27 August 2008

The 8 Deadly Marketing Sins in Recruitment

This article originally appeared in Issue 47 of InSight Published 27th August 2008

During my under-graduate days at the University of Tasmania in the mid-1980s, I was more diligent in my pursuit of on-campus extra-curricular activities than I was in the pursuit of good grades. My overall academic record was what you might call modest.

One of my (few) highlights was being awarded my only High Distinction, for Principles of Marketing, a second year subject. It was no surprise that I received my best-ever grade in this subject as the text book we used, Marketing in Australia by Philip Kotler, was actually interesting!

Kotler has long been regarded as an icon in the world of business thinkers. He was selected in 2001 as the #4 major management guru by the Financial Times (behind Jack Welch, Bill Gates, and Peter Drucker,) and has been hailed by the Management Centre Europe as "the world's foremost expert on the strategic practice of marketing."

Given my previous positive experience with Kotler, I keenly read through a recent list of PHILIP KOTLER'S DEADLY MARKETING SINS that I found in a business leadership article. It's an article that could have been written specifically about recruitment companies. I've reproduced the list, below and I have added my thoughts on each of the eight points Kotler makes:

  1. The firm is not sufficiently market-focused and customer-driven
    Recruitment companies are very good at being market-focused, what they mainly lack are processes that demonstrate the fact that the candidate is now just as much the customer as the client.

    Plenty of recruiters talk about a candidate focus but I don't see much evidence of that internally. What I mainly see with respect to candidates is very reactive, eg "let's look at our database only after our Seek ad hasn't delivered enough good candidates for the job".

    Candidate-specific marketing and loyalty programs that
    have equal budget, importance and focus to client programs are still very much the exception rather than the rule.
  2. The firm does not fully understand its target customer
    The most successful recruiters and recruitment companies that I have dealt with, have a razor sharp focus on their target customer. They know their market niche, they thrive on building their expertise in this niche and they pride themselves on knowing things about that niche that their competitors don't.

  3. The firm needs to better define the competitive forces
    The major competitive force in today's recruitment market place is the client.  More specifically, the client who is building their internal recruitment capability. Most recruiters still view their major competitors as other agencies competing for the same clients.

  4. The firm is not good at finding new opportunities
    There are many opportunities available for recruitment companies in the recruitment-related areas of HR consulting, outplacement, training, talent management, payroll outsourcing as well as unbundled recruitment services.

    Very few recruitment companies offer any of the other services I just listed, let alone do it with any sense of purpose or genuine expertise.

  5. The firm's marketing plans and planning processes are deficient
    Unless a recruitment company has dedicated marketing staff, this area, if left to recruiters or managers/owners who also recruit, is inevitably reactive, poorly resourced and low on the priority list. The results of this are obvious for all to see.

  6. The firm's brand building and communications efforts are weak
    You only have to visit the average recruitment company website or pick up a random recruitment company brochure to know how appallingly bland, boring and mind-numbingly similar most of them are.

    The opportunities here for creating a genuine point of difference are enormous, if only someone could be bothered to make an effort.

  7. The firm is not well-organised to carry on marketing
    No clear plan + nobody accountable + few resources = chaos.

  8. The firm has not made maximum use of technology
    Manual files for candidates and jobs still dominate many recruitment company offices. Recruiters still have their own, individual Excel spreadsheets to provide parallel information to the database that they haven't been trained to use or can't be bothered to use, effectively and efficiently.

    The amount of money wasted in this area by recruiters is enough to make a grown man cry.
Recruitment companies are, mostly, great at talking about a sales culture and how important it is to have a sales mentality as a recruiter. What tends to get missed is any significant discussion, resources or action with respect to marketing.

By taking some time away from sales (pushing existing products) and re-investing it in marketing (understanding actual and potential customer needs and wants) you might be surprised what opportunities are available to you and your organisation to build a more robust business that has more satisfied customers who generate greater profits with less resources.

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