How HR Tech Companies Should Build Their Sales Funnels To Create More Customers

How HR Tech Companies Should Build Their Sales Funnels To Create More Customers

How HR Tech Companies Should Build Their Sales Funnels To Create More Customers

When it comes to growing your HR Tech company, there are a million things that will come up as ideas and plans and “must-dos” in order to get more customers.

But it really comes down to this…

Building a systematic process that you can rely on that will turn strangers into happy, loyal, paying customers.

This is not easy, but as long as you know your customers and your product, it doesn’t have to be complicated. And the more “noise” that gets added to the conversation, the further you are going to get from creating your path to success.

Your company might be able to gain some initial traction from your existing networks and connections, and leveraging some sporadic word-of-mouth, or maybe the novelty of being new to the market, but that will only get you so far.

That’s where your system comes into play.

3 Stages Of Focus To Get You Customers

The 3 main questions to focus on for the highest impact are simple:

  1. How are we getting the attention of our target audience?
  2. How are we turning that audience into permission-based leads? (meaning they have signed up and self-qualified as an ideal customer and given you permission to build a relationship with them)
  3. How are we educating and motivating people to be excited to buy from us?

After those 3 things are accomplished, then you can build on top of them to grow at scale. But until you have these steps down and working profitably, you’ll be suffering from the dreadful sickness of Random Acts of Marketing. This leads to wasted time and money.

Not to fear! There is a simple cure…

A cure that will send out your dollars and efforts to bring back more of their friends. This cure is a systematic approach to launch, test, and improve your customer acquisition.

1. Getting Attention & Awareness

In this “top of the funnel” stage, you want to put yourself where your customers are hanging out and consuming information so that they start to find you and pay attention to what you have to say.

Online, this commonly takes place by publishing articles on your blog and then sharing them on social media using hashtags that are common for your industry. Then going out and connecting with your ideal customers on their preferred social media channels and striking up conversations with them with the main focus being to open a relationship and provide them value upfront.

As a byproduct, when you integrate SEO (Search Engine Optimization) into those blog posts, they’ll also help you start ranking on Google when people are searching common terms related to your products and services.

And with social media being the plumbing of today’s word of mouth, your blog content will help to fuel the sharing of people talking about you.

Get active in the online communities where your target customers are hanging out. Join in on the conversations and start adding value by listening and helping address the problems that they are having.

This activity will lead to visibility which will lead to opportunity.

2. Generating Permission-Based Leads

Now that you have their attention and your ideal customers are on your website (reading your blog posts), it’s time to move them along their customer journey and convert them from a visitor into a Lead.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to buy your brilliant product today, but it means they are a qualified candidate for becoming a great customer and successfully using your product.

Did you know that only 3% of a market is active buyers at any given time?

That means you need to focus on building those relationships with the other 97% so that when they become part of the 3% active buyers, you are there and ready and have already earned their trust and demonstrate your credibility.

This is how marketing is meant to be and how to make the sales process seamless.

3. Converting Leads Into Sales

You have driven awareness of your brand in your target market.

You’ve earned their attention.

You’ve gotten their permission to continuously provide them value before they become an active buyer.

Here is where you butter your bread.

With your follow up.

Once you have someone on your email list, it’s time to educate and motivate them, patiently and systematically, to meet with you when they are ready.

Send them messages regularly (at least once a week) that will add value to their life. Maybe that’s a quick email with a link to an article they’d find interesting, maybe it’s a new utility that will make their lives more convenient practically.

By sending out these emails, you are building a relationship with them so they Know, Like, and Trust you. The keys to making sales easy.

You’re also being persistent in a friendly way, so that when the time comes for them to move to their active buying stage, you are there with an easy way for them to get started.

Do You Have A System For Creating Customers?

By now, you should see the value in implementing a system for creating customers. Another byproduct that we didn’t touch on, but is very valuable, is that when you have a system, you can TEST what’s working and what’s not.

The elements in your system may not always be home runs. Most likely, very few will be. And it’s important to know this is not a one and done attempt. The system is reliable. The elements are what you need to test and improve.

Most social media ads fail on their first run, but that collects data for you to make the next campaign work. Maybe the original kind of blog posts you’re writing aren’t getting the attention of your audience. The offer you are making on your website might not convert a visitor into a Lead because it’s not intriguing or valuable enough from their perspective. Your email offers might not be irrefutable enough to motivate active buyers.

But when you have a system in place, you can see where there is a drop off and make improvements.

The system is the track to get your car on the road. Once you start driving, it’s easy to course correct.

But you can’t steer a parked car.

So take the time to focus on your 3 simple questions and put a system in place so that you can start testing and improving your customer acquisition and growing your HR Tech company more reliably and more profitably.


If you want to share this article the reference to Todd Giannattasio and The HR Tech Weekly® is obligatory.

SaaS Economics, Competitive Moats, And Interrogatory Configuration | In Full Bloom

Written by Naomi Bloom | Originally published at In Full Bloom on October 22, 2016.  

[You may also enjoy the Firing Line with Bill Kutik® episode on this.]

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There’s been a lot of discussion across the enterprise IT and financial analyst community about the long term economic viability of the SaaS business model. And the enterprise IT community continues to debate the merits of the various flavors of SaaS architectural and infrastructural models. These discussions have ranged over the:

  • fundamentals of profitability in enterprise software;
  • reality that many to most so-called SaaS vendors (both faux and “Blooming”) are not yet profitable;
  • landrush by SaaS vendors to grab market share and to grow as rapidly as possible;
  • spending by SaaS vendors of sometimes huge sums on customer acquisition against a revenue recognition requirement that expenses those acquisition costs on the front end but only allows revenue recognition over the life of the contract; and
  • much more.

If the economic viability of your so-called true or faux SaaS vendors matters to you — and well it should — read on.

When you contemplate further the economics, significant future profitability appears to emerge for those vendors which are able to meet the following challenges:

  1. Reduce dramatically the cost of customer acquisition, from marketing to sales to contract signing;
  2. Reduce dramatically each customer’s time to production and, therefore, time to revenue for the vendor;
  3. Reduce dramatically each customer’s ongoing implementation costs and time as they take up innovation delivered by their vendor and revisit existing capabilities as their organizational needs evolve and change;
  4. Maintain very high customer satisfaction rates — see #3;
  5. Maintain very high customer retention rates, which I do believe are related to but are not the equivalent of very high customer satisfaction rates; and
  6. Achieve very low operational costs and error rates.

Doing all of this at the same time produces IMO the secret sauce of true SaaS economics and, in doing so, creates an enormous competitive moat for vendors who can’t achieve this. Enter Interrogatory Configuration, my recommended approach to creating this moat and the really important and related benefits for both vendor and customer.

Interrogatory Configuration (yes, I know that’s lousy branding, but I’ve never claimed to be a clever marketeer) addresses the first three challenges very directly and has a positive impact on the last three. That’s why I’ve been pushing these ideas — some would say harping on them — since long before the beginning of SaaS in HR technology. Frankly, I was pushing these ideas from the late 80’s, long before they were possible to execute as they require very specific architectural foundations which, until recently, did not exist within enterprise HRM software.

So what is interrogatory configuration? Interrogatory configuration is easy to explain but VERY difficult to do, at least for complex HRM software. Basically it’s a piece of software (think TurboTax) which poses questions to the client ‘s business analyst (who could be a 3rd party, including the vendor’s implementation services person or that of a certified partner), provides a context for those questions along with the implications of selecting from among the available answers (e.g. explaining what types of organizational structures use what types of position to job relationships and why), and then, based on the selections made (and all such are of course effective-dated and subject to inheritance where appropriate), it does the configuration of the base application without manual intervention of any kind. Interestingly, Google filed a patent for a VERY limited example of this in 1997, which was awarded in 2001, in which they make clear that you can’t do this unless the underlying architecture, the software to be thus configured, is composed of objects that can be manipulated dynamically.

Highly configurable, metadata-driven, definitionally developed, true HCM SaaS is a wonderful thing. But even in configuration, all of the available choices have to be analyzed, selected, tested and implemented, individually and in combination with other choices. And this must be done with care and a deep knowledge of the downstream implications of various configurations, not only during the initial implementation but also every time business needs change, software upgrades are applied (even when applied as SaaS mostly opt-in updates), regulatory rules appear and/or change, including retroactively, new executives bring new perspectives, etc.

More Talmudic than Socratic, this question/answer dialogue continues, with each exchange doing one set of configurations while setting up the next set, until the customer has implemented fully the set of capabilities/business rules/coding structures/workflows/etc. that will be their implemented software as of the selected effective date. An interrogatory configurator is designed to work prospectively, so that you can see how a partially to fully configured application will look and behave before committing those configurations to take effect. For those configurations that are permitted to be changed retroactively, with the attendant retroactive processing once they are approved for implementation, the interrogatory configurator is also intended to work retroactively.

Without interrogatory configuration, every time those hand-done configurations must be changed, all those choices must be re-evaluated against the needed changes, and then new choices made, tested and implemented. Furthermore, the implications of each configuration change for downstream processes must be analyzed and actions taken to at least inform users of those implications. So, while we may be able to eliminate most of the programming implementation work by having great configuration tools delivered with our HRM software, without interrogatory configuration we have by no means reduced the business analyst time, effort and expertise needed to keep things running properly. And great HRM business analysts are really scarce, perhaps even more so than great HRM software developers.

Now imagine that the interrogatory configurator is an integral part of the marketing to sales cycle, allowing for a high degree of self-provisioning, at least for less complex organizations (notice I didn’t say small or quote headcount). And even for the most complex organizations, imagine how much configuration could be done with data gleaned during the sales cycle so that a usefully configured application could become a sales cycle tool which blends seamlessly into the actual implementation once agreements are signed. To the extent that SaaS vendors proceed down this path, the whole dynamic of the sales to implementation processes, not to mention the role, staffing and economics of the systems integrators (SIs), are changed substantially, to the benefit of both the customer and the SaaS vendor.

Customer satisfaction and retention rates are driven by many factors, from having wonderful and useful product capabilities to having a very sticky user experience, and there’s a lot of room here for unique approaches by different vendors and/or for different market segments. Running a brilliant operating environment means building tools for everything from provisioning to payroll scheduling, tools which cannot be bought “off the shelf” and which are themselves complex applications. So one thing I advise all buyers to consider is how far along their proposed SaaS vendor is in having industrialized every aspect of operations, for much of which you must have the right SaaS architecture in the first place.

When I see cost comparisons between on-prem and true SaaS, it’s almost always done on a TCO basis from an IT cost perspective.  But that doesn’t value not only having new functionality but also having it delivered almost continuously. It doesn’t value how much more effective vendors can be in meeting customer needs by aggregating data on feature usability and usage so as to inform their product roadmaps. And it certainly doesn’t value the ability of true SaaS vendors to aggregate benchmarking data which can then be fed right back into their interrogatory configurator, if they’ve got one, and into the analytics-rich, decision-making capabilities of their applications. So there’s a lot more here to consider than just TCO unless your business is so stagnant that you really don’t want or need agility or innovation from your systems.

There are SaaS vendors in our space that have architectures which can’t scale operationally, SaaS vendors which don’t have great operational tools, SaaS vendors whose agility is more about fixes than innovation, and so on. But I think we have some good to great SaaS vendors which will be quite profitable (or already are) because they’ve approached this new business model with the right stuff. And I would add that prospects/customers should be running for the exits from any SaaS (or so-called SaaS) vendor which isn’t well down the path of being able to meet successfully my six challenges above.

The bottom line. Reducing dramatically the elapsed time, complexity and cost of HRM software sales and implementation, not to mention ongoing configuration, is an important enough response to the six challenges above for HRM SaaS vendors and BPO providers — and creates a big enough competitive moat — to justify building interrogatory configurators. Doing this requires having the right underlying software architecture, one which enables effective-dated configuration without writing any procedural code. It also requires the product’s designers to know and be able to express the patterns of good practice in a whole range of HRM areas, from organizational designs to hiring practices, and the good practice combinations of same. And there’s an enhanced opportunity here for incorporating all manner of exogenous data, from salary surveys and hiring patterns to commentary on which organizational designs are common in specific industries — and why. If your vendors aren’t pretty far along on this, it may be too late for them to get started — or their underlying architectures just won’t support this. And if you’re a prospect for new HR technology, be sure to find out if your short list vendors are far enough down this path to ensure that they will remain viable and that your needs will be met. I’d also you’ll watch my Firing Line with Bill Kutik® episode on this.

About the Author:

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Naomi Bloom is a leading independent voice, business and platform strategic advisor, market influencer, blogger and speaker about enterprise HR technology and outsourcing. After many years acting as a change agent and HRM delivery systems strategist/coach for global corporate clients and as a consultant on business strategy and product/service design to several generations of HRM software vendors and HR outsourcing providers, Ms. Bloom now limits her consulting practice to strategic advisory roles with vendors whose management and products are market movers and as a provider of competitive insight and due diligence to the investment community. Naomi built the only vendor-neutral HRM domain model and application architecture “starter kits.” Licensed across the industry from 1995 through 2013, Naomi’s IP has been considered to be not only the state-of-the-art but also a primary contributor to many of today’s best practices in HRM enterprise software.

Naomi is a formidable advocate for the HRM and HRM delivery system end-user community, focused entirely on achieving breakthroughs in organizational performance outcomes through effective HRM enabled by great HR technology. She is well-published, to include via her blog InFullBloom.us and is a much sought after, compensated speaker/author for her thought leadership, presentation effectiveness, clarity of vision, and humorous delivery. Naomi has been a general session speaker at the annual HR Technology Conference since its inception in 1989, a main stage speaker since its 2nd year at HR Tech World Congress, and is the author of Human Resource Management and Information Technology: Achieving a Strategic Partnership, which was published in 1984. In 1995, Ms. Bloom’s industry contributions were recognized with IHRIM’s Summit Award, and in 2011, Naomi became a Fellow of the Human Resource Policy Institute at Boston University. Ms. Bloom is a member of The Enterprise Irregulars and founder/chairman of The Brazen Hussies of HR tech.

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Source: SaaS Economics, Competitive Moats, And Interrogatory Configuration | In Full Bloom