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SMART IDEA #3: Don’t Be All Things To All People

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What are you the best in the world at doing?

A few weeks ago, I was at Staffing World speaking with Jim, the owner of a relatively small staffing firm in the Midwest.

I asked Jim, “Tell me about your company. What do you do?”

Jim proudly replied, “We do all kinds of staffing…clerical, industrial, accounting, finance, some IT, and even a few HR placements.”

Jim was very proud of the capabilities of his team!

Then I asked Jim, “Do you specialize in anything?”

And he said, “No, we’re in a small community, so we have to do everything for our clients.”

Does this sound familiar to you? Do you have to do everything for your clients?


Trying to be everything to everyone is a surefire way to make yourself a commodity!

Unless you want to compete on price, you need to pick something to focus on…something you can OWN.

Even in a small market.

Want to stand out?

Be the big fish in a small pond.

As the cliché goes, “the riches are in the niches…”

Employers want to work with specialists…staffing firms that know their industry, the types of people they need to hire, where to find those people, and what it takes to successfully hire and retain them.

If you are a generalist, what types of talent are you really good at recruiting?

If you are already a specialist, can you further refine your focus and be best at recruiting for micro-skills? For example, don’t just be an IT recruiter; be a specialist in data science, cybersecurity, business intelligence, or other in-demand technical skills.

Now, specializing doesn’t mean you have to recruit just one kind of talent.

Here are 4 ways to differentiate your staffing firm:

Have a Vertical Market Focus

Pick an industry you are really good at service. You can look at SIC or NAICS code to get a listing of industries. Some of the most common in staffing are manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, financial services, professional services, technology, education, life sciences, and government.

Your company could specialize in a vertical, or you might have service delivery teams or individual recruiters focused on a specific vertical.

Target Employers That Are a Specific Size

The majority of staffing companies want to target the “middle market” – those companies that are big enough to have a decent volume of staffing needs but small enough not to use a VMS or MSP.

If you want less competition, go where most companies are not going. Become an expert at serving small businesses – you get to be more consultative, and the margins are better! Or get amazingly good at recruiting and fulfillment and specialize in serving high-volume staffing users.

Be an Expert at Solving Specific Kinds of Problems

It’s probably not a surprise that the biggest challenges faced are not staffing problems. They’re business problems, such as problems with sales, productivity, and cost control. The good news is that (almost) every business problem can have a staffing solution.

Can you become the best at solving problems with turnover, candidate quality, dealing with workforce reliability, improving productivity, and better managing labor costs?

The better you understand the problems your clients face, the more opportunities you will discover to sell staffing services.

Provide Unique Service Delivery Models

Staffing is changing. We’re seeing more instances of “staffing as a platform” and more use of technology in service delivery. But using tech is just one way to create a new business model.

I’ve seen staffing companies that sell staffing as a service (like your Netflix subscription). Others provide project solutions and own outcomes rather than just supplying labor. And others that take ownership of departments in their clients’ facilities.

In creating a new business model, you are seeking innovative ways to solve problems using staffing (and hiring) as a tool and/or providing new ways to deliver your services.

In staffing, differentiation is hard. The more you focus, the easier it is to stand out.

Need help finding your niche? Our marketing experts make it easy to sell, recruit, and build an irresistible brand.

Want to learn more? Download our eBook Is Differentiation Bullsh!t?

Ready to be a big fish in a small pond?

Contact us and get started today!

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