I’ve just returned from Maynard, MA where I spent 2 days with my staffing firm competitors listening to and speaking with the team at Monster. I have been to a few of these sessions now and have never really taken the time to reflect on what it has meant for me professionally, or my business as a client of Monster.
Kris being eaten by Trump, Monster’s friendly mascot
The meetings take place twice per year. This time around there were about 40 of us who comprise the formal Advisory Board. The first day of the program involved a series of presentations by Monster’s Senior Management outlining the state of the business, product strategy, and marketing strategy. Customers were also encouraged to present key issues and opportunities in front of the entire audience. This was a spirited discussion of everything from macro issues like global pricing, to micro issues like user interface design and reporting.
In the afternoon, the group was divided into breakout sessions dividing staffing customers from enterprise ones. In the evening we attended a low-key dinner that allowed for customers to network with one another and with Monster staff. Returning the following day, we spent the entire time within our staffing specific breakout. There, we had presentations from Monster execs on new product developments specifically for staffing. We also were able to discuss key priorities for our individual businesses with regards to what Monster delivers.
I’m not able to comment specifically on any content within the meeting (what happens at the board stays at the board), or put differently that NDA IS in fact binding. However, I can give my overall personal impressions. I think Monster is back on track. Their restructuring looks to be behind them, and they’ve got a lot of very smart senior executives in key strategy and sales roles. Sal Ianuzzi seems to be a very no nonsense CEO who has the troops believing in a streamlined organization focused on the customer and also focused on the core business before anything else. It was telling to me when Sal himself mentioned the removal of the interstitial from the job search experience. The product strategy from Michael Madden for the first time in my recent memory seems to have a clear roadmap and release schedule. Joan Blackwood has decisively assessed the marketing strategy for Monster in her short tenure. Her next move is critical to the continued attraction of the candidates we pay so dearly to attract. So far, I believe what she’s cooking. I’m excited to see what the manifestation of it is in the coming months.
The most compelling character in leadership is Louis Gagnon. Louis has a firm grasp on the current web market place and is an excellent spokesperson for the newly consolidated innovation group within Monster. I know that he and Neal Bruce (recently obtained from the alliance team) are going to finally get Monster back into a technology leadership position. Monster spent a full 3 years monetizing (NASCAR-izing) their strong innovation from 1999 instead of continuing to develop the next great career experience. This allowed the likes of CareerBuilder, Jobster, LinkedIn, etc to leapfrog Monster’s user experience thereby stealing market share. The only question in my mind is how quickly Louis can turn his innovation into product.
As a marketing person, I think the Customer Advisory Board concept is a brilliant one. It creates strong ties between a company and their existing customer base. I have no doubt that Monster employees leave these Advisory meetings with hundreds of ideas of how to better serve their customers. At the same time I know that one of my key vendors with whom we spend a lot of money has listened to my needs and honestly intends to address them. And if they don’t address them, I’m going to break their customer jar
Since we spend slightly more than what’s in the jar, it’s nice to know Monster is listening
Perhaps the most valuable part of participating on these boards is networking with peers from other firms. I have learned so many best practices from the marketers and operators of my competitors that I come back with a list a mile long of initiatives to undertake – not the least of which is a strong desire to create a Customer Advisory Board for Hudson. While these boards are costly, I am positive the research insight gained from 2 days with our customers would yield incredible ROI.