“How Do I Choose the Best Marketing for My Staffing Firm?”
I love this question.
Often, when I am speaking with an owner or executive in a staffing company, they want to know “the right answer” for their marketing.
What’s the one thing that matters most?
What’s the silver bullet that will generate the most inbound sales leads or attract the most talent?
As you can guess, there is no one right answer.
The best marketing for your staffing company depends on a variety of things:
- What are you looking to accomplish? Do you need marketing to generate inbound sales leads? Make your outbound sales efforts more productive? Get more people to apply to your jobs?
- What is the scope of your need? Are you looking to bring in two new clients or two hundred? How many candidates do you need to get those open jobs filled?
- What is the time frame for achieving your goals? Do you need to make an immediate impact to drive short-term results, or are you looking for more of a long-term strategy?
- What kind of staffing do you do? The best practices for an IT staffing company are different than those for a commercial staffing company. And marketing direct hire or executive recruiting tends to be quite different than marketing temporary staffing.
- Where do you work? Do you need marketing that is national or international in scope? Or are you focused on your hometown? And is that a big city or a small community? Geographic scope will help determine the best ways to market your staffing business.
- How do you sell? Do you rely mainly on face to face cold calling, pounding the phones, networking on LinkedIn? Do you regularly attend or exhibit at conferences? Do you currently leverage thought-leadership or other content in your sales approach?
- Who do you call on? Are you mainly calling on HR, department heads and other hiring managers, front line supervisors, purchasing or C-level executives? Your marketing will be very different depending on your target audience.
- What are you selling? Are you selling traditional staffing services (temp, temp-to-hire, direct hire and/or payrolling)? Strategic services like onsites, VMS, MSP or other workforce solutions? Do you sell statement of work or other project solutions?
- How strategic are your sales reps? Are your people comfortable talking with senior-level decision makers? Can they effectively explain concepts and demonstrate the economic value of your services? Or are they stronger at building relationships and selling traditional staffing services?
- How competitive is your market? Are there a lot of strong staffing companies in your market? How are they selling? What are their strengths? Their weaknesses?
- How are your positioned (or do you want to be positioned)? Have you clearly defined how you want to be seen in the market? Does that message come through on your website, in your sales collateral, and in how you sell, recruit and service clients?
- What tools are you already using in your sales and marketing process? Is your website up to date? Do you have a strong presence on social media? Are you using email marketing to keep your company top-of-mind? Do you regularly produce content that supports your positioning? Are you active in industry or professional associations? Do you have a marketing automation platform?
- What is your business strategy for achieving your goals? Getting aggressive about sales and marketing is one strategy for growth, but it is not the only one. Other growth strategies include:
- Product superiority. Offering something your competitors do not offer.
- Service superiority. Providing an exceptional experience for clients and/or candidates.
- Partnering. Working with other firms to offer a more complete service offering.
- Bundling. Creating new services where you bundle existing services into a package.
- Service-line extension. Getting into new skill disciplines.
- Geographic expansion. Offering services in new locations (can be remote).
- M&A. Buying or acquiring complimentary businesses or services.
- Moving up the value chain. Taking on higher-level responsibilities like project solutions.
- New service models. Finding new ways to deliver staffing such as online staffing.
- Pricing. Offering lower prices, better value or unique payment terms.
While there is no one right answer for the best way to market a staffing agency, there are key strategies to consider.
Strategy 1: Integrated Direct Marketing
As the name implies, this strategy is about integrating marketing with your sales efforts. The idea is to use marketing to capture the attention of prospective clients, create awareness of your company and the kinds of problems you can solve, and generate enough interest in your value that the prospect wants to talk to your sales representative.
An integrated direct marketing campaign will typically use multiple channels of communication (mail, email, social messaging, phone/voicemail and/or paid advertising) to reach a targeted list of prospects.
The campaign is structured so that there is a defined sequence of activities (a step-by-step process) to ensure that you attempt to contact every prospect multiple times through multiple means of communication. The process also shows your salespeople exactly when to call, how to follow-up, and ideally, what to say on those calls and in their follow-up emails and LinkedIn messages.
An integrated direct marketing campaign is used to systematically target companies (and the key decision makers in those companies) to ensure you are going after your ideal prospects.
To maximize response, an integrated direct marketing campaign may give the prospect multiple ways to respond. This can include: agreeing to an in-person or Zoom meeting; taking an initial call to discuss a business issue; or visiting a landing page on your website where you are offering something of value to the prospect.
The more ways you allow people to respond…and the easier you make it for them to respond, the greater the response you will receive.
Strategy 2: Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a subset of integrated direct marketing. Also known as key account marketing, ABM is a strategic approach to B2B marketing where your company targets each key account with a marketing approach that is custom-tailored to that account.
With ABM, you might take an integrated direct marketing campaign and custom-tailor the materials and message for each individual company you target. Also, an ABM campaign will typically target multiple decision makers within that target organization at the same time. This could include multiple people at the same level throughout a large organization or targeting people at all levels from HR to department heads to senior executives.
Account-based marketing is typically employed in enterprise-level sales organizations, and it is used to help companies to:
- Increase account relevance
- Engage earlier and higher with deals
- Align marketing activity with account strategies
- Get the best value out of marketing
- Inspire customers with compelling content
- Identify specific contacts, at specific companies, within a specific market
Strategy 3: Event Marketing
This is one of my favorite strategies because conferences and trade events can be incredibly effective…and most companies horribly mismanage these kinds of events.
The easiest approach to event marketing is to find events your ideal clients (or candidates) already attend. This way, you have a built-in audience that someone else paid to aggregate.
Alternatively, you can create your own events, which can be virtual or in-person. The advantage to creating an event is that you own the content, audience and venue. You can control exactly how you are seen and by whom. Of course, the challenging part is getting people to attend!
Regardless of the type of event, you need to think about marketing before, during and after every event you attend or host.
With event marketing, your challenge is to get event attendees to speak with you. And the secret to success starts long before the event date. The biggest mistake companies make is doing too little prior to the event.
With each event you plan to attend, you must determine how you will attend. Will you just be an attendee? An exhibitor? A sponsor? Or (ideally) a speaker at the event?
The best way to maximize an event is to be a speaker. And if you want to get on the agendas, you have to start months (and sometimes years) before the event date. Each event will have its own rules and norms about what is required to be a speaker, but as a starting point, check out the website of the company sponsoring the event to learn about past conference topics, past speakers and their process to submit proposals to speak.
For smaller conferences, you can often reach out the organization planning the event three to six months prior to the event date and volunteer to speak. Be prepared to suggest presentation topics that would be of interest to the attendees (hint: no sales pitches).
If you are selected as a speaker, you can then build a pre-show marketing campaign to invite attendees to your presentation. This campaign should include mail and email (if the conference will provide a list of attendees), email to your own clients and prospects who might be attending, advertising in conference promotional materials, paid advertising on social media, and organic promotion of your presentation on social media where you tag the organization and/or event in your posts.
But what if you can’t become a speaker?
In this case, go back to the recommendations for integrated direct marketing, and build a campaign around the event you will attend. You’ll probably have to be an exhibitor or sponsor to get a list of attendees, but that list is gold.
Once you have the list, identify the specific people you want to target. Create a direct marketing campaign to those people that includes mail (a must), email, connecting on LinkedIn, and potentially outbound sales calls.
Your pre-conference marketing should follow the same rules as an integrated direct marketing campaign. You have to capture the attention of the people you are targeting, offer them something of interest (content that piques their interest), and then offer to schedule a time to meet at the conference.
One piece of advice: Don’t just ask people to stop by the booth. Most won’t. Instead, schedule appointments at the event just like you’d schedule a sales call with any prospect. Pick a time, day and place for your meeting. Then be sure to send a follow-up reminder. And get the prospect’s mobile number, so you can text a reminder just before the meeting.
At conference marketing.
If you do all the pre-conference marketing, you will have far greater success at your events. However, don’t slow down once an event starts. Ensure your onsite sales team is trained to proactively approach prospects (it’s amazing how many salespeople at tradeshows just sit inside their booths).
Also, ensure that your people are attending the educational sessions. Not only will they learn more about your industry and topics of interest to your clients and candidates, they’ll be in an ideal environment to network.
And of course, ask your people to take part in the social gatherings that happen after hours. The most important relationships are often built in the bars!
Post conference marketing.
When the conference ends, have a plan to follow up. For every appointment you had during the conference, touch base within three days after you get back to the office. If you scheduled a follow up appointment while at the conference, make sure you have it in your calendar. For the people you did not meet, send a follow up email or sales letter. Apologize for not having the chance to meet, reiterate your value proposition, and offer to schedule a meeting.
To really take your event marketing a step further, consider writing a blog post or conducting a webinar after the event where your team recaps what they learned and other highlights from the event. This content is great for SEO, and it can be of real value to people who were interested in the event but could not attend. It also builds your brand as an industry expert.
Strategy 4: Content & Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing has become the holy grail of marketing in the staffing industry—a technique that gets qualified employers (and job seekers) to come to you seeking your services.
In simple English, inbound marketing is about creating content that brings people to you…and then gets those people to take some sort of action to connect with your company.
Content and inbound marketing is about creating content that your ideal clients and candidates will find useful, and then finding a way to get those people to find that content.
Content can be anything that your target audience finds to be useful, interesting, relevant, timely, educational and/or entertaining. And it can come in lots of different forms, including blog posts, eBooks, infographics, whitepapers, video, webinars, podcasts and more.
Some content marketers focus on creating ONE REALLY VALUABLE piece of content and then promoting that single item to the target audience. Others focus on creating A LOT of content around a variety of topics of interest to the audience.
The best strategy is a combination of both. Create a few bigger pieces of really valuable content (like a salary guide or interviewing how-to manual) and then supplement the big content with lots of blog posts or other shorter form content that demonstrates your expertise and answers the questions employers and job seekers are asking (answering questions is great for SEO).
Creating your inbound conversion path
Once you create content, then you need to get people to find that content. This can be done by:
- SEO. Optimizing your content for search engines.
- PPC. Using paid advertising on Google and social media to promote your content.
- Email. Directly sharing your content (or a link to it) with people you already know.
- Texting. Again, sharing with people you know.
- Social sharing. Sharing the content on social or a link from social media back to your content.
- Influencers. Telling influential people about your content and getting them to promote it.
- Guest content. Giving your content to others to share (e.g., guest blogging).
Once you have found a way to promote your content (and ideally, you’ll promote your content through most if not all of the channels above, then you need to get it to convert. You need to get people to take action.
But what action do you want them to take? It’s one thing to share great ideas; it’s another to have those ideas drive people to inquire about your services or apply for a job.
With content and inbound marketing, you need to carefully consider your calls to action (i.e., asking people to do what you want them to do), and then you need to integrate those CTAs into the content.
Your CTAs may be embedded in the content itself as a link or phone number. They may be a graphic at the end of the content with the desired next step. Or you might have a fly-in or pop-up on your website that appears once they are done with the content.
The goal with content and inbound marketing is to think through that conversion path (content promotion -> website -> content consumption -> action), and then make the path to action as easy to follow as possible.
For most staffing and recruiting companies, 30 percent to 40 percent of sales can come from content and inbound marketing, and it is ideal for targeting smaller prospects you would not be strategically targeting with integrated direct marketing or ABM.
Putting it all together
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into creating the “best” marketing strategy for a staffing agency. The process starts with asking the right questions to really understand where you want to go.
From there, you can then choose the marketing strategies that make the most sense to accomplishing your goals and getting you to your desired destination.
And once you’ve picked the strategies, you can then get to the specific marketing tactics like creating content, updating websites, SEO, PPC and social media.
If you need help, we offer lots of resources:
Smart Marketing Checklist. More than 150 questions to help you evaluate your marketing.
Smart Recruiting Checklist. 190 more questions just on recruitment marketing.
Marketing Best Practices Guide. An eBook outlining the ideas in this post in more detail.