Do HR Vendors Have an "Obligation" to Spend Money in this Slow Economy?

Of course not.

But whether they should is not so simple of an answer.

I personally believe we do but bear with me while I state my case.

A few months ago on CNN a pundit declared that people who aren’t currently suffering as a result of the economic decline have a moral obligation to spend their money to help save the economy. While the economy can’t continue to be fueled by rampant consumer spending the fact is most people are simply tapped and couldn't spend money if they wanted to. And frankly, consumers should not be coerced into spending money or feel they have any "obligation" to do so - practically or morally. That's ridiculous.

Who should spend money?

1. Federal Government. The government needs to fund real stimulus projects that will put money into worker’s pockets so they have something to spend. For the most part, this is starting to happen.

2. The banks who took bailout money. I don't think anyone would disagree here. That money was intended to be loaned to qualified borrowers like stable human resource businesses, quality start-ups, home buyers, and car buyers. So yes, the banks should start lending.

3. Businesses. A lot of businesses are sitting on a pile of cash. Unfortunately, many are laying off people who may not need to. They are doing so as a precautionary step. Instead, I would rather see these businesses use salary freezes or even pay cuts to keep as many people on the payroll as possible. This benefits everyone. Many businesses are also delaying the purchase of valuable HR services and software. Again, this short sighted behavior has long lasting impacts on the marketplace leading to fewer HR suppliers and ultimately, few choices which leads to higher prices.

But what about HR vendors?

We've written several blogs about the importance of NOT slashing marketing budgets in a slow economy. Since we are a marketing firm, I realize this sounds a little self serving but more often than not (and history supports this notion), cutting marketing budgets is a mistake, assuming you have a healthy balance sheet and a solid business model. And we're walking the talk at Fisher Vista, LLC (the owners of as we are increasing our marketing spend in 2009. And so far it's paying for itself as our sales pipeline has grown and our sales have not suffered that much. We're investing in trade show exhibiting, advertising, direct marketing, a ton of social networking activities, marketing software and more. We're supporting those who have been loyal to us.

But we're seeing a lot of unnecessary panic in the HR space and this is concerning.

The problem is when vast numbers of HR vendors slash their marketing budgets or in some cases simply stop all marketing it not only hurts their company but it damages the entire human resources industry and this can have long lasting effects. If this continues, for example, we will see more publishers shut down their businesses leading to fewer magazines, newsletters, direct email lists, etc., etc. And this means fewer mediums for HR vendors to communicate and reach HR decision makers. And when the economy returns to strength these outlets won't simply come back over night. The same goes for trade shows. Many HR events will be canceled if the exhibitors don't show up, again leading to fewer venues in the future. The list goes on and on.

So yes, I do think all of us have some obligation in the HR marketplace to support our industry - and not hide under a rock hoping things will get better. Because this mentality only makes the problem worse.

Let's support one another.