Guest: Susan Vitale | CMO | ® iCIMS
Every touch point in the marketplace is an opportunity to reinforce your brand story, including current and potential employees. Join us as Susan Vitale shares helpful tips for maintaining consistency and authenticity in the recruiting process and organically turning employees into brand ambassadors.
[Laura] (0:05): For this episode of the CMO’s Guide to Everything, I’m pleased to introduce Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer for iCIMS, the leading talent cloud company that empowers organizations to attract, engage, hire, and advance right talent. Susan has twice been recognized as a Stevie Award Winner for women in business, and was included on the Marketing Hall of Fame, and is one of NJ Business Best 50 Women in Business. At iCIM, Susan is responsible for the iCIMS brand, and for driving company growth. She’s talking with us today about recruitment marketing and the brand impact.
[Laura] (01:03): Welcome Susan.
[Susan] (01:04): Thanks so much for having me. I’m delighted to be here.
[Laura] (01:06): Great. So can you tell me a little bit about iCIMS, and the size and scope of your market?
[Susan] (01:13): Yeah, iCIMS is the world leading talent cloud company. We deliver software and services for employers to attract, engage, hire, and advance great talent. For this audience, there are a lot of parallels to what we do, to what a CRM does for sales and marketing teams that we apply for recruiting. So just like Salesforce and other platforms might help organizations attract prospects, engage their accounts, ultimately win and retain great customers, we’re doing the same for recruiters and hiring managers. And in fact, our CEO, Steve Lucas was the former CEO of Marketo, ultimately selling to Adobe a few years ago. So we really, really believe in bringing these marketing concepts to the world of talent.
From a scale and scope perspective, we support about 4,500 customers around the globe, including about half of the Fortune 100. I’m proud that some of the world’s very best brands, including Uber, Allstate, Tiffany & Company, as well as many, many other brands that are very protective of their brands. And therefore I can’t share here, are iCIMS customers, they use iCIMS to power their talent transformation and build an incredible workforce. We’ve got a thousand employees at iCIMS globally, and we’re consistently ranked as the leader in our space.
[Laura] (02:33): So one of the areas of brand-building that’s often overlooked is recruitment marketing. So a brand can be impacted in some significant ways, maybe positively, maybe negatively by their reputation as an employer. Can you talk a little bit about your experiences in that regard?
[Susan] (02:49): This is a topic I really enjoy. And given iCIMS lives in the world of recruiting and talent, we’re better positioned than most to recognize the importance of candidate experience and recruitment marketing. Unfortunately though, it’s often deprioritized by marketing leaders because we’re off generating pipeline and closing deals, but I would strongly encourage CMOs to not simply relegate this off to another department. As marketing leaders, we have to convey our brand and culture authentically so that we attract the best people, and we can build a strong, diverse team of talent, enable our company and our communities to succeed, and improve employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. I think we’ve all felt the pain of roles that might be open for too long on our teams, and what a drag that can have on our productivity and our creativity. And on the flip side, how fast we can all run when we have great talent, the right talent in seat. And so this is why at iCIMS, we believe the talent pipeline is the most important pipeline in business.
I think most CMOs would agree that demonstrating a consistent, authentic brand is critical to growth. But aptitude research has actually shown that only about a third of retailers communicate their brand consistently both internally and externally to employees, to candidates, and to their customers and prospects. And what we often forget is that in a lot of industries, candidates are our customers. If we treat them poorly on the hiring front, it hurts the corporate brand. Research has actually shown that when candidates have a negative experience during the candidate process, or the hiring process, they’ll share those negative experiences on social media, and otherwise, and they’ll even take their business elsewhere. They’re literally more likely to abandon your brand as a customer if they have a bad or a negative candidate experience. On the flip side, they’ll be more likely to be brand evangelists of course if they have a positive experience, even if they don’t get the job. So getting this wrong really does have an impact on business performance. It’s why marketers need to make this a priority, and not simply see this as something that another department is responsible for.
[Laura] (05:13): That makes a lot of sense, and I can see how that would be really detrimental if it went wrong. What do you think are high priority areas for job seekers, and maybe current employees that lend themselves to weaving a brand story?
[Susan] (05:27): Well, I think everybody would appreciate or agree that one of the most critical elements to an effective brand story is authenticity. And I think now than ever employees want to know the real deal. They don’t want vaporware, things are complicated. And so they just want to know what it’s really like. And as an extension of that, they want to feel this sense of belonging and inclusion. They want to feel like they are contributing to a greater mission, that they are giving back and doing some good in the world, and that they can have an impact on the teams they work in, the environment that they support with the product service, what have you. And so it’s really important that companies deliver an authentic brand story here. Where I often see a disconnect is that for example, a corporate brand might be touting that they are really innovative, super progressive, bleeding edge, high tech, and then the candidates get to the career site, and it’s straight out of 1999. It’s super dated. It’s really clunky.
Or during the process you require candidates to communicate with you only through phone calls or emails instead of embracing text, video, virtual events. And these are all the consumer experiences we’ve all grown accustomed to expecting in every other facet of our life. It’s really important that we recognize candidates are consumers. They’re just regular people. They’re only candidates for a portion of their day, and they now have new expectations of how they interact with brands. And that is including on the hiring side. So as we think about things like authenticity and belonging, what we see happening in B2B and B2C translates to recruitment marketing. So as an example, when we think about B2B and B2C, consumers want to hear from people like them. That tells the most authentic story, it’s not an overly produced marketing piece that we’re all really proud of, but nobody believes. And so what we have found is that candidates really, really want to hear from employees at those companies. They want to watch videos and consume this media with relevant stories, relevant people in roles like theirs, so they can learn what it’s really like to work at a company.
So we actually have some really cool technology. We call it Video Studio. It allows employees to record these quick videos of themselves, really high quality, really beautifully branded, but literally just employees on their mobile. And then it can be dropped on your social media, on career sites, corporate pages, et cetera. And it really helps humanize the brand and tell these employees stories really authentically. They can answer questions about what’s it like to be a working parent at your company? Tell me about your diversity and inclusion initiatives, things like that. And it helps just bring this richness and human element to the brand that often goes overlooked, but in a way that is innovative and tech forward.
[Laura] (08:37): I love that. That’s such a great idea. And so real too, I love the genuineness about that.
[Susan] (08:45): It’s important, right? And it’s why we see… companies like iCIMS, we’re in fast-growth, we have about a thousand employees, but we’re growing rapidly. So we use it, but companies like Target, like L’Oreal, Box, Valvoline are using this technology because especially nowadays with everybody remote, you can’t stage photo shoots and do this high-end production to show everybody what it’s like to work in your office. So we have to get creative, but even beyond getting creative, I think this has staying power because it’s how we consume media in our everyday life. It’s what we see on Instagram. This is just how we’re used to experiencing and interacting with brands. And so we have to look at this as an extension of that corporate brand, and not just this separate thing.
[Laura] (09:32): I love that. I love that. So, in what ways do you gauge the effectiveness of these brand building campaigns, particularly in recruitment?
[Susan] (09:42): Very similarly to corporate brand building. So you’d want to be looking at some metrics around candidate and employee engagement scores. You could do that, obviously through surveys, employee retention rates. There are also some metrics you’d want to track that are more funnel related. What are the drop-off rates on your career site? What are those conversion rates? Source effectiveness. Just like we all look at return on marketing investment or ROMI by channel or by source, so too happens on the recruiting side. So which sources are most effective for the brand? What are your source to hire analytics? Things like that can really help add some hard data to balance sort of the qualitative. We feel like this is working.
[Laura] (10:33): Sure. That makes a lot of sense. So you shared with me a little bit earlier that iCIMS has brought on the former CEO of Marketo. How has his marketing background affected your strategy, processes, priorities, that sort of thing?
[Susan] (10:48): In every way. He’s actually celebrating his one year anniversary this week. So he started just about a week or so before we all went remote and his world turned upside down. He has brought incredible perspective with this marketing experience. I’ve learned a ton from him. I think Steve really, really, truly understands and appreciates the value of marketing. Brand, demand, enablement, engagement, how doing that well really builds an amazing community of customers and partners and employee advocates and helps move the business forward. I think one of the things that Steve brings that is really unique to him and has absolutely impacted us more than almost anything else is that he’s fantastic about keeping his finger on the pulse of what our customers will need to ensure really, really high relevancy.
Under his leadership, we pivoted our go to market strategies, our roadmap, our messaging, and I promise you a fraction of the time you would expect to ensure that we were not just meeting this new evolving set of needs because of what was going on with COVID, but also helping to shepherd our customers to see what was going to be around the bend for them, that they weren’t even quite ready to pick their heads up from and plan for. Last year in 2020, we made three acquisitions in the areas of AI, of employee-generated video content and video interviewing, because we knew where the industry was going and that we felt very strongly this was the new world of work and not just a flash in the pan need for us. I think he really does believe in the power of strong marketing, strong storytelling, the spirit of a strong brand, and telling our customer stories and having them tell our brand story on our behalf. He’s been phenomenal in that way and has been instrumental to the transformation the marketing team had last year.
[Laura] (12:52): That’s really interesting, such a ringing endorsement of his leadership, and clearly it is paying off. So I think the iCIMS marketing has really made an impact, and I can see how those choices that he’s made and that those redirections have really benefited you guys. So maybe, kind of to wrap things up, if you were composing a top five or however many list of things for building a brand via recruitment, action items that you would suggest people take, what might those be?
[Susan] (13:25): I would include… the main theme of this is being authentic and relevant, sort of in line with some of the themes we talked about here. Clearly identifying the employer value proposition, not every candidate is right for a company, just like not every prospect is right for a company. We make choices to say this is a magical fit, or you’re actually probably better off going over here. So being really authentic and relevant with that value proposition about what the culture is like, how the company gives back their corporate responsibility, the diversity equity and inclusion programs, and other employee resource groups being really clear, open, overly communicative about that is really, really important.
The other of course, being tech, I’d be remiss not to say leveraging tech in the right ways to demonstrate this. I mentioned a couple of examples of getting to something that looks like it’s run by DOS when you’re applying for job, but leveraging not just what we’ve learned in sales and marketing, but consumer experiences too, for these candidate engagements. Are we using text? Are we using chatbots and digital assistance? Are we leveraging video in the right way? We actually saw almost three million people apply to a job using text messaging last year alone.
[Laura] (14:44): Oh, wow.
[Susan] (14:45): We’ve got to use this. And if we’re shutting some of these doors in how we expect or encourage kids to communicate with us, we are completely missing massive talent pools as a business. Ensuring that these experiences are easy and consumer grade. Candidates are more fickle and finicky than I think people give them credit for. We need to treat them with dignity and respect, and deliver them experiences that they require in order to build a great brand. And then finally leveraging your employees themselves to tell that authentic brand story. Nothing is better. With all the advancements in technology, it will still come back to that authentic spirit.
[Laura] (15:26): Absolutely. That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Susan. I really appreciate your insights here today, and hopefully we’ll have you back on the side at some point in the future.
[Susan] (15:35): My pleasure, thank you so much.
[Laura] (15:38): Thanks for joining us today. Don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and drop us a review on iTunes. If you enjoyed this episode, I would love to hear from you. Tag me on Twitter @cmogtepodcast. And let me know what you think about the show, and if there’s any topic you’d like to hear about in future. And until next time, this is Laura Cuttill, your host from the CMO’s Guide to Everything.