The concept of a traditional career has changed in the workforce today. Along with a new crop of talent, the digital age has ushered in an evolution in the way that people think about their career trajectory.
Todays workers are technologically savvy, connected, and “managing their careers on their own terms, and often outside categories that have defined the workforce for decades,” according to a recent the Deloitte University Press Study. http://dupress.com/articles/the-open-talent-economy/
Case in point is Casey Lockwood, a leading Inbound Marketing Specialist (a fancy term for their sales team) at leading marketing software firm, HubSpot. To fuel success in sales, Casey and his team employ innovative software tools to attract prospects to the firm, pay attention to their prospects' “digital footprints” and successfully integrate a new, more consultative approach to closing deals.
Rather than accept a career path handed down to him by a corporate hierarchy, Casey uses his digital savvy to find new learning opportunities, forge new network connections and build a career that he defines based on his skills and desires.
How to Use this Case Study
At Semper International, we have been studying this evolving workforce for the past decade. In our recent book, we dubbed these workers Techcreatives. Techcreatives are talent with the ability to develop creative approaches to use new technology – allowing them to shepherd innovative ideas into reality, find new markets and drive new margins in this new economy.
Before our eyes, the emergence of the Techcreative talent force is fundamentally changing our work lives, which we have sought to highlight in a series of case studies. While past case studies have focused on how companies such as Pantone, Newbury Comics and Geiger Brothers used new technology in their business, this one highlights the Techcreative challenge for talent.
For those in the job market, think about what new approaches these ideas can offer on how to better manage your career to maximize both your enjoyment and salary. For companies, these portraits are a means to understand your evolving work force, get the most out of your staff, and ultimately, drive hard improvements to your bottom line.
The Techcreative Challenge:
As a salesman at HubSpot, Casey faces one primary challenge: To deliver. Like most competitive sales teams, at HubSpot you are only as good as your last month. With rigorous goals and consistent measurement, Casey’s first priority is to hit his numbers using each and every tool at his disposal – which, at HubSpot, is a sophisticated inbound marketing strategy.
The wide availability of information on search tools like Google has fundamentally changed sales. “People no longer live, work, shop, and buy as they did a decade or two ago. And yet, businesses still try to market and sell like it’s 1999. Today, people do not want to be interrupted by marketers or harassed by salespeople. They want to be helped.”
According to Casey. “If I’m cold-calling someone, all I am is a billboard. And I can find cheaper billboards.”
Just as the wide availability of data has changed the customer, it has also altered the way that he and his peers approach their careers in order to manage their own advancement and showcase their flexibility and Techcreative savvy.
“In the past,” he says, “once you landed a job, you were reliant upon the job for your education, your advancement, and your mastery — and that’s not the case anymore.
“Now, nearly every individual that I know thinks of their career path as mutually exclusive from their place of employment. They have very clear goals that they want to accomplish; they define that. And either they find a place of employment that will support that, or they take matters into their own hands. That’s an incredibly different paradigm.
“I think it’s come about for two reasons. One, it’s never been easier to search for a job. Two, the corporation no longer feels loyalty to the employee, so employees don’t feel that the organization will take care of them; they realize they need to shoulder the responsibility for their own career trajectory. I don’t think that individuals trust the organization to have their best interests in mind.”
The Techcreative Solution
As a salesman, Casey appreciates that HubSpot deploys an innovative suite of inbound marketing tools - a technology system that involves outreach via social media, email, landing pages, web analytics, and SEO — all serving to “pull” an audience to them and delivering over $60,000 worth of leads to the sales team each month.
This is far from standard procedure at most companies. While Casey’s first job was with a technology company, it didn’t offer its own employees the same level of digital skills and tools they needed to do their jobs and advance their careers.
For salespeople seeking to improve their results via better digital engagement, Casey has the following recommendations:
- Learn the business you’re selling to.“What makes HubSpot so unique,” Casey says, “is that they spend the first two weeks of your training teaching you the business. And once you understand the business, you can understand how to sell. It’s really about understanding ‘What business am I selling to? What are their common challenges?’ Cross-reference that with the technological savvy of that individual, that sector, and then position yourself to be a solution.”Even if you don’t have a large infrastructure behind you, Casey says you can take advantage of the public information to gain an understanding of a business and their challenges before you call. He recommends looking for markers such as company size, their clients, who they hire, and then infer their business challenges.
- Learn the technological comfort level of the person to whom you’re selling.“There are monumental shifts now in terms of people’s comfort level with technology,” Casey says. “Those who are really comfortable with technology expect you to engage with them on that level, and those who aren’t are very much caught off-guard by it.If I jump on the phone with someone, and while I’m on that call they friend me on LinkedIn, their expectation is that I friend them back. But if I do that to someone who only has a hundred followers, they’re totally freaked out about that: ‘I don’t like this.’ Understand people’s appetite for technology, and align yourself with that.”
- Learn the priorities of that individual via their online activities. Read all you can on your prospects, such as their most recent tweets, LinkedIn posts, etc. If I have that, plus information about their most recent visit to my website and what they downloaded — that creates a pretty powerful trifecta. I care about what’s top of their mind, and what’s top of their mind isn’t what happened six months ago.While finding a company that will provide the technology and support you need to succeed is vital for long-term happiness, he also believes it’s his responsibility to develop and manage his personal brand, which impacts his ability to work in this high-visibility company, and his larger career goals.In addition to sales advice, Casey offered several recommendations on how to effectively manage your Techcreative career:
- Build a strong online network and engage with it regularly. “At HubSpot, I don’t think we’ve hired anyone in the past four years who didn’t have a LinkedIn profile or Twitter account,” Casey says. “That’s a prerequisite just as much as the résumé was ten years ago.”But just having an online presence isn’t enough. That’s why he keeps active on LinkedIn and Twitter, he says, “even on things that don’t add value to my selling career, to continue this dialogue that I’m having with the network that I’ve created.… I share people’s posts. I comment. I make referrals and recommendations. I endorse them for skills. Every once in a while, I talk to them in person.”To those just beginning to explore online networking, he recommends: “Do one thing well first.” Frequency of updates and level of technological engagement are more important than the number of platforms on which a user is active. Rather than one post per month on a variety of sites — Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, Facebook, etc. — “I’d rather see ten posts go to one of those channels." Casey believes, “Your network holds you up. In the long run, you know that if you contribute to this network, the network will give back to you when you are in a time of need. And that’s important.”
- Create compelling online content.Casey suggests that aspiring content creators pay attention to crafting a distinct writing voice that appeals to their intended audiences. “I think your writing personality affects more than your in-person personal brand. I will say that. I think businesses are hiring for tone of voice more than they ever have.”On his own, Casey has contributed to both Rick Roberge’s blog and RainMaker and he has also written for a small-business-growth iPad magazine, which once featured him on its cover. “I started my own blog, I started talking about the Millennial generation, and I started contributing to another blog. And that got me found by a company that was ultimately acquired by HubSpot.” He notes that he finds people who are influencers through the content they create. “I’m looking for something that I care passionately about, and I stumble upon really good content that to me is a thought leader. And I don’t care if it’s a 16-year-old kid or a 50-year-old man in the Poconos. If they’ve written compelling content on that issue, I care about that issue.”
- Continue your education through online means. “Attend webinars. I’m taking a course at Stanford right now. It’s free, and it’s there, and the smartest people in Silicon Valley are teaching there. And that’s something that can go on my résumé. Not only that, but I can prove it through LinkedIn.”
- Find common ground with people.“You need to have other interests outside of your own work. Companies are looking for people that have other interests.”
Digital marketing is a community that loves metrics, though Casey found a slightly more abstract standard as his first indication this approach was working. “I was hired by a company that’s harder to get into than Harvard, so… I must have done something right.”
Still, his numbers paint a pretty compelling picture.
- In October and November 2014, Casey was the top salesperson at HubSpot. For overall sales and quota achievement, Casey increased hard sales from $24,000 of business to over $46,000.
- His branding efforts have also improved referrals, jumping from around 40% at the beginning of 2014 to about 95% by year’s end. “Pretty much all my deals come from channel partners now,” he confirms.
- His company has also had a great year. Since its founding in 2006, HubSpot has amassed over 10,000 company ads and is ranked #1 in customer satisfaction by VentureBeat and G2 Crowd. HubSpot tendered an IPO in early October, and its stock price rose 20% in just the first day.
Still, this new Techcreative talent economy will take some getting used to by both employers and job seekers.
For job seekers, Casey reminds them that, “you can’t hide behind the logo of a popular college anymore, or a previous employer. ‘I worked at Cisco Systems, and afterward I worked at Yahoo, and that’s why I should get this job.’ — that doesn’t mean anything anymore. Because you leave the footprint with how you engage digitally. And companies are looking for that.”
For companies, the first step is understanding this new way of doing business, and ensuring you have the right infrastructure in place to keep your bench active and engaged. According to Casey, many Millennials believe that, “not having that supporting digital infrastructure and technological savvy is suggestive of some other foundational issues in the organization,” Casey says. “Lack of transparency, lack of understanding how the digital can both hinder and enable their employees — really, if it's not a progressive organization, then it's not [one] that a Millennial or younger person would want to engage with.”
Finally, Casey notes that digital technology has not only reshaped our career paths but also our relationships with family and friends. “Interacting with family, especially long-distance family, has really taken on this sort of technological world of its own, and it’s kind of exciting.
“We’re all being held up, held up in a good way, by the support of our peers, a tiny little bit at a time. And I think that’s directly aligned with how technology has sought to engage with us. I’m not sure which one has shaped the other, but it feels pretty darned aligned to me.”