Written by Rhys Jones Managing Director – Davidson Gray
Rhys sold out of his previous recruitment businesses in 2012 to focus solely on helping recruiters set up and build recruitment businesses. Follow Rhys on LinkedIn or contact him direct here for help with your start-up recruitment business or for coaching to grow an existing one.
In my blog How To Scale Your Recruitment Business, I discuss how it’s actually very difficult to scale a recruitment business. You can grow one, but not scale it. The reason is because scaling a business means increasing revenue, whilst not increasing resources. So as most recruitment businesses just add extra recruiters to bring in more revenue, this isn’t scaling, it’s growing. However, what I do explain is how you can increase revenue and profits in ways that don’t involve adding more recruiters. This blog explains how if you do your marketing right, you can get a much bigger return on the money spent on marketing than money spent on extra Recruitment Consultant wages.
The two best ways to increase profits, by increasing revenue but minimal increase in your costs, is to increase your average fees and smart marketing. I will be writing another blog on how to increase your fees, so this one is just on the smart marketing route. I call it smart marketing because anyone can blow money on marketing, but the key is to get it right, so you get a good return on all your marketing, not just carpet bombing and trusting that more means better.
So how do you build your recruitment marketing strategy? I build all my business strategies using the KISS concept, Keep It Simple Stupid. I’ve found over my years of building businesses that you get a much better result by basing your plan on a small number of key areas that give you the biggest returns, short, medium and long term. Keep this number small and you’ll have more time to truly focus on making those parts of your business first class. My KISS recruitment business marketing strategy is based on this, identify what makes the best returns, focus on them, and get much bigger returns. This may seem obvious but trust me it’s shocking how many businesses don’t measure their marketing results, so they don’t know what does and doesn’t work. Not measuring marketing results will invariably mean wasting time and money on marketing that doesn’t work or giving up on marketing because you feel it’s just not working or worth the effort.
In most recruitment companies, marketing is often seen as a luxury that gets pushed to the side when things get busy, and /or the novelty wears off. This is especially true when there’s no real marketing plan or the opposite, a plan that includes far too much. The old adage “fail to plan, plan to fail” definitely applies to marketing, but so does the KISS acronym, Keep It Simple Stupid. The simpler the plan, the much higher chance there is of keeping to it. It was drummed into me during my studies at Cranfield Business School – what it more important than the content of the plan, is following the plan. You can have the best marketing strategy in the world, but it’s utterly useless if it’s that complicated that you don’t stick with it.
So, following this theme of keeping things simple, I outline what I believe are the 5 key areas to consider for your plan. I do stress that markets differ, so I can’t say every single one of these will apply to your market, but what I do know is all of these have got me great results in most of my businesses. When we build the marketing strategies for the start-up businesses we support, we put an awful lot of time into understanding the sector the business recruits in, to build a plan that works for them. We then measure the hell out of it in the early days so we can see what works and what doesn’t. Which leads me nicely into the first of my areas to consider.
You MUST Measure Your Marketing Results
John Wanamaker, who is considered the first pioneer of marketing, is widely recognised for this quote “50% of my marketing budget works, I just don’t know which 50%” and that’s the key to marketing, knowing what works and what doesn’t. This is by far the biggest mistake I see in poor marketing plans. Again, it’s the KISS thing. Surely if you’re spending time and money on marketing, you need to know if it’s working? Think about how massively useful it’d be if you could find out what ratio of return on investment each of your marketing routes get. Using an example of Google Ads, otherwise known as PPC, if you know you make £5 for each £1 you spend on PPC, what would you do? You’d spend more of course! It’s essential you keep measuring to see when that return drops off – it won’t be infinite, but if you know that marketing technique gives you a good return, stick with it. Not only stick with it, focus on getting better at it to improve your ratio of return even more, and increase your spend until you see the limit where return drops off. It is that simple.
How you measure your returns is a bit harder to explain because each piece of marketing may need a different technique to measure it. However, as a very broad solution, for each unsolicited enquiry anyone in the business receives, be it a client or candidate ringing in, emailing in, sending a CV or sending a LinkedIn message, you need to consistently ask, “how did you find us?” or “what prompted you to contact me?” This may sound like a pain but trust me the results are business gold. Even over a short period of time, the results of consistently asking this question will show which parts of your marketing are working. If you then apply this data to find out which placements are made as a result, you will be able to see what financial return on investment each technique is getting.
In addition to this general measuring system, there are plenty of tools to measure individual parts of your strategy. Google Analytics is a tool to measure your website traffic. It doesn’t just measure the amount of visitors, it also tells you how they get to your site, be it people who type in your web address and come direct, those that find you on a Google search, those that come through social media and those that come through paid adverts. It also tells you which pages get looked at and how long people spend on each website page. It’ll probably take a bit of upskilling by whoever is using Google Analytics in your business, the reports are far from simple, plus making sense of the resulting data does also take a bit of work, but once you master it, it can really help you make a lot more money from your website. Google try to keep how they decide who comes top of the Google search results a closely guarded secret. The reason is so people can’t play the system and get page 1 results. Google thrives on giving the most relevant search results, so they don’t want people to know how to manipulate where they appear in the search results. However, use Google Analytics well and work on your website SEO and you can get your site high in the rankings. Half of the businesses we support are top of Google for their sector and the term ‘recruitment’, and we’ve managed to get a few on page 1 for their market and ‘jobs’, which considering we had to beat giants like Totaljobs, Reed and Indeed in the rankings to achieve this shows it can be done, but it does take time and sticking with it.
An awful lot is made of ‘engaging content’, an idea often promoted by content writers or marketing companies. And yes, good content works, however, do not lose focus of what the content is actually for. Your posts and content should be for 3 reasons.
1) to get interest in something specific, like applicants for a vacancy.
2) brand building, which is a bit harder to measure.
3) increasing the regularity your posts appear on people’s feeds. The more people like and comment on your posts, the longer future posts will stay on their feed so they see them.
Likes and comments work for number 3, however do not fall into the trap thinking that likes and comments are a direct guide to success. So, if likes and comments aren’t the best measure, what is? For a post to attract candidates for vacancies, guess what you measure? How many candidates apply for the job. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking LinkedIn is like Facebook or Instagram. LinkedIn is to generate you business. So, for example, when I share my eBook on LinkedIn How To Set Up A Recruitment Business do you think those who have downloaded the book and read it will comment on how they enjoyed it and like it when they know their boss could see it? No! But, if I post a picture of my dog trying to get on my keyboard, I get loads of likes and comments, but which one will get me the most business? When I get contacted directly on LinkedIn, I always ask how they found me and what inspired them to contact me, and the vast majority are because of the blogs I share, which don’t get anywhere near as many likes as a funny recruitment meme.
Brand building is harder to measure, however using the previously mentioned technique of just asking how someone found you will often give you valuable info on how well your brand building is working.
LinkedIn Messages Shots
When you get a message to your inbox selling something and it’s a few paragraphs long, how often do you read it? My personal answer is never, I’m just too busy and don’t have the attention span. However, if I get a sales message that’s a few lines long, I almost always read it because it only takes 2 seconds. So, if you are sending out a LinkedIn message to a large group of profiles, especially if it is to new contacts, keep the message as short and snappy as possible, so the message actually gets read. It’s an easy mistake to try and get all the features and benefits in your message, but if people don’t read it because it’s too long, it’s a waste of time.
Social Media Management
As I mentioned before, when designing your strategy around your market you should use various social media routes to your market and measure what works. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram….the list goes on. However, keeping on top of them is hard work. It’s also critical that you have a consistent feed to stay front of mind with your target audience. You also need to add variety to your posts, industry news, reposts of your blogs, new vacancies, graphics promoting your company, graphics with client testimonials etc. You also want to post them at the times in the day that get the best results.
OK, it’s lots of work, but you can make it a damn site easier if you use one of the social media management tools out there to help schedule your posts weeks or months in advance. You can plan your whole month’s social media activity in one go, then it’s job done and back to being a recruiter or business owner. This can be your Friday afternoon task if you like a wind down at the end of the week, or better still, do it outside work when you can’t bill. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are just two that do this.
One of the biggest mistakes I see with start-up or small company websites is that they have no vacancies page, or worse they have a vacancies page but very few vacancies. Is this not like having a shop with no merchandise on the shelf? If you went to a website to buy something and they didn’t have a way to browse what they sell, would you pick up the phone and ask them? Of course, you wouldn’t. If you went to a site that allowed you to view what they sell, but there’s hardly anything there, would you keep going back to see if new stock comes in? Nope, you wouldn’t. Once someone has visited your site, seen it and doesn’t like it, the chances are they will never go back so you’ve lost a customer for good! So, have a vacancies section and keep it well stocked up, adding new stock regularly!
The other mistake I often see is if the sole focus of a site is “I want a great site so if clients check me out, they know we are a good company”. OK, so this does have some value, but my issue with this is that you are massively missing the biggest revenue generator for your site. Your website should be for people to find you who DON’T already buy from you, not those that do. Your site should be a business development tool. It’s like having a really attractive brochure, but keeping it hidden in your drawer and only getting it out for customers sat in front of you. Imagine if when your target clients are looking for a new, or alternative recruiter, they can just search on the Internet and find that really attractive brochure that’s in your drawer. Well, the modern-day brochure is a website so get it visible on Google.
How you get your site visible is a bit more complicated – getting your site prominent on Google is a whole new blog on its own, however here are some tips.
How visible you can be on Google largely depends on who you are up against. There are on average only 9 natural listings on page 1 (natural, meaning not Google sponsored adverts) and as we know if you are on page 2 you may as well be on page 102. So, if 9 of your competitors are really good on SEO and have big budgets, you could be throwing money at a fight you cannot win. There are tools that can help you look at your favoured search strings to see the traffic for that term and give you a ranking guide on how hard or easy it will be to get page one. Moz and Ahrefs being 2 examples.
But, if you can’t get onto page 1 with SEO, what next? Google paid adverts, otherwise known as PPC, is how. These are the results you often see at the top and bottom of the page when you look at search results. These are paid for per click, so if someone clicks on your advert, you get charged a fee. How much that fee is will vary, as these adverts are a result of a pseudo auction Google has for this paid service. For example, if you set your bid limit at £5 a click and 7 other companies bid more than you, your advert won’t appear. The amount goes up and down as people’s budgets run out, plus when you set up your Google AdWords account you can limit the time of day your advert will appear. Who wants an advert to appear at 3am when the traffic is likely to be those with insomnia or drunk?!
A word of caution on Google AdWords though, if you try and do it yourself it is possible to get very a poor ROI. It is a bit of a science, so you may be better finding an expert to do it for you.
Getting your website seen and attracting business is by far the hardest of my suggestions but done well can produce amazing recurring revenue. Half of the partner businesses I’ve backed and support deliver well in excess of 6 figures every year through the site we build and manage for them. We achieve this through a lot of hard work on SEO, plus very shrewd Google Ads spend. Try some searches on “How much does it cost to set up a recruitment company “or “How to build a recruitment business to sell” and you’ll see Davidson Gray comes top. We are pretty good at SEO! But I do appreciate not all of you reading this will have access to anyone who can transform your site from a brochure in your drawer to one thousands see on Google searches, so you may have to try and upskill as best you can.
There are loads more marketing techniques you can use; these are just the ones I feel could get you the best return on your time or spend. If you come across other techniques, try them, I’ve often tried techniques just to scratch an itch, doubting they would in fact work, and they did, so don’t dismiss new ideas out of hand. But as I stressed earlier, always measure what you do so you know what works, and if your new technique doesn’t work, you may be best to drop it and try another one.
Written by Rhys Jones Managing Director – Davidson Gray
Interested in working with Rhys to grow your start up?
Rhys not only provides the start-up infrastructure for your new business and all the support services your business will need, he can actually work with you to grow it. Take advantage of as much mentoring and coaching as you would like, plus Rhys considers himself a working partner and will take responsibility for the areas that you’d like him to, perhaps those you have the least passion for e.g. Finance and Digital Marketing. When working together on the business’s growth strategy, much of the effort to deliver it can be delegated to the Davidson Gray team.
Book a chat with Rhys here.
If you enjoyed reading this, you can also listen to our podcast on scaling recruitment businesses. Once you’ve got cash in your business, you’ll need to make sure you manage it correctly – so make sure to read our blog on managing cash in your recruitment business. You can also find more information on how to plan your recruitment business for strong growth in our eBook How to Set Up a Recruitment Business.