I remember having lunch several years ago with a senior marketing executive from a very large enterprise software company that would be completely unknown to the average person. This was not a hiring meeting, but we got talking about other companies and I dropped the name of another large firm, which was one of my content marketing clients at the time.
“Oh, yes, I came across them when I was looking for work a while back,” she said. “But I didn’t really know who they are. What do they do, exactly?”
This is one of the biggest problems in B2B. There are untold numbers of firms hiring talent but, to twist an old adage, they can’t see the trees for the forrest.
We talk about “the B2B sector” as this holistic entity, but in fact it’s made up of very niche firms. They may be well-respected and appreciated by their customers, but they may also be practically invisible to those working in unrelated B2B firms. It’s a problem because, depending on what kind of talent you need, there may be people working in marketing, sales, technology or other roles who would be a perfect fit — if only they knew who the company was and could feel some sense of excitement about working there.
I’ve been reading Frenemies, the book about the ad industry by New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, and there’s a section where he talks about the number of ad agency people who are defecting to technology companies like Google, Facebook and Snapchat. Partially this is due to differences in salary, but Auletta writes that many of those who once would have gladly taken an ad agency job now dream of working in tech because they believe they might enjoy greater career growth. And let’s face it: there’s a certain cache in landing a role at a firm whose brand is synonymous with “innovation.”
I kept thinking as I read Frenemies that a similar situation must exist within B2B employers, where highly skilled or talented people all compete for the job at, say, Nike or Coca-Cola when they’d have a much better chance (and possibly greater opportunity) at a firm like Nutanix, Cloudera or some other firm that is best known only to IT professionals and the like.
This problem is probably going to become even more acute as organizations of every kind begin hiring for more specific skill sets in areas like data science. It will also mean B2B firms may have to work harder at employee retention, given what they stand to lose in terms of experience and expertise every time someone walks out the door. If you’ve been working on the marketing team at a potato chip company, for instance, you can probably find someone else who knows and loves potato chips. Hiring someone to help market an AI-based tool that boosts lead generation for companies working in the medical supply industry, on the other hand, is going to be much more challenging.
This is why August is “The Talent Issue” on B2BNN. At a time when those coming back from vacation may begin to question whether they’re ready for a career move, we’re going to try and find examples of B2B firms that are demonstrating excellence in positioning themselves as an employer of choice — without relying on bean bag chairs or other dot-com-era gimmicks. It’s admittedly a tough job — but more B2B firms are going to have to do it.
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