Currently the number one subject I’m being asked about by recruitment agencies is branding. ‘How should we change, improve or consolidate our recruitment agency’s branding’?
The UK has over 10,000 recruitment agencies and thus the importance of differentiating yourself from the competition through your brand is greater than ever. Although marketers have many different definitions of what a brand is, a good encompassing definition is:
“A brand is the sum of all the associations, feelings, attitudes and perceptions that people have related to the tangible and intangible characteristics of a company, product or service.”
What’s important about this definition is that it explains that it’s not just a name, logo or slogan that defines your brand. It’s far more than this and actually represents how people feel about your company – which itself is built upon a complex and emotive set of variables. Therefore such a complex idea warrants significant time and financial investment, if it is to add real value and, ultimately, ROI.
The biggest worldwide brands are well known and embedded in our culture. As we get more granular in terms of verticals, countries and markets, we still see companies with strong brands holding a competitive advantage. I would argue that within the recruitment agency world, some of the biggest agencies aside, branding is something that has largely been ignored, not prioritised or mishandled.
So why are so many recruitment agencies missing out this core element of their marketing strategy?
Many recruitment agencies are sales-led. Often they are owner managed and often owners are ex successful consultants setting up their own businesses. The focus is on sales and targets. Branding is not a priority.
It is expensive. A good branding project takes time, research and ultimately is a significant investment. This investment puts people off.
Many aren’t. They’re just not quite getting it right. Recruitment agencies are often dynamic, constantly changing in personnel and structure. A branding project carried out 5 years ago may be nowhere near something that defines the company in the status quo or the future.
The benefits of branding aren’t fully appreciated.
Clearly the level of interest, particularly from the more aspirational recruitment agencies, in branding is increasing significantly. Many are beginning to realise that strong recruitment agency branding can:
Help win more candidates and more placements.
A strong brand differentiates one from the competition and makes you more memorable to candidates. It can inspire trust, though credibility.
Win more clients.
The stronger your brand, the more likely it is people will have heard of you, and believe or trust in you. Your consultants will feel more confident pitching to new clients.
Maintain or increase your fees or win more PSL status
As well as winning more clients, a strong brand can help influence HR and decision makers when choosing deciding whether they believe the service will warrant the fees charged or who will be on their PSL. Remember the IBM strapline “nobody gets fired for buying IBM”.
Your internal recruitment is helped by a strong brand which is more attarctive to prospective employees.
Help you Specialise
Those that doubt that one brand can work throughout specialist verticals should have a look at Spencer Ogden. Spencer Ogden has a strong, identifiable brand and also manages to demonstrate their specialisms within each of their verticals. E.g. Spencer Ogden Oil and Gas. Spencer Ogden Renewables etc.
On the other hand we have Five Ten who have the strong unique brands Marks Satin, EMR, Antal Russia, Laurence Simons, Greythorn and Ortus under their umbrella. Most recently we have seen Elan IT, Jefferson Wells and Manpower Professional have merged into Experis.
Clearly different agencies are in different stages of evolution and will have different budgets available for marketing and branding. I feel, and I know many agencies who I’ve met with agree, that branding needs to be seen as an important investment that will, long term, result in competitive advantage and a return on investment.
Look out for forthcoming blogs in which I’ll be looking at how some recruitment agencies are successfully branding and some ideas for future recruitment branding.