Mind the Marketing: How Thinking Like a Marketer Can Make You Better at HR

Marketing operates at a company’s core, working hand-in-hand with each and every other department. Its responsibilities are spread across the board — from branding, to customer acquisition, to measurements and future spending projections, to creative content, to communicating with existing customers, and beyond. But when it comes down to it, marketing is all about getting people to keep coming back. It’s not just about drawing in new customers, but about creating lasting relationships.

Similarly, HR starts with getting new recruits in the door, then keeping longtime employees happy. Your people are the backbone of your company — nay, they are your company. They’re what makes it run, what gives it personality, and what gets stuff done. No matter how amazing your product idea maybe, if you can’t keep employees, you can’t make it big.

So, how do you keep your employees happy then? And how do you maximize your recruiting efforts?

In marketing, success is measured by key performance indicators or KPIs. Important KPIs include customer acquisition, as well as customer retention. As it turns out, it’s not so hard to translate these concepts to HR, where we must acquire recruits and retain employees.

And so, there’s a lot that you can learn from marketing about people management. Here’s how you can think like a marketer to recruit the right people and to keep your employees coming into the office excited and engaged.

Data comes first. In marketing, the numbers inform the moves. As a people manager, you can’t get a sense of employee sentiment without looking at the numbers. Consider hard metrics (like job title, seniority, and compensation) along soft measurements (like social interactions, tools and technology, time management, and personal growth goals) to get a well-rounded understanding of an employee’s satisfaction. Then, when you have metrics for your entire company, comb it for trends and patterns.  

Segment your staff. In marketing, segments help sort out the data. Your company is diverse, and everyone is a little bit different. That means that everyone’s motivations are a little bit different. It’s important to get to know your staff and understand what makes each one of them tick. That way, you can tailor motivation methods to any single employee’s job, character, and goals.

Define your DNA. Marketers define their target audience to determine who is most likely to purchase the product. Their audience varies from product to product, and their messaging shifts along with it. In your case, that target audience is the talent pool. When recruiting new employees, first spell out what your company stands for. Ask yourself: Who are we? What is our mission? What are we selling to the employee? By doing this, we’re able to narrow down our talent search and tailor our efforts to target the people who actually want to hear from us.

Measure the ROI of HR-related activities. Much as marketers treat clients to expensive dinners, VIP clubs, gifts, etc., we invest in talent nurturing activities for our employees, like courses, mentoring programs, team building events, and other development-boosting activities. In both cases, we’re aiming to increase engagement — the ROI of HR. But with our employees, we often forget to measure this. Do they increase employee efficiency? Bolster engagement? Improve retention rates? Run the numbers on these types of activities, so you can maximize their impact.

What other marketing lessons would you apply to people management?