Starting a business is a huge achievement in any field. It shows guts, determination and ingenuity so anyone who is successful in doing so deserves a solid pat on the back.
In the early days of the business a lot of the challenges can be overcome with brute force, work ethic and pure desire.
However, growing it intentionally into a scalable business after that can be much harder and requires a much wider set of skills than the early days.
If your expertise is in the recruiting itself then adapting to other areas like marketing, company culture and HR might not come naturally.
We’ve pulled together some key areas we’ve seen help recruitment companies grow consistently which you can take and implement yourself.
Improve, Improve, Improve
Much of this post will focus on the marketing aspect and ensuring you create a strong funnel of new business.
However, before any of that work starts you need to ensure you’re offering a fantastic service and delivering on the promises you make to clients.
Without that in place great marketing can help, but nowhere near the extent that it would for a great business doing world-class work.
Get your ship in order and think about how what you do can be even better, and once you’ve resolved that side of things switch to the marketing mindset.
The recruitment industry is a crowded market. What sets you apart?
Often the answer is in your target audience. Is there a sector or region you specialise in?
If you can focus in on that audience then everything becomes a lot easier as your resources are focused in one particular area, whether that is marketing efforts, service delivery or anything else.
As recruitment marketing specialists we know the benefit of niching down. Our marketing is much easier because we can target a particular market and specific publications, we know the industry inside out from all our research and as a result the work we do and the results we get are fantastic time after time. The same applies to you.
The main challenge most recruitment agencies have with growth is getting found by enough clients and candidates.
Most agencies are using tried and tested methods like LinkedIn outreach and advertising on job boards, but there are more passive ways of doing this if you put the right foundations in place.
Spend some time doing that and you won’t have to duplicate the same amount of energy every time to get a new client or to fill a role.
There are a variety of areas to improve that will help you get found by more people, more consistently. We’ve seen this approach work consistently, so even if you start just getting a few of these in place you’ll see some positive steps forward.
Most people dive into their website design with the main goal of creating something shiny that looks nice and represents their brand the way they want it to.
However, they often overlook how the website will perform and how it can contribute to marketing efforts in other areas, in particular SEO performance.
Most web designers are good at making things that look nice, but very few combine that with marketing knowledge that ensure you end up with a website that will help your business grow.
Some key aspects to consider before building a website:
Ensure you have looked closely at what your clients and candidates are searching for before building a site. Use tools to analyse competitors and see where they are getting business from. Key technical areas and site structure will be dictated by this research, so proceeding without it leaves you at a massive disadvantage.
You need to be prepared to write content, or for someone else to write it for you. Your clients and candidates are using search engines to look for you (or your competitors) and content is what will help you get found, and then stand out when they visit you.
Website quotes can be scary. But they don’t have to cost the earth. Make sure whoever is doing the job for you has the skills needed and is taking the points above into account. Simple brochure style sites can be extremely affordable, and with the most complex functionality needed likely to be the job listings themselves you should be able to get a great site without breaking the bank.
Search Engine Optimisation
As you’ve hopefully realised already, you should be thinking about SEO long before you build your website.
The market insight keyword research can give you goes way beyond just rankings, and if you do it properly it will inform how your site is built and what structure is required for success.
These are the key things you need to consider on the SEO front to give yourself the best chance of competing.
Use tools like Ahrefs to identify what people in your market are searching for and set your site up in a way that enables you to rank for those phrases.
There will be lots of opportunities beyond the 4 or 5 ‘big’ phrases that probably pop into your head, so think laterally and get into your audience’s head to understand what they might search on their journey to choosing your service.
Once you’ve done the keyword research you need to write the content to match up.
It’s crucial that you structure key elements on the page correctly and if you do that and write great copy to fill in the gaps then you’ll be in good stead to perform well.
This really is an area that can help you massively widen the pool of phrases candidates and clients might find you through so coming up with a good content strategy is a hugely powerful tool in your armoury if used correctly.
It’s a bit of a dirty word in the SEO industry, but getting great links is crucial to search engines trusting you and as a consequence people finding you.
Avoid spammy practices like the plague and stick to getting featured on good quality, relevant sites.
Analysing the competition is a great way of finding opportunities and we’ve generated relationships with a lot of websites that are fantastic links for recruitment companies and help drive forward SEO performance in a sustainable way.
Brand visibility, referral traffic, social proof. There are a wide variety of great reasons for doing PR.
For us, PR is also a fantastic way of getting links that drive your SEO performance as well as all the more traditional benefits listed above.
This combined approach means we get clients featured in top publications that drive awareness, as well as subsequently improving rankings in search engines that drive ongoing business.
For newer businesses this aspect can be crucial in establishing a strong foundation to build from both on and offline.
Social media can be an extremely powerful way of growing awareness of your business if you specialise in a particular area.
If your focus is on the local area then there are usually local Facebook communities like this that consistently share local news and information. These are a goldmine of exposure to local businesses that can become clients, as well as highlighting opportunities for candidates.
You can also use platforms like Facebook for advertising to get your word out to a very specific audience.
We prefer to do this using remarketing to people who have already visited your site as we know they are interested in what you offer. You can also target users based on similar interests where the local angle can also be extremely powerful as well as if you target a particular niche. For example, construction recruiters can find communities focused on the construction industry and advertise to people with those interests.
Finding other businesses that share your target audience is an extremely powerful way of getting fast access to new business.
Once again, this becomes easier when you have a particular niche you target rather than just looking for anyone, anywhere.
Think about who offers complementary services to the same people you’re targeting, without being a direct competitor. If you’re a specialist recruiter for creative agencies then you might partner with a law firm who also specialises in that market, or for the local market you could just partner with any other local business. Local directories can be a great way of finding targets for this.
Once you’ve found some good partners you can leverage that relationship in a huge variety of ways. Some ideas below, though this isn’t an exhaustive list:
- Share each other’s content on your respective social media channels
- Promote each other’s services to your respective client bases
- Create collaborative pieces of content
- Organise events together
- Cross promote each other to email list subscribers
- Write content on each other’s blogs for SEO value and visibility
If you’re looking for an immediate impact then channels like SEO and PR might need some support in the early days. PPC is one way of doing that.
You can use pay per click on a variety of platforms, with Google and Facebook the most popular. Depending on the area of recruitment you’re targeting the costs will vary, but by going more niche you will get better value clicks for your money and usually a better conversion rate too.
Usually over time you can decrease PPC spend as your organic visibility increases and you start to benefit from the investment in activities like SEO and PR.
It’s all well and good getting more people to your site, but if you don’t convert them as well as you might do then you’re leaving money on the table.
It’s amazing what small tweaks you can change that have a big impact. Doing more of these cumulatively will have a significant impact on your business and its growth.
Below are some ways that you can make more of the traffic coming to your site in engaging with them and turning them from visitors into customers.
Conversion Rate Optimisation
If you already get a good amount of traffic to your website then CRO can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
Simple updates like changing the colour of buttons or different text on calls to action can result in more enquiries and increased conversions.
Use Google Optimise to trial this without the need for lots of complex technology and consulting. You just get simple, easy to follow results in Google Analytics that can help you make big steps forward.
Another great way to improve your conversion rate is to increase the number of interactions you have with them.
Building an email list is a great way of doing this, allowing you to engage with clients and candidates over a longer period of time so you can build trust in what you offer.
We recommend people create ‘lead magnets’ that encourage users to hand over their email addresses in return for great advice or insider information that isn’t publicly available.
You can then engage with them through a series of emails where you consistently add value, so when they reach a point when they are ready to hire or apply for a role you are the first person they come to.
This is particularly effective in the recruitment industry, as you can’t force people to recruit or leave their existing roles, you just need to be the first people they think of when the right time arises so being top of mind is crucial.
Remarketing is another way of getting more exposure to people who have visited your website and lengthening the awareness stage of the buying funnel.
Most commonly used on Google’s ad network and Facebook, this involves showing ads to people who have previously been on your website using cookies.
This means you can show more commercially intended messaging to people who have already been on your site and were clearly interested in something you were saying, so that ad spend is much more likely to be effective.
If you invest in content and getting people to your site through more informational pages then this is a great way of increasing the chances of turning those visitors into candidates or clients.
If you’ve been doing PR work and getting coverage on top media sites then you can maximise the value of this by displaying those logos on your site.
This builds trust from new people landing on your site and shows that you know what you’re talking about.
Would you trust a brand that has been featured on the Guardian and New York Post more than one that hasn’t been featured anywhere? If they offered the same pricing and the same service which would you choose? It’s a clear differentiator.
If you’re not already engaging with existing customers and trying to get them to spend more then this should be an early port of call.
People who have already decided to buy off you should be much easy to encourage to buy again (as long as you offer a great service off course – go back to point 1 in this article!).
Here are a few things you can do to try and maximise the value from current customers:
Sell More to Them
If you’re not regularly going back to people who have used you to hire people in the past then you’re missing a huge opportunity.
You’d be surprised how effective this kind of engagement is as many clients might be tempted to shop around if they’re not hiring regularly and then just forget about you.
Try implementing some critical non essentials with them to make the relationship stronger and ensure you are still the first person in their mind when they reach the point of hiring.
Ensure you have an email list of previous clients so you can engage with them using industry updates and adding value from your knowledge so they continue to build their trust in you.
If you do these things then there is no doubt you will get more people using you again and increase revenue per client.
If you build stronger relationships with existing clients then you should also be able to leverage that to get more referrals from them to new clients.
The best way to do this is to incentivise them as even your most ardent followers are probably too wrapped up in their own issues to actively go and shout about you.
Offer additional services for free for new clients referred, or more personal alternative perks that you know clients will love if you’ve built up strong enough relationships. That might be dinner for two in a nice restaurant, tickets to a football match or even a holiday abroad if they refer enough business to you!
As with social proof in the previous section, online reviews inspire confidence in new potential clients who want to separate you from other agencies they are considering.
Encourage all your clients who have good experiences to leave reviews for you on third party online sites like Trust Pilot, Glass Door or Google Reviews.
When you are in the early stages of your business you should be going out of your way to ensure every client has an amazing experience, and then asking them to leave reviews for you.
This builds momentum and makes it easier over time to get new business as reviews get stronger and more people trust you more easily. Combine this with social proof from the PR activity you’ve run and you’ll be in a great place, even as a new business, to convert new enquiries when they come in.
Growing a recruitment business isn’t easy, but there are lots of steps you can take to help develop that are tried and tested.
Even if you cherry pick just a few of the approaches above then that will help you make progress and increasingly adapt more of the tactics and strategies here.
The key stages are:
- Build a good website, with keyword research and SEO at its heart
- Identify a key niche audience and focus your efforts on them
- Research what that audience is searching for and ensure that is built into the content and structure of your website
- Use SEO and PR to grow visibility of your brand online and drive a consistent flow of new business and candidates
- Social Media, PPC and Partnerships can also be great sources of new leads
- Use Email Marketing, Remarketing advertising and Social Proof to convert better
- Run A/B tests to see how different elements on the page help conversion rate optimisation
- Maximise the value of existing customers with referral incentives, reviews and more regular sales to them
Once you are doing these things you should aim to systemise them so you can delegate them to other members of your team, allowing you to delve into the next tactic and continue to increase your visibility, allowing the business to grow consistently off the back of that.