HRTechConf 2016: Simplicity Sells

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From companies in the startup pavilion to the enterprise players – the focus on simplicity was sprinkled everywhere at this years HR Technology Conference. It could be because we were in Chicago vs. Vegas, but even the booths were much more simple,  almost “corporate” even at the start-up levels than what we have seen in years past.  While there were puppies to play with in a booth, there were no aerialist dropping from the ceilings this year other major marketing stunt as we have seen in years past.

The focus on simplicity in HR Tech branding is likely carried over from the shift in consumer marketing thanks to brands like Apple and Tesla which have evolved the brand game for consumers to a subtle elegance of simplicity.

Less is truly more for today’s buyer – when executed well.

The increase in consumer advertising trends from all aspects of our life has continued to shape how we research, evaluate and buy technology for our business.  The expectation for the experience we have buying (HR) business software or services is now on par with the expectation we have when being marketed to or sold on any other item in our life.   This shift in accessible media, mobile connectivity and consumer marketing has created a subconscious push from buyers to have an expectation of a more simple, consumerized sell – and more not all of the vendors are starting to follow trend.

Beyond the booth, you could see the connection with some of the vendors in how their sell sheets, hand outs and even their live demo’s were conducted.  The new level of expectations for consumers thanks to the immediate access to technology has shifted beyond just the marketing to the product level.

The app generation (which is basically anyone with a smart phone) has a short memory in many cases and wants everything to work as quickly, simply and effectively as a free app they download.

On the product side, start-ups are built from product concept with this consumerized adoption mentality in mind, and a handful of the forward-looking HR Technology enterprise players are joining them.

This concept of simplicity shows the vendors have started to realize that it isn’t always about every single feature – in fact, most buyers don’t want or need every single bell and whistle.  A successful product strategy is about doing what you do well in a way that is easy to adopt and adds value to the business.

In today’s more consumerized HR Technology market, its more than the just the product – it’s about the implementation, service and vendor relationship also being a simple experience for today’s buyer.

Overall, this trend is a clear distinction from the drivers we felt in this space less than a decade ago when features and functionality mattered more than ease of use and vendor partnership.   Today, most buyers have been down this road more at least once and many have learned the lesson of not looking at the culture of the vendor they were buying from.  If you are a buyer – you need to be looking at the relationship and support side in almost as much detail as the product.

How we sell solutions will evolve with an understanding B2B isn’t real.  Businesses don’t buy and sell software.  People do.

I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of sales teams in my career and the ones that are successful are the ones that have a culture and leadership that understand that concept when I talk about it.  The world is changing rapidly thanks to consumer marketing – and impacting everything from product to service.

I always come back to this Malcolm Gladwell quote, “Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.”

Over the next 24 months as the demand for simplicity moves more upmarket from SMB to mid-market and eventually into enterprise, we will see a clear line between the technology vendors that were nimble and forward thinking enough to see and adopt the iPhone approach and those that wanted to hold on their Palm Treo’s just one more year.



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