Four Financial Factors When Starting a Recruitment Agency

With the continuing growth of the recruitment sector making it ever more challenging to stand out from the crowd, a strong marketing strategy has become more important than ever for ambitious agencies.

With that in mind, Recruitment Leaders partners Outsauce, Brabners, Saffery Champness, Recruitment International and NatWest held a panel discussion event, chaired by Recruitment International’s David Head on Thursday 2nd April, to share marketing expertise and discuss the latest best practice to support growth, increase brand value and generate new leads.

The event featured special guest panellists Graham Allchurch, head of content at I-COM, Lisa Jones, director at Barclay Jones and Orlagh Bibby, marketing manager at Morson.

Brand building comes from within

Building a recognisable and differentiated brand is becoming increasingly viewed as crucial to enhancing awareness and loyalty with both candidates and clients. One popular topic during the discussion revolved around the ways in which agencies can go about building a strong recruitment brand in practice.

A core element of this, Orlagh Bibby explained, is securing buy-in from the wider external team to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal of accurately representing and championing brand values and culture to external audiences.

Bibby said:

“When it comes to your brand and demonstrating what it stands for, you have to engage people internally and provide clear, consistent guidelines to ensure they understand and believe in your brand values and ambitions. Strong internal brand advocates can really help your brand’s external message to be effectively delivered. It will help to add value to the company, build lasting customer relationships and to overcome any lack of understanding in terms of what your brand stands for.”

In an industry in which the reputation of an agency is highly reliant upon the individual behaviours of its employees, supporting and encouraging consultants to adhere to desired brand values at all times is also crucial.

Lisa Jones stated:

“Recruitment leaders can use experienced consultants within their business to showcase to others how to successfully cultivate and manage an impressive and professional personal brand.” She also warned however, of the potential challenge of personalities who are bigger than the brand.”

Bibby agreed and explained that a strong agency brand and strong consultant brand should work side-by-side, rather than potentially in competition with each other. She said:

“Consultants often forget that the best way to strengthen their own personal brand is by presenting themselves as an extension of a strong company brand.”

She added that recruitment firms have a central role in empowering consultants to present themselves in the best way possible on social media, by helping them optimise their profiles, advising them on LinkedIn Groups to join and interact with, and managing the content they share.

The attendees also agreed on the important role a strong brand can play in increasing candidate loyalty. Simon Kite, partner at Saffery Champness chartered accountants said:

“The process of sustaining candidate loyalty can be made easier if you sell your brand as a strong industry influencer.”

“Consultants, therefore, need to be trained to be more strategic in how they use social media for professional purpose and in ensuring they maximise and showcase the value of the brand they represent.”

Social media strategy and training for success

It’s undeniable that social media has become a core tool in the recruitment professional’s armoury – providing consultants with a powerful platform from which to research and directly reach out to a huge pool of relevant candidates. However, as networks such as LinkedIn grow to become de rigueur in day-to-day working life, discussion turned to how to be smarter and more effective in how the channels are used.

Miles Lloyd, CEO at recruitment and contracting financial support specialist, Outsauce, highlighted the fantastic opportunity social media represents for agencies and consultants to engage with audiences on a more direct and personal level, but warned that it should not be seen simply as a ‘free’ marketing tool.

Explaining, he said:

“You have to make sure you are disciplined enough to focus on being ‘productive’ rather than just ‘busy’ on social media platforms. Like traditional networking there are always hidden opportunity costs to activities that just involve time.”

Graham Allchurch agreed, adding:

“You shouldn’t over complicate things when it comes to social media. At its heart, it’s simply about peers talking to each other honestly and transparently, yet often people can behave in much more obviously promotional manner than they would when speaking to a prospect face-to-face.”

“Recruiters should always remember that it’s ‘social media’, not ‘sales media’. If they just promote their listings when posting on social media – they won’t be regarded as a valuable resource to passive audiences. Instead, adding value over the long term requires meaningful engagement with connections and the sharing of information and advice that positions the consultant as a trusted expert. With social media, consultants can build more meaningful relationships based on adding value – ensuring candidates remember them when they are next seeking a new opportunity.”

Jones added:

“At the end of the day, social media doesn’t make money – recruiters do. But if used properly, social media can help recruiters to do their job more quickly and can help them engage with new prospects on a deeper level, helping deliver more success.”

With every new tool, problems arise

Attendees were also in agreement that the ‘ownership’ of LinkedIn connections is becoming an increasing issue as consultants move jobs.

Head of employment at Brabners Manchester, Paul Chamberlain, explained how this complex issue has been explored through legal cases; mentioning a recent case in which the judge ruled that a recruiter had to provide their ex-employer with access to their account to enable them to cleanse it of any connections made during their time at that company.

Chamberlain argued that the best way to tackle any potential issues from the outset is by putting clear and defined rules in place through employment contracts and corporate policies.

Jones agreed and added that recruitment companies should look to their CRM system as a way to protect against this. She said:

“It is important to set clear policies surrounding LinkedIn and how often consultants update the CRM with new contacts they make. Should an issue surrounding LinkedIn page or connection ownership arise, if the CRM isn’t up-to-date it can be very difficult to prove what date connections were made.”

Final tips for enhancing marketing in 2015

To round-up the discussion, the guest panellists were asked to reveal one marketing tip that they would advise agencies implement this year.

Allchurch said:

“One thing businesses should definitely do is build a strategy for social media which is underpinned by their business objectives. In addition, a new Google update is soon going to heavily penalise ‘non mobile-friendly’ sites in searches carried out on smartphones and tablets, so it’s crucial to ensure that company websites are mobile optimised or agencies could lose significant traffic.”

Jones added:

Invest in staff training if you are going to take social media seriously. There are poorly written job advertisements popping up everywhere on social media, so we need to change how consultants approach the sharing and promotion of opportunities on social networks. For recruitment, job ads are the single most important content type, so it’s crucial that they’re done right.

Bibby concluded:

Blogging is only going to get bigger in recruitment as agencies grow to understand the importance of creating and sharing useful content to demonstrate expertise. However little things can instantly damage your credibility when pushing content out to users. For example, typos and incorrect claims can make a brand seem amateurish to readers, so make sure spelling and grammar is always double checked before anything is published.

About the special guest panellists

Graham Allchurch – Head of content, I-Com

Graham Allchurch is Head of Content and Social Media at I-COM, a full-service digital marketing agency specialising in the recruitment sector. He has 6 years’ experience working in the digital marketing, online journalism and publishing industries.

In addition to his time at I-COM, he has worked as a lead correspondent at Adfero/Axonn Media and as a web and print editor at Graduate Prospects.

Lisa Jones – Director, Barclay Jones

Lisa is a Director of Barclay Jones, a consultancy delivering business change and improved recruiter efficiency using recruitment technology and social media. She speaks at many recruitment industry events and is a recruitment technology and social media evangelist online.

Orlagh Bibby – Marketing manager, Morson

Orlagh is Marketing Manager for Morson Group, an international engineering recruitment and consultancy business with a group revenue of £653.5 million. Orlagh established Morson’s marketing department and is responsible for taking its marketing approach in a more innovative, digital and profitable direction.

She has almost a decade’s experience in the marketing sector and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Next time at Recruitment Leaders

The next Recruitment Leaders event in July will look at the results of the General Election and its impact on both the wider economy and the recruitment sector specifically.

Anyone wishing to put themselves forward for invitation is encouraged to register by emailing recruitment.leaders@outsauce.net.

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