The last six years have seen a growth never experienced before. Back in 2012, there were just 12,500 recruitment agencies operating in the UK – I say just, because while this is still a sizeable number, it pails into insignificance when compared with the 40,000 or so we see today.
It is a great time to be in working in recruitment, but the challenge for agency owners and those responsible for the marketing and PR of them, is how to position theirs above increasingly competitive noise? It’s not easy, especially when you factor that each agency has around three-times more competitors now than it did just a few years back. But it is more than possible to achieve – by selling your people, without selling in the traditional sense.
As a PR and Content Marketing agency, we currently work with 16 recruitment agencies and executive search firms and over the last 5-6 years we have supported over 100 both in the UK but also in the US, too.
Common to each of them are teams of consultants who truly know their arses from their elbows. They’ve worked in their sectors for years, have acquired a knowledge and insight into what works well, and what doesn’t.
Yet, until we start working with them, most of these agencies have failed to tap into this and recognise how marketing this in the right way can pay dividends both from a branding and revenue perspective.
Here’s a typical example of what I mean. We get approached by an agency who say they need help getting their name known and on the radar of the clients they really want to be doing business with. Great, I say. Let’s meet.
And so, we arrange a meeting, typically with the MD or CEO, the operations manager and the head of marketing. The conversation goes really well, we’re asked to talk about our experiences of working with other agencies and the results we have delivered for them. The client loves it, this is just what they have been looking for. So, we sign a contract and we’re ready to start.
The very first meeting we have as that agency’s new PR and Content partner is not with the same people we met during the pitch stage, it’s the consultants. It is they who speak with their prospects and clients every day, they know why people do business with them, and why they don’t, they know how good their competitors are and how to sell against them, and it is these consultants who have the market knowledge to be able to talk confidently about what is happening in their sectors right now.
This is critical information, and so we sit with each consultant for 10-15 minutes and get them talking about all of these things that I have just mentioned. What skills are in highest demand right now? How is the market shaping up ahead of Brexit? Where do you see the greatest opportunities coming from in the next 12 months? And so on.
These questions are quick-fire – after all, for consultants, time is money and they want to be spending more of it on billable activity. But the answers we get can often be priceless.
One example of this is an executive search firm we have worked with for two years. Their CEO is a powerful and highly influential figure who has become one of the most recognised champions for inclusion in the workplace. Too many people claim to be experts, few actually demonstrate that they are. In the case of this client, we knew his knowledge and in-depth understanding of diversity issues was second to none, so we authored a series of thought leadership articles for the company website, his personal LinkedIn profile and for the recruitment, management, national and international press.
He has become the go-to expert on all things diversity in the workplace and in recent months has featured in a plethora of national newspapers, TV interviews.
All of this does more than simply make an individual and the agency they represent look good. It drives new visitors to the agency website, it boosts the number of new enquiries that are received which in turn increases the number of conversions (assuming the consultants receiving these enquiries are good a selling, of course), and it drives repeat business – even consolidating sales that have already been made.
For instance, we had secured a new client and shortly after signing a contract, they saw us quoted in one of the recruitment magazines -–they said, “You really do practice what you preach.” To which I replied, “Absolutely, we know our stuff, we talk about it and share insights. And in doing so, this PR malarkey really does generate revenues and enable businesses to grow – it’s how we’ve become a 10-person team with half a million in revenues in less than two years.”
If it can work for us and for our clients, then PR can work for you too…if you also know your arse from your elbow!