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CUSTOMER INSIGHT: Targetting HR decision makers

N1's strapline is next generation brand communications and our clients pay us for our expertise. Our niche as an agency is to gather and make available a coherent package of strategic thinking, innovation, great design and real understanding of our clients' markets. By concentrating on just four industry sectors, we very much narrow our potential customer base and therefore we have to be exceptionally good at what we do to stay in business. One of the B2B areas we work in is products or services whose decision makers are HR or occupational health professionals. There are a number of crossovers between these distinct functions in, for example, work/life balance, employee benefits and absence management. We really understand the market which enables us to give our clients the edge in design and communications strategies, and therefore results.

Sorting through the rotten apples
Part of understanding our clients' client base means we research and talk to HR professionals all the time. There are bound to be a few rotten apples in the HR barrel somewhere, lazy or less than competent semi-professionals who don't really enhance the human resources available to their organisation.  They're well-hidden, though - the ones we meet and deal with are focused, innovative and, much like the rest of us, working hard to get the cost/benefit balance right. They are under pressure to retain the last vestiges of the touchy-feely, welfare-based personnel role and simultaneously perform as line managers' business partners and fulfil an internal consultancy role focused on the bottom line.
The HR remit has real breadth; it covers things as diverse as:

In larger organisation, these roles will be specialist, functional posts with learning and development, compensation and benefits, operations, talent management and a host of other HR areas coming into one department; in smaller companies, one person will be responsible for the whole shebang. So what are HR professionals like and how do you reach them?
We might like to think that some professions have a typical profile of incumbent - assumptions about lawyers, accountants and cabin crew, for example, are commonplace. In reality, even if some professions are populated by people with similar characteristics, in the end decisions are made by individuals, or sometimes a team of individuals, and it pays to understand this. If the HRD is the decision maker, they might be acting on the advice of a different individual, perhaps a functional head or a deputy. Trying to market to a stereotype won't always work. There is a place, however, for using the findings of research focused on what HR people need either to solve a problem or enhance their internal branding to employees to inform your sales and marketing strategy to this specific group.