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Ask Haley: What’s the best investment to make with a limited budget?

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Penny fastened to c-clamp Q: David, I have a very limited marketing budget. What’s the best investment to make in 2014?

A: First, congratulations on having a budget at all!
Most staffing firms don’t. And the industry average is less than 0.4% of sales. But if you want to be a market leader–and not look and sound like everyone else–then you should budget for marketing like a market leader (at 1 to 1.5% of sales).

But where do you spend that money?
It depends! (Of course that’s what the marketing guy says!)

Start by looking at your website. Does it represent your firm well? Does it clearly convey what you do…and how you want to be seen? Does it make it easy for job seekers to search jobs and apply? Does it get employers to take action (by directly placing an order or even just downloading content)? Is it mobile optimized?

Your website is your single most important marketing tool (and according to a study by Staffing Industry Analysts, it’s also your “highest bang-to-buck marketing tool”). More people will see your site than ever visit your offices or meet with your sales team. A well-designed website will attract more job seekers and employers, and it will get them to take action. Simply put, a well-designed website will yield more closed placements.

So if you don’t have a kick-butt website, that is the first place to invest.

After the website, what’s next?
Again, it depends. Do you need more clients or candidates?

If you are client focused, invest in marketing activities that will yield more sales leads…and activities that make your sales efforts more productive. These marketing activities should include:

  • Direct marketing. Use mail, email and social media to capture the attention of the people you want to reach. Once you have their attention, give them a compelling reason to want to speak with you (hint, it very likely won’t just be about their staffing needs–it will be about the real issues and concerns your clients have when it comes to running their businesses).

    We’ve seen direct marketing increase call-to-appointment ratios by 100%. And shorten staffing sales cycles from months to weeks.

  • Sales lead nurturing. Staffing is rarely a one-call close. After the first call is made, and you’ve dazzled the prospect, you need an effective way to stay top-of-mind, reinforce your positioning, and encourage people to use your services…without being a pest.  Forget the “hiya” calls, and instead, invest in email, social and even drop-off marketing that is educational and relevant to your clients. The educational content gives you a valid reason to keep in touch, and it will provide your sales team with excellent conversation starters.

    Content marketing is the most effective way to nurture sales leads. It keeps you top-of-mind, differentiates your firm, and will make follow-up calls and meetings better.

  • Inbound lead generation. Improve SEO via regular blogging, try PPC (Google Adwords and LinkedIn sponsored updates are likely to be your most effective tools), use social sharing to increase the visibility of your firm, your sales team, and to drive people back to your website. Create landing pages on your site that allow for lead capture.

    Our clients that are serious about inbound (and content) marketing will generate more than 50% of their new business from inbound inquiries.

  • Event marketing. Events can be the highest ROI form of marketing for B2B sales efforts, and they do not have to be expensive. While sponsoring or exhibiting at a trade conference might be cost prohibitive, try doing webinars, or becoming a speaker for local business and industry associations. The key with events is to have a strong sales and marketing plan before, during and after each event in order to directly connect with key decision makers, provide a compelling reason to meet with you, and quickly follow up with every prospect you meet.

    The key to effective event marketing is to integrate your sales and marketing activities together to maximize your sales opportunities.

And if you are more focused on recruiting than new business development, consider these marketing investments:

  • Write better job posts. Sounds obvious, but if you read most job posts created by staffing firms, they do a LOUSY job of selling the opportunity and the staffing firm. Better posts get more response…and they cost ZERO to write.
  • Optimized posts for SEO. Maximize every post by making sure the posts are actually on your website, and they are optimized based on job title, location and other relevant keywords.
  • Get free distribution. Have your job information sent to Simply Hired, Glass Door and other sites that will accept jobs from staffing firms at no cost. (Note: Indeed is also a great source, but what they accept is limited). And don’t forget social media. Share all your jobs on Twitter, and selectively promote jobs on Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Nurture your candidates. Referrals. Reactivation. When it comes to filling orders quickly, your talent pool is your best source. But are you keeping in touch with your candidates…including all those people you couldn’t place in the past? Email, text messaging, social media, and even paycheck stuffers can be effective ways to stay in touch with your candidates. Notify them about hot jobs. Share useful ideas (and not just how-to-interview tips). And actively encourage people to reactivate themselves and refer their friends.
  • More ideas? These are just a few quick recruiting ideas. For more ideas to attract talent, please see our December Idea Club article: Recruiting Optimization.

Great marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be smart.
I hope you’ve found these ideas helpful. The key to effective marketing is to put your money where you can get the greatest synergy with your current sales and recruiting activities. And if you need more specific ideas for your firm, please email me or call 1.888.696.2900.


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