Six Ways Recruitment Firm Brands Bleed Value to their Competition

One industry I think is particularly behind the curve in the brand space is recruitment. They misunderstand the value of ‘brand’ and the disproportionately important role it plays in customer interaction which happens primarily in the digital sphere.

Most (not all) recruitment firms have given scant thought to their brand. In general, they tend to be skin-deep and poorly executed identities, layered on top of a relatively generic and functional website leading to empty and mechanical experiences. (Is that too harsh?..perhaps I’m exaggerating to make a point!). 

Now, I know that the most important thing in the professional services area is the recommendation, but that’s not to say other areas of the ‘experience’ should be ignored. In a category where the bar is so low, just think about the value to be gained with some investment in this space: more enquiries, better quality enquiries, higher does all help to ring the cash register.

So, here are some of the most common mistakes we see:

1. Website & brand are treated as separate things. 

This is legacy behaviour from a decade ago, but it’s still happening. Companies planning their approach to marketing in silos: brand happens in a graphic design space and digital (or websites) are devolved to a separate development-led agency, or even worse…IT. This creates disjointed and schizophrenic customer experiences which, ultimately, bleeds value to the competition.

In a digital-first world, where your website is the first (and maybe only) brand experience your customers have with the business, you have to make sure they’re both joined up and consistent in style, content and execution.

2. Thinking you’re not an online business.

An extension of point one, but it’s true no matter what sector or business you’re in: all businesses are online businesses. What do we all do when we’re planning a purchase? We look online. 

According to Marketo (a software company), 93% of all B2B purchases start with an internet search. This is where the game starts! And it’s a messy process. It’s not linear or sequential. It goes round and round until decisions are made in the customers’ minds.

This is better understood and managed in the B2C world; but it’s just as true in B2B.

3. Customers will give us a call in the first instance.

They may call, but in reality, this happens much later as customers actively choose to avoid conversations with companies. We’ve come to prefer information gathering on the internet, rather than talking to a salesperson. Stats show that on average, a customer’s first engagement with salespeople is when they’re 57% way through their journey to purchase*.

So, what are they doing in that 57%? They’re gathering info and it’s your job to create branded content that helps customers in this research phase. At this stage, it’s likely to be more generalised content, rather than sales specific. It’s ‘helping’ content over ’selling’ content; but it needs to be planned, curated and ‘owned’ by the brand.

4. Not thinking like a customer.

Many businesses second guess what their customers are coming to the site for and suffer from what we call ‘an inside out bias’. What makes sense around the boardroom table rarely makes sense to the customer. By investing in some simple customer journey research, you can gain critical insights into what they’re trying to achieve. Another killer stat: 74% of sales go to the first company that was helpful**.

The bottom line here is that your customers have to make 35K decisions a day. Are you making it easy for them? Think about what they want. Is the content useful, relevant and helpful?

5. Prioritising the home page over the service and product pages.

Another challenge is that once you get beyond a slick home page, most of the content on the service and product pages tend to be verbose, repetitive and dull. But in reality, they’re the ones that do the heavy lifting. The brand really needs to stand up in these pages and live in the detail: providing seamless calls to action, making it easy to find out more, and sounding like a human, rather than a machine. The aggregation of all of these small details help create a great brand experience.

6. Ignoring the powerful role of language and tone.

Saving the best for last. Language is the most powerful and humanising tool in a brand’s armoury. And here’s the thing…in B2B it’s overlooked more than anything else. Many B2B organisations come off as oddly formal, verbose or using too much jargon in a misguided attempt to come across as professional. A good brand tone, with a discipline around headlines, hierarchies and summaries does more for your brand than a nice logo and a slick video. And sounding friendly and relatable doesn’t compromise professionalism.

The other point to remember here is that in the social channels there’s just less room for design and it tends to be about the words, so it pays to know who you are and how you should sound.

Easy to fix.

None of this is really rocket science, and it’s relatively easy to fix. The trick is to think like a customer. They don’t differentiate between your brand and your website; they consider them one and the same thing. So, consider your website as the base to which all marketing channels lead and make sure you’re looking after it and populating it with content the consumer actually wants.

If any of this feels familiar, then now’s the time to stop bleeding value. Give us a call to talk about how we can help.


* CeB, MlC Customer Purchase Research Survey, 2011.

** Lauri Wizdo: Are your sales reps butchering your early stage leads?