How To Do It

Topics: HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser



Customers are bombarded with unsolicited marketing email. Recently, John Sumser came across one of those rare cases where a firm did everything right.


Every once in a while, a fantastic piece of marketing crosses my desk. It’s rare. Marketing seems to be a ‘me, too’ business in which everybody copies everybody else. On the receiving end, it feels like a game of keeping up with the Joneses.

Most of the messages get flushed quickly. Senders get banished through the four hells of Gmail filtering (Inbox > Updates> Promotion > Social > Spam). Each of he lower realms get less and less attention. I almost always move promotional material away from business communications. The level of banishment depends on the quality of the communication.

(I have a special nasty place in my heart for the purveyors of nagging automated follow ups.)

And then, there are the exceptions.

I offer this note from McKinsey as a model for promotional email that gets read and acted on.

The keys are:

  1. It doesn’t sell anything at all.
  2. It understands that I am busy so it gives me a well crafted digest version of the longer message.
  3. It offers a service. “Please let me know if you’d be interested in learning more.”

Here it is:

Dear John,
I write to share a new McKinsey Quarterly article “The CEO guide to competing through HR”. The article explores the concept of the HR function of the future and HR as strategic competitive advantage.

As the authors explain, leaders have long tried to elevate the human resources function beyond merely performing its “traditional” role. Amidst the ongoing war for talent, however, CEOs and business leaders need an HR function to go beyond fulfilling important but routine needs, and become a genuine driver of business value throughout an organization.

The full article can be found here: Please let me know if you’d be interested in learning more.

As the article’s authors explain, in order to advance the HR role, we believe companies need to concentrate on four areas:

  • Rethink the role of HR leaders.
    A company’s leading HR professionals should be able to do more than simply handle operational duties and counsel managers on talent. They should be bona fide talent experts, versed in people analytics and other leading edge tools, and entrusted with real authority over personnel decisions. This is a big enough change that it calls for a change in roles: replacing the traditional business-partner role entirely with a new talent value leader (TVL), who would not only help business leaders connect talent decisions to value-creating outcomes but would also be held fully accountable for the performance of the talent.
  • Use people analytics to identify and develop talent.
    Many organizations have already built extensive analytics capabilities, typically housed in centers of excellence with some combination of data-science, statistical, systems-knowledge, and coding expertise. What’s missing, as a majority of North American CEOs indicated at a recent McKinsey roundtable, is the ability to consistently embed data analytics in day-to-day HR processes and use their predictive power to drive better decision making.
  • Focus HR on true strategic goals, not just operational concerns.
    McKinsey research shows that typical HR departments spend close to 60 percent of their time and resources on transactional and operational activities—which leaves comparatively little time to focus on using talent to drive value across an organization. The best-performing HR departments, by contrast, spend less than 40 percent of their time and resources on operational activities like building a fence.
  • Make the HR function more agile.
    By adopting a more agile approach to its resources, HR can drive significant productivity and focus execution and investments on the core initiatives each year that are proven to link to value.

Customers and potential customers are being bombarded with unsolicited email. If you want to stand out from the noise, this is how you do it. Stop selling and start delivering value.

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