There isn’t a single industry that can compete with recruitment when it comes to the number of new businesses setting up shop. The total number of recruitment agencies in the UK now stands at a record-high of 27,788 – a three-fold increase since January 2012, and a rise of 18,158 in just five years.
So no matter how established or successful your agency is you cannot ignore the fact that you now have hundreds if not thousands more competitors today than you did three years ago.
Yet, despite this, we continue to hear the clichés – or misconceptions – that remind me of when I used to sell recruitment advertising back in the 1990s and 2000s:
- Everyone knows us, we’ve been around for years
- We’re leaders in each sector we operate
- We’re different
- We’re innovative
- We’re experts in our field
We worked with a recruitment agency that has been established in their local area for over 20 years. They are not only well known they are also the biggest independent agency in their region – perhaps the very definition of a go-to agency.
However, one of their most senior consultants decided to jump ship and set up in competition in the same area. At the same time, and handful of other new agencies also opened their doors and before long the number of new clients coming on board began to slow down even though nothing had changed with that agency.
But that was the problem. They had rested on their laurels and when each new competitor entered the same space as them, they failed to anticipate the impact these new players would have have.
Recruitment start-ups entering the arena know they don’t have the kudos of an established brand to open doors for them. They need to fight harder and offer clients more to secure their business.
And they know they need to create a brand that resonates with the clients they want to work with – modern, frequently updated, engaging, informative, and has a strong call to action. As Dan Pink puts it: “The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation…”
So to go back to the five points mentioned above, if this seems all too familiar with your agency and you think So what? then consider the following:
- Everyone knows us, we’ve been around for years: Does that automatically make you the best or give you a given right to always be first choice for clients? Thomas Cook is one of the oldest and best known holiday companies in the world, but do you always go to them first when booking your next break?
- We’re leaders in each sector we operate: Are you one of the top 10 agencies in the UK? If not, you’re not a leading player and clients won’t think you are either.
- We’re different: Yes, of course you are. And you’re unique too, right? If you think you’re different because of the ‘service’ you provide or the approach to ‘candidate care’ you need to check the websites of other recruiters – they all say the same thing (still think you’re different now?).
- We’re innovative: In what way – is there really no other recruitment firm in the whole of the UK that does things in the same way as you do?
- We’re experts in our field: We’re one of less than five PR firms in the UK that specialises in the recruitment industry, yet we still lose out on some pitches to generalist PR agencies. Being a specialist is no guarantee that clients will want to use us. It’s the same with you – if you think otherwise you are in for a rude awakening.
Clients choose their agency of choice not out of some sense of loyalty but because of what is in it for them. This is what business is all about.
by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, Editor of Recruiter imPRint and managing director of Clearly – The PR and Marketing agency for the Recruitment industry