Branding/Marketing/PR Thought Leadership

The rise of the fake ‘market leaders’ duping recruitment agencies

Written by the Editorial Team

by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

In today’s increasingly competitive business landscape, organisations need to pull out all the stops to raise their profile and position themselves as the provider of choice for their target market. This is surprisingly easier than many might think (providing you know what you are doing of course), but there are some companies who are taking this to the extreme and doing none other than lying to their market.

As a business, we currently work with 16 executive search firms and recruitment agencies on a retained basis and we now operate with clients in the UK, US, Germany, and France. Since 2014, we have worked with 100’s more within this sector, and today we are recognised as being one of the top two agencies in the UK operating in this space.

We may even be the biggest and have the widest geographical reach right now. But I will not claim that we are the market leader – that’s for others to attribute to us.

However, there are some players who know they have very little market share yet claim to be the dominant provider in their space.

For instance, within the recruitment marketing sector, one such company positions themselves as “The Number 1 Inbound Marketing Agency for the Global Recruitment Sector”. This is simply untrue. A fallacy. It is pure vanity.

If you are a recruitment business leader or marketer, the following should serve as a rude awakening and a kick up the proverbial if you’re currently on the hunt for a new PR and Marketing agency:

Perception is key

Suppose you are a fast-growing recruitment company that has ambitious plans for 2020. You want to double your headcount, triple your profits and expand the business into the United States. You recognise that you need a combination of outbound PR (media relations, speaker opportunities, quotes, interviews) and inbound PR (white papers, blogs, case studies, social media, video) to help you.

If you claim to be the market leader, and you’re not, and your competition does the same, can either business be trusted with your company’s reputation and brand?

Chances are your agency won’t have the inhouse expertise or capacity to undertake the promotional plan that needs to be executed, so you set about appointing an outside company to help you invite three specialist agencies to pitch for your account.

·      Company One self-aggrandises as the global leading inbound marketing agency for the recruitment industry.

·      Company Two describes themselves as the only PR agency with experience of working with recruitment agencies on a global basis.

·      Company Three takes an altogether different approach. They focus on you and target their message squarely on what is important to your business: “Build your brand, engage your market, become a go-to, and drive new revenues.” *

If you look at company’s One and Two first, which one is telling the truth? Is Company One really the global leader, and is there no other PR and Marketing agency for the recruitment sector that operates internationally other than Company Two (see previous comment in Para 2, line 2)? One suspects a porkie or two is being told here.

The word ‘leader’ is singular and can only apply to one company, so if two companies claim the same thing – which one is lying and how do you find out?

More important, if both claim much of the same thing, who do you believe? Not only that, if your first interaction with one of these agencies sees them focus on me, me, me rather than your needs, are they the right partner for you in the first place?

Unearthing the truth

The adage that buyers are liars is true, and it can be applied to sellers too. So, when choosing which company you will impart your hard-earned marketing budget to, do some due diligence first and ask your preferred agencies the following critical questions:

1.    What constitutes your market leader status – do you have the largest share of the market both in terms of revenues? If not, that doesn’t make you’re a sector leader, or have we missed something?

2.    The recruitment sector has 40,000 agencies operating within it, how many of these do you currently work with?

3.    If we asked your competitors if they regard you as the UK or global leader, would they say you are and would the market itself agree?

4.    Market leaders become such because they are very good at retaining clients and winning repeat business, what is your client retention rate? **

5.    Who will work on our account and what experience do they have of working with recruitment businesses like ours?

6.    Can I see examples of their written work? ***

7.    Can you provide us with at least two references from clients – one who is current and one who you have worked with previously? ****

Remember that kid at school who always thrust their arm up into the air to ask the teacher, ‘Why?’ That’s what you as agency leaders and recruitment marketers need to do when considering which specialist PR and Marketing agency you look to support your brand-building and growth strategy.


* Yes, you are right, Company Three is us…Clearly.

** 95% of all clients who we take on for a contract of six or 12 months, remain with us for at least a further six months. This, we understand, is the highest client retention rate in the sector.

*** Unlike some of our competitors in the recruitment space, we’re true specialists in what we do. Some of the team are former journalists, others have been heads of marketing and communications of international blue-chip organisations.

**** We have two clients that are still with us since the business was launched in 2014.