HR looking for ways to deal with looming worker shortage

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Mark Willaman founded in 2000 with a single focus in mind—to help human resource vendors generate publicity, Web site traffic, sales leads and improved search engine rankings. Seven years later, the marketing and media relations agency has won more than 500 clients seeking to win business with hard-to-penetrate HR departments. BtoB asked Willaman for some up-to-date insight on best practices in approaching HR audiences.

BtoB: What products and services are in highest demand by HR departments?

Willaman: The HR marketplace is growing rapidly and the business world is experiencing a looming workforce shortage. Organizations now realize that high-quality employees give them a competitive edge in the marketplace, so HR software and services that relate to recruiting, developing and retaining talent are very hot. Specific products and services related to talent shortages including sourcing technologies that help identify passive candidates for recruiters, as well as recruitment process outsourcing . Also, since many companies have huge stores of candidate data that they don't know how to leverage, applicant tracking systems that provide candidate matching and search functionality are in high demand. For the existing workforce, marketers are capitalizing on the need for employee performance management services such as executive coaching and organizational development consulting to retain their top-performing employees.

BtoB: What are the specific opportunities and challenges of reaching and engaging these audiences?

Willaman: The key marketing challenge is standing out in what is becoming a very crowded vendor space in a very mature industry. It's increasingly competitive, as traditional, large global HR vendors are now going downstream in search of growing their business by targeting midsize and small employers. Additionally, technology has lowered the entry barriers, so there are an abundance of start-ups entering the space and once-regional players going national. The opportunity for HR vendors is that HR practitioners have a continuing thirst for information—they consume white papers, research, best practices and case studies. This allows HR vendors to bypass costly and less effective "traditional" marketing tactics like advertising in favor of direct-to-buyer strategies like search-optimized press releases and direct e-mail marketing that are tied to content offers.

BtoB: In your experience, what tactics work best in marketing to HR?

Willaman: Campaigns that lead to online visibility are the No. 1 way for HR vendors to reach today's audiences. This includes direct e-mail marketing and regular distribution of search-optimized press releases that target HR buyers directly (such as those sent via Campaigns are most effective when tied to a content offer such as the free download of a white paper, which drives traffic to your Web site and captures sales leads. An indirect, but equally strong, benefit is achieving higher search engine rankings. The bottom line is that HR suppliers are no longer limited to traditional media outlets and costly marketing campaigns. Today, they have the means to directly reach potential customers relatively cheaply and quickly. If they have a compelling message and a solution that delivers on its promises, the sky's the limit.

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