HR Tech Trend Brief: Recruitment Marketing Becomes a Category

Existing Vendors, New Investments, and New Market Entries Solidify Recruitment Marketing in the HR Tech Stack

 

At this year’s 2014 HR Technology® Conference & Exposition, and in the weeks leading up to it, we received briefings from a large number of vendors involved in enterprise-level recruiting or talent acquisition, along with the cadre of other product segments. It’s always that way. Talent acquisition has budget for tools, and the talent-sourcing landscape changes constantly as social, mobile, and data trends evolve. It’s also one of the pains many entrepreneurs in the HCM space and beyond experience and then intuitively try to solve.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve watched vendors progress from the early days of automated job ad distribution to recruitment marketing. Until recently, we’ve considered recruitment marketing nascent. This year, it feels more like a true emerging category.

Recruitment is branding. Recruitment is marketing. Recruitment is sales. This is a conversation that has been evolving for over 25 years. Of course there are nuances to recruitment that differentiate it from corporate branding, marketing, or sales, but at its core, the analogy still stands.

As the conversation has evolved, so has the way that HR applies branding, marketing, and sales to recruitment and sourcing. Technology follows along (think of CRM) and, in some cases, leads (think social, mobile, or big data). When it comes to technology, you can watch the general B2B market and see the trends evolve there, then watch HR test them and fit them into our paradigm.

This is an excellent way to quickly evolve your marketing efforts. In marketing, we like to test different approaches, compare results, learn and adapt, and repeat as needed. With new technology emerging so quickly, HR is offered an increasing number of options to consider when it comes to recruiting and sourcing talent. It’s more necessary than ever to have a technology platform that can quickly adapt to new trends, test, measure, and incorporate success into your recruitment marketing mix.

Think of the way marketing and marketing automation have evolved from process, expense, creative project management, and transaction management into a category more focused on content and engagement or issues like advocacy, big data, analytics, or customer success. Process automation is table stakes. Real value is derived from giving marketers tools to engage their prospects and customers with context the right message to the right buyer at the right time.

In the same way, recruitment marketing has evolved from a tactical and transactional conversation to more of a strategic platform for the enterprise recruiting environment. The difference being that while marketing automation has been table stakes in the general B2B tech world for a while, the recruitment space has been slow to adopt this as a platform. Until recently, weaknesses in applicant tracking systems have pulled buyers’ eyes more toward CRM and bolting on myriad point solutions.

Increased focus on and commitment to the sourcing function, employer branding, and providing a better overall candidate experience combined with the pains of managing an abundance of point solutions and their integrations (or lack thereof) into enterprise-level talent management systems has led to the creation of new dedicated enterprise HR roles. Recruitment marketing, recruitment branding, and recruitment operations being a part of the enterprise HR org chart is a sign of adoption and investment in the category. As aspects of enterprise recruitment have been drawn closer to the marketing analogy, the need for recruitment marketing as a distinct platform and the analytics that come with it are becoming mainstream.

The category has no shortage of innovators. Talemetry continues to win large enterprise accounts while growing and extending its platform on a foundation of bidirectional integrations with leading enterprise talent management suites. SmashFly, after self-funding its own growth and product development for nearly nine years, received an initial $9 million round of VC funding (validation for the category and for SmashFly). Broadbean, Avature, Findly, and Jibe (with a new $20 million series C round of VC funding) continue to move their point solutions and modules closer to becoming a marketing platform. Meanwhile, exciting new entries into the market like QUEsocial, Recruitics, gr8 People, and others enter the category at a time when buyers are more educated than ever before.

Possibly the Biggest Challenge for Vendors and Customers Alike

Although recruitment marketing has matured into its own distinct category, the long-term challenge for vendors and customers has been differentiating the recruitment marketing solutions from the plethora of point solutions in the adjacent talent acquisition space. This will continue to be a challenge for vendors and customers alike as new products enter the market and marketing messages from vendors continue to overlap.

The 2014 HR Technology® Conference & Exposition solidified recruitment marketing’s position in the enterprise HR technology stack. I expect to see the leaders emerge in the next 18 to 24 months.