRM.
Visitors then had pages, information and special offers dedicated to them so they I look super attractive to them when the time comes to make a purchase.
Why not take a moment and think about how would you divide up your customer/client categories?
- Where are they based located?
- What are the typical characteristics of their business?
- What are their immediate problems and longer term challenges?
- What have you got to offer in terms of those specific challenges (no generic mission statements or jargon please)?
The basic method for segmenting your audience can be very effective. Simply think about the different roles and businesses that you want as customers and clients and approach them differently.
The advanced approach isn’t too complicated – it just adds more data to the process.
For example, this might involve putting all your customer/client details into a spreadsheet along with all the revenue each one has generated. Once they’re in the spreadsheet, you can slice and dice the data in various ways (you can even use a pivot table if you’re feeling brave).
You might look at:
- Average/total customer revenue by industry.
- Average/total customer revenue by business headcount.
- Average/total customer revenue by location.
- Average/total customer revenue by role in company of key contact.
- Average/total customer revenue by role in company of project type.
- Average/total customer revenue by role in company of use case/reason for using your services.
- And so on.
This will help you to decide who and what to focus on when it comes to targeting the right types of businesses and people within those companies.
I will go into this in more detail in a separate post so make sure you’re on my mailing list to get more on this topic.
Once you’ve given some thought to the different segments in your target market, there are plenty of ways in which you can play to your strengths and talk directly to these people.
- Change your website home page so that the wording, layout, design, imagery, menus and content are focussed on your target market. (Note: I’ll soon share a two-line formula that makes this easy so make sure you join my mailing list).
- Add self-selection to your website and menus (“Which of the following options best describes you…?“) to guide people to a tailored page or section of your website. (New post on this topic coming very soon).
- Create use cases or case studies that address different segments of your target audience.
- Create sections or pages within your website designed just for each target segment.
- Create blog content aimed at each specific target segment.
- Create webinars and videos that address specific issues for sub-sections of your audience.
- Share social media updates that speak to different segments on different occasions.
- Segment your email/CRM database according to the different target audiences.
- Get more ideas from industry experts here.
- And much more.
If you know your customer categories but don’t know how to express your value to those groups, here’s a handy two-line formula I discovered from business expert Geoffrey James that you can use to work out what’s so good about your human resources business.
For an HR-related business:
“Our clients hire us to provide [benefit(s) to the client.]. They hire us, rather than somebody else, because [something unique that the competition doesn’t have but the customer values.]”
Or, for an HR-related product:
“Our customers buy from us to provide [benefit(s) to the client.]. They buy from us, rather than somebody else, because [something unique that the competition doesn’t have but the customer values.]”
To go back to that example of a Human Resources consulting firm at the start of the main article, it might change from this . . .
“We will help you bridge the gap between vision and performance. We will enhance your existing or new business with our practical HR advice and leave you with sustainable HR programs for the future.”
. . . to this (after segmenting the clients into their most common categories):
“Our clients in the design & engineering industry hire us to generate faster and more effective staff performance improvement. They hire us, rather than somebody else, because our unique and easy-to-use performance management system is fully operational within days, not months.
Can you see the difference?
The original messages force the customer to figure out what it all means to the customer.
The second version isn’t perfect but it does approach it from the customer’s viewpoint.
Doing this little exercise means you will talk the language of your new customers and clients rather than coming up with generic slogans that don’t mean anything to anyone.
You can then use these targeted phrases on your website, in your ads, in person at networking events, and in all sorts of ways.
Unsure what to put for the ‘something unique that the competition doesn’t have but the customer values’ component in the two-line formula above?
You could identify something your previous customers and clients told you was special regarding your:
- Service arrangements or standards (but avoid slipping into clichés)
- Pricing or billing arrangements
- Specialty or area of expertise
- Personalities and relationships
- Product packages or service packages.
If you can’t think of something without it descending into meaningless generalisations (such as: “We offer the best service due to our extensive experience”), then coming up with a new product packages or service package could be the way to go.
An example . . .
I once gave a talk at a conference to about 200 people on the topic of employee engagement. The previous week I had won a new client by explaining that the consulting work I could do was like an ‘employee engagement kick-start program’ – it wasn’t a formal package or program and I was only planning to do my usual consulting work but, in the potential client’s office, it was the easiest way to explain what I was offering.
In my conference presentation, I mentioned what smart employers were doing here and in other countries. I mentioned, only in passing, that my ‘employee engagement kick start program’ was based on these principles.
In the weeks after my conference presentation I received a number of emails from audience members. None of the emails mentioned the theories or best practices I’d described, all of them asked for more information on my ‘employee engagement kick start program’ which, until that moment, had never existed before.
Packaging your services works.
It makes broad, generic consulting or ‘professional services’ more tangible. They can help you get your foot in the door with an organisation so you can offer higher-value services down the track.
They’re easier to understand and, therefore, easier to sell.
Let’s finish with a story that help address the question of how to make your HR-related business stand out from the rest.
Years ago when CurrencyFair was still only a handful of people, I was madly working all hours of the day setting-up both the HR function and the inbound marketing function.
In theory, this was a combination of 50% HR and 50% marketing but, in the reality of tech startup-land, it was more like 75% and 75%.
After a large fundraising round, our PR people got us wide-ranging press coverage saying that we were cashed-up and ready to hire more staff.
Cue the cold calls from local recruiters.
Now, unlike a lot of people, I have no problem with sales calls. After all, here I am writing a marketing blog. Sales calls win business which means more jobs, more employment, better society . . . and well . . . et cetera.
However, every recruiter that phoned me always pitched the same angle: lower rates. None of them had done any segmentation or research or even used a sales questioning process that allowed for exploration of my needs.
CurrencyFair had recently raised a lot of money (millions) so lower recruitment fees weren’t necessarily my most pressing issue.
My problem was time. I was working two jobs in one (HR and Marketing).
If one of the recruiters had differentiated themselves by presenting a time-saving service rather than a money-saving service, they probably would’ve got the gig.
Instead, some other firm got the job for some minor reason (all pitches sounded the same so it probably did come down to price).
The lesson? Segmenting and understanding your audience can win business and actually let you charge more.
Make sure you’re on my mailing list because we’re going to look at practical examples of these ideas.
My intention is to make it easy for you to better target your ideal customers and clients and bring them in faster.
As always, just hit Reply to my emails and let me know your thoughts.
This is part one of a four-step strategy to get more customers and clients in the Human Resources industry
All the best,