Industry outsiders will never understand you.
They don't realize how long it takes to build a book of business, or, conversely, how quickly it can all go away, like it did in 2009 due to forces outside ALL of our control. They don't comprehend how many moving parts there are or how much of what you do is purely a numbers game and hedging your bets.
Most notably, they'll never understand how EVERYTHING you do is entrenched with sales.
Most marketing strategies for recruitment agencies I stumble across struggle to address this aspect of your business.
Every call is a sales call
I lived in your world for a decent chunk of my career.
For the better part of a decade, I was involved in recruiting for two different mortgage companies and one staffing agency, where I held the roles of temp & perm recruiter, sales, and branch manager.
I learned a lot about your world.
One thing is for sure - staffing is a complicated beast of an industry because of how many things that must align in order for a single job to be filled. It's not just your sales and delivery teams either. Every component of your business matters.
EVERY. one. of. them.
When you're marketing for staffing agencies, you are in a unique position to improve touch points all over your business - not just the obvious.
Being in a sales industry, it's no secret how much selling is involved in both business development and actual delivery.
You have to attract top talent to bring in strong relationships and great candidates. That's your agency's first sell. The second is finding job opportunities with businesses that are willing to work with you. The third is selling your opportunities and agency's services to top talent quickly, so yours can be first in line. The fourth is selling those candidates to the hiring manager. The fifth is negotiating terms. The sixth is keeping everybody happy during the duration of the assignment.
That's a lot more selling than many realize at first, and it's certainly more than what other b2b industries have to deal with.
To compound the issue, people are always changing their roles. Today they're a candidate - tomorrow they're a customer... after that they're a candidate again influencing a prospect... after that they're recruiting for your agency or a target prospect!
But that's just barely scratching the surface... and probably not news to you.
The Not So Obvious...
1. It's harder to keep private matters private
In other industries, it's easier to insulate customers from the uglier happenings in their business, because said happenings happen under their roofs. For staffing agencies, many of your problems occur under your customers' roofs.
Candidates can blow an easy interview by saying or doing something outrageous and unexpected or decide not to come back after their first lunch.
Your sales teams and recruiters realize this, and probably do a good job of working their silver-tongued magic in the field in order to keep things steady. But the rest of your company is often left unattended, and when things go side-ways, there are little to no protocols for recovery.
In addition, with people changing roles so often, customer service and billing issues tend to reverberate and impact your service's perceived value.
I used to place accounting and finance professionals, and it wasn't uncommon for our placements to be the ones to pay their own bills. THINK of the complications that creates!
So, every point of contact matters because you never know what role somebody is going to hold tomorrow. They may be your best candidate or top client... or they could be the reason your agency gets pushed out of the next big deal.
2. Your sales people and delivery teams have better things to do
Think about how valuable the salesperson's time is during normal business hours. Getting bogged down on a call with an unplaceable (unplaceable to your agency, anyway) candidate or somebody who just doesn't respect their time is a KILLER.
You can actually help solve this issue as a marketer.
A lot of the staffing agencies I talk to typically come to us when people stop hiring - not when things are going well. So, the immediate and often only concern is about getting more leads. However, what they're not considering in the moment of crisis is that everybody they touch influences the sale.
One of the most valuable lessons I ever learned is how important your prospects' gate-keepers and support-staff are to your success. Not only do they decide whether your sales people get through - but they are in the ears and minds of those making the final decisions.
I learned this lesson in the summer of 2010. We were experiencing a heatwave in Orange County that was sending the temperature into the one hundreds with record-breaking humidity. We were experiencing power outages and non-stop sticky grossness.
We were also still knee-deep in the recession. Times were not great, and everybody was hurting.
So, my colleague and I bought all of the juice bars we could find at the local Trader Joes, slapped our cards on each one, dropped them into wheelie coolers, then hand-delivered them to our most important clients and prospects. (What is the single most important tip for your sales superstars?)
But we didn't ask for meetings. We just gave them to the receptionists (whom we also handed one to, of course!), and asked that they get to our department heads and friends in HR... our little note simply said, "Stay cool."
That single act landed more job orders than we could ever count. Even to this day, more than 7 years later, I am STILL hearing about people calling in asking for me because of those ridiculous juice pops... All influenced by those receptionists who we saw as people while everybody else saw as obstacles.
We won. Big time.
How Marketing Can Change the Narrative
Here are a handful of things I've seen work to improve customer relations AND boost sales:
- Candidate resources: You can help your recruiters be better at their jobs while pulling them off of unnecessary time-killing calls by providing useful resources and making them accessible to your candidates. I suggest starting with something simple, like tips on how to interview to land the right job.
It would be nice to have a section on your website dedicated to candidates, so they don't ever feel lost (and vent at work) or waste your peoples' time. Make them better at landing jobs, and they'll thank you for years to come.
- Client resources: You can also help your recruiters by pulling them off of client calls involving administrative or onboarding issues.
Not only will a client resource center free up time in the field for your sales and service teams, but it will help establish deeper brand loyalty, something a lot of staffing agencies struggle with.
I suggest providing resources that help people make important decisions around hiring or managing. After about 3 months into the major parts of the recession, our clients started picking up slightly, but were too nervous to hire, so they just made everybody work overtime. Eventually, the cost of overtime outweighed the cost of bringing in temp employees, and I created an Excel calculator to help them identify that moment in time.
That was a BIG hit.
- Relevant technologies: How easy is it for employees to fill out a time card? How easy is it for employers to approve or dispute timecards? Are you still having people fax?
Some payroll processing services have apps to make it easy to manage their payroll information and keep tabs on earning. Does yours?
Your industry is evolving.
- Current jobs: It's not enough to just post jobs. Why don't you make it easy for your best candidates to hear about your latest and greatest? Not only will it make THEM happy, but it will save a lot of time for your recruiters.
One way we've successfully accomplished this is by creating a different blog for each type of job, then subscribing good candidates to the ones that match their skills. Every time we post a relevant job, it gets to them automatically. If they don't think they are very strong, the recruiters simply don't subscribe them.
- Helpful website: Is your website a brochure meant to help the sales team prove that they represent a real company, or is it an active member of your sales and delivery teams?
It should to both.
Proving you exist is the bare minimum, and minimums don't create remarkable experiences. As mentioned above, you can make your website work for you by providing useful tools and helpful experiences.
If you have a salary guide, why don't you make it available online? Make sure it's gated, of course, but why not leverage it as a lead conversion tool?
In addition to capturing contact information from quality prospects, Google will appreciate seeing this kind of activity and reward you as well! Want to learn more about SEO tactics like these?
- Benefits: Some of you have the competitive advantage of offering your temporary employees benefits, even those who are part-time. Actually, most of you do... which makes it less of a competitive advantage, and more of a bare minimum.
If you don't offer them at all, I'd say you're missing the boat big time here. If you do offer them, how WELL does your company position them? Do your contractors know about them? Do they know how to take advantage of them? Are they easy to manage?
If your message is that you care, then I suggest making it easy for your customers to see that you actually do.
- Billing: Yes - billing. This one is huge, because you're more likely to lose a customer over a billing issue (being billed late or early or with incorrect terms or amounts) than any other issue.
I know this doesn't really fall under the "marketing" umbrella, exactly, but you could make it easier by providing collateral that describes your billing policies and how to work out billing disputes. It's also a good idea for you to gather customers' temperature about this aspect of the business through surveys.
We've all heard the saying, "every call is a sales call," but nobody understands what that means like staffing agencies. If you're interested in learning how we help staffing agencies grow, click the link below: