Poached from Marketing – The Four P’s

I’ve been given the opportunity to really learn from different departments at my last two jobs. At Buildium, I was seated with customer support, marketing and finance at different times. It’s been incredibly valuable in shaping how I think about my field – I like to steal whatever concepts or systems I can from my peers and apply them to people strategy. I’d like to talk more about what we can learn from other functions in this and future blogs because I think it helps raise the bar.

Today, a bit from my friend Geoff Roberts, co-founder of Outseta. I asked him to talk to me about a core concept of marketing:

“The 4 P’s of the “marketing mix” is a foundational concept in marketing that’s been popularized since the 1950’s. The first “P” stands for Product, which is the good or service that is being offered. Product should fulfill existing consumer demand, or be compelling enough to create demand on it’s own. The second “P” is for Price, which is the amount of money the consumer is willing to pay for the real or perceived benefits of the product. Price has the most direct implication on revenue. Place is the third P. Place describes where a product is sold and how it is delivered. This could mean specific stores or geographies where the product is offered, or even the specific displays used within a physical store or the positioning of a product within an online store. The final “P” is for Promotion, which is the mix of activities related to advertising, public relations, or direct marketing or sales promotions that are used to promote the product. There is significant interplay between the 4 P’s with each needing to be carefully considered to effectively marketing a product.”

 

I’ve spent some time before talking about applying marketing principles to recruiting, but not how it can be applied to your people strategy. Let’s “redefine” some of the 4 P’s first:

Product: Your culture as a whole. What and how you are building a product for a customer factor into what your culture is. Ask yourself, what are we going to try to deliver and how are we going to do it from a people and behavior perspective?

Price: How much you want to pay to the talent that will build and deliver services to your customers. The stage of company will really impact this (think bootstrapped versus well-funded).

Place: Easy peasy. Where are you trying to draw talent from and why.

Promotion: Once you understand the culture you want and how much you can pay people, it’s time to figure out how to drive interest in the company and roles to get well-qualified butts in the seat.

Now let’s put those four together into a couple of examples to show why I think we can use them to drive a sound people strategy.

Scenario #1

Ginger is starting a consulting company to advise tech companies on how to scale their businesses with as few headaches as possible. Instead of just focusing on one function, she’s going to have a boutique shop with industry experts to provide clients access to many areas of expertise under one roof. She’s got functional experts lined up in different cities around the US, but still needs to add several functions and find a way to build her clientele list. She’d also like to develop prospective clients in Boston, Austin and the Bay Area. She has a little money in the bank thanks to three clients, but want to be cognizant of costs. Let’s look at the Four P’s.

  • Product: Her team is distributed, so openness and collaboration are key traits emphasized in the culture. Being spread across multiple timezones means they can’t share work hours easily; instead they establish a three hour “core-hour” window where everyone is expected to be online and responsive to the team. Otherwise, employees are able to set their own hours, so long as they are responsive to clients and hit their results. Ginger establishes generous vacation and leave policies to fight burnout.
  • Price: While there is some money in the bank, she’d like to keep salaries lower to hedge against business being slow for a bit. Ginger establishes bonuses based on company performance so that if the business meets or exceeds expectations, everyone shares in the success. Realistically, though, they cannot pay market rate in the most competitive markets.
  • Place: The business aims to penetrate tech markets in several areas, but will have a challenge paying market rate in those cities. Instead of looking for experts in those cities, she focuses on advertising on remote-focused boards. Not having critical mass in any one city also saves on real estate. One area where she sees a local presence as important is with the Business Development roles. For those roles, she posts only in the markets she’s trying to penetrate.
  • Promotion: The job opens up doors to working with some really exciting companies. Everyone who joins will have autonomy and the flexibility to build their work life around their personal life (outside of core hours). Ginger decides to focus on the flexibility, ability to work from anywhere, balance and autonomy as selling points for the job in ads and company postings, then taps into her network for referrals (and offers a referral bonus).

Scenario #2

Josh’s passion project – an app with thousands of subscribers and a large potential market – is off the ground. he wants to add customer-requested features quickly. He just closed on a massive round to hire more developers to push product updates, and sales and support teams to help grow and support their base. The people that helped Josh launch are all in Boston and like working together, so they’d like to hire devs solely in Boston. Josh has been at failed start-ups before. While he believes they need to hire devs in Boston to be successful, he’s looking for other ways to save money.

  • Product: The team puts in a lot of hours and wants their new office to have common space for collaboration and to let loose, but also quiet places to code. It’s clearly a “work hard/play hard” culture and they are investing in space, perks and benefits that make being in the office more enjoyable. Because they want to innovate, the team carves out time and development budget for all engineers to experiment with new technologies and take on pet projects. They want a performance culture and decide to have a quick hook with people not working out.
  • Price: They have money and want experienced devs able to contribute immediately in a pricey market, so they are willing to aim for the 75th percentile for roles in the short term. They can’t afford to spend this level of money for all roles, so the team decides to get creative elsewhere.
  • Place: While hiring the dev team in Boston is a no brainer, their investors suggest a different approach for sales and support – building out a team in Nevada or Utah where costs for real estate, salaries and business taxes are lower. This would allow the team to pay market rate for talent with favorable economics.
  • Promotion: For dev roles, the team focuses on popular dev job boards, sites focused on tech in Boston, and show up at tech recruiting events. They have a PR firm working to get word out about their new HQ, the fundraise, culture and the market for the app. People like to work on the latest and greatest tech, so they just need a little brand recognition.

Making Sense of it All

It’s easy to miss an opportunity to look at all the components and levers available in people strategy. The Four P’s may not fit like a glove, but it is a good reminder to take a step back and look at the whole picture. What are you trying to do? What do you have in place now? How do you want to get there? What can you do to get there effectively? Like marketing, the right mix is critical. Change one thing in “product”, and you need to take a look at if and how the other P’s should be adjusted.

 

Poached from Marketing. Tailoring your message to your audience.

I am thoroughly intrigued by what HR can learn and apply from marketing concepts and best practices. I was fortunate to spend most of my tenure at a tech company sitting with or near the marketing team, which afforded me the chance to creepily eavesdrop on their conversations and debates. I have spent many quiet moments thinking about what they do and I’m dying for the chance to experiment.

One concept our team in charge of converting website clicks to a trial or demo of our software (a huge metric in the software world) used is targeted messaging and landing pages. Depending on how you came into the website or the data you gave us, we’d direct you to a landing page and/or send a message tailored to answer the questions we thought you had, the features we thought you’d be interested in, and, potentially, a call to action tailored to you. All of this was driven by data. Cold. Hard. Impersonal. Data. And it was constantly being tested to improve conversion.

I’ve always been curious how to leverage this concept to help improve the recruitment process. Some ideas:

Job ads: I think it’s silly to see an ad touting the beer fridge and foosball table for a VP-level position because that’s really not what interests most VPs in an job opportunity. Target your message to the type of candidate you want. When you are crafting it, talk to people in similar positions within the organization and ask about what most caught their eye about the company, what benefits and perks mean the most to them, and what they most love now about the opportunity that they didn’t know coming in.

Leverage that information. You may end up with an entry-level ad that touts a great starting salary, office perks, the focus on individual career growth, and is written in a more playful tone. Your VP-level ad may instead highlight the specifics of the business problem they will be taking on, the impact it will have on the organization, autonomy, budget allocation, and talk about the 401(k) match and flexible working arrangements.

As you interview candidates, ask them what has piqued their interest about the role and incorporate or use to clarify your job ad if you feel you are missing something important.

Careers Page: A/B* test different ways of laying out your careers page. Chances are that you won’t have the resources (or web traffic) to do this as well as marketing does, so make due with what you have. Have two ideas fairly flushed out and ask your current employees what they’d be more excited to share with their network, or what they’d opt to click into if looking for a job.

You need to understand if your careers page is encouraging people to interact further with your company. In an ideal world where HR budget was infinite, it’d be great to see if certain quotes, benefits, pictures or videos increased interaction with your guests. In short, what you are trying to do is iterate to speak to what your visitors are most interested in and, ultimately, get good candidates to submit an application. Use whatever data you can to help tweak what you have.

Targeted Landing Pages: Combine the above two. I realize this is well outside of the reach of most HR teams on resource allowances alone. And frankly, only makes sense for really large companies needing to constantly fill similar roles. But, it intrigues me nonetheless.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you have someone click into a specific job ad (or come in through a specific job board), to drive them to a page with a picture, quote, video and highlights of the job and its benefits specifically tailored to what that demographic wants to know? Ok, yes, a little creepy in some ways, but also incredibly effective.

There is something really powerful about understanding your audience, what they are most concerned about, and making sure that message comes through loud and clear to sell the opportunity you offer. The less time candidates need to spend assessing your job before deciding to apply, the more effective the process is – particularly when you are competing heavily for their services. Listen to your employees about what the best part of the job is. Listen to your candidates about the most appealing aspects. And use that information to hone your message.

One last really important thing – resist the urge to dance around the truth or tell candidates only what they want to hear. It may get them in the door. It may even get them hired, but you are hurting yourself in the end for three big reasons. You’ve just eroded trust in HR/leadership by misleading them. You may not get the right fit for your job (i.e. someone who isn’t good in a turn-around situation is hired to right the ship in a department). And you’ll be hurting your chances at retaining people because of the first two. Be honest. It pays off in the end.

*A/B testing is when you mock up two options, send a portion of your audience to each, and see what behaviors occur. Is one converting people better? Are you able to get more emails from prospects from another? Are people closing the window at a higher rate?