There is a difference between marketing and branding for agency recruiters and search consultants. They are NOT the same thing.
In short, marketing represents your efforts to get the attention of another person. In the case of agency recruiters and search consultants, these other people are typically candidates and hiring managers.
On the other hand, branding represents your efforts to communicate information about yourself (and your agency) to these people once you have successfully gained their attention. And everything that you say and do—and don’t say and do—affects your branding efforts.
This is also known as the recruitment experience that you provide to others.
Recruitment branding and . . . paper towels?
There is a pivotal point in the business process where marketing becomes branding. This point is when you make your first contact with a prospective customer or client. Up until that point, all you’ve really been doing is marketing yourself and/or your agency, with a little “pre-branding” thrown in.
The reason it’s “pre-branding” is because the prospect is forming an opinion of you based upon your method of marketing. What customers think of you based on your marketing materials is just one part of the branding process.
Think of it this way. We are bombarded by commercials and advertisements on a nearly non-stop basis. They’re seemingly everywhere, touting every type of product known to man (and woman), and they all claim to do this or that.
But do you make any concrete, definite decision about a product or service just because of the information contained in that commercial? Of course not. Decisions like that aren’t made simply through a dispensation of information, especially when it’s subjective in nature. (In fact, some people are pre-disposed to NOT believe the information for that very reason.)
So when have you made a definite decision about a product or service? After you’ve used it. Or to put it another way, after you’ve experienced it. This is why first impressions are so important. From the very first encounter, people are forming opinions and judgments about you and your services, whether you—or they—realize it or not.
Bounty Paper Towels has branded itself as “The Quicker Picker-Upper.” Sounds great, but did anybody really believe that the first time they heard it? No. But once they used the paper towel, their experience showed them that was the case.
The paper towel absorbed liquids more quickly than other name brands. Therefore, the information they received about the product was validated by their experience using it. True branding was taking place.
Saying, “Our search firm specializes in providing targeted hiring solutions for high-tech companies in the Automation industry” is both marketing and “pre-branding.” Actually providing targeted hiring solutions, as well as an outstanding experience in the process, is TRUE branding.
And you achieve it through the validation of the recruitment experience that you provide to others.
Experience is how a candidate or prospective client validates whether or not your branding message is accurate. In other words, they experience whether you actually do and say what you claim to do and say.
Now for the bad news. It’s entirely possible for your recruitment branding efforts to be negative in nature. Even worse, you can market yourself in one way and brand yourself in another. This leads to a corrosion of credibility that is difficult to reverse.
Recruitment branding for search consultants is delicious!
Let’s say, for instance, that you love pie. Really, who doesn’t love pie? You visit a restaurant that claims to have the “the best apple pie in the state.” That’s a rather aggressive branding statement, isn’t it? (Especially if there aren’t any prominently displayed awards to back it up.)
So you order a generous slice of this pie, and to your dismay, the apples taste sour, the crust is hard, and to top it all off, the service is terrible. Are you going to walk out of the restaurant thinking to yourself, “Wow, that was the best apple pie in the state.”? No, you’re going to walk out thinking, “I am never, ever going to eat pie at that restaurant again.” To recap:
The branding message (before the customer’s experience)—“We have the best apple pie in the state.”
The branding message (during and after the customer’s experience)—“We have the worst apple pie in the history of all mankind.”
Here’s something else that’s important to remember. That negative branding message was amplified in the mind of the customer because the marketing message that preceded it promised exactly the opposite of what they experienced. It would have been better for the restaurant if it had not attempted to brand itself at all. Or at the very least, not branded itself as having “the best apple pie in the state.”
That’s because you, the customer, had an “experience expectation,” one to which you were committed to holding the restaurant. After all, you plunked down money to see if the experience matched the expectation. When the two didn’t match . . . well, that was bad news for the restaurant. (And for any company that uses a branding message to set up an expectation that’s not matched by the experience of its customers).
It is crucial for a company’s customers or prospects to have a branding experience that’s consistent with its message. If you promise things to customers, clients, and candidates that you can’t deliver, then you’re driving them to your competition, and that’s not an exaggeration. That’s because not only will your customers or prospects believe you deliver an inferior service, but they’ll also believe—accurately or not—that you’re misleading at best and dishonest at worst.
That’s a double-whammy dose of negativity that can drain your firm’s energy, not to mention its profits.
Recruiter branding: it’s all about people
What follows are four key recruitment branding strategies that agency recruiters and search consultants should remember.
#1—Recognize that marketing and recruiter branding are different.
Understand the different purposes that they serve and utilize them with those distinct purposes in mind. Getting them mixed up will only serve to confuse your candidates, clients, and prospective clients. (Not to mention yourself.)
#2—Make sure your marketing message and branding message are consistent.
If you say that you do something or are something, ensure that’s the case. Validate your marketing message through your candidates’ and clients’ branding experience.
#3—Make sure recognition and implementation of the message is consistent.
This means consistent across your entire recruiting agency or firm. If you’re a one-person operation, that might be fairly simple. For a 20-person office, the degree of difficulty increases.
In order to maximize the impact and effectiveness of both your marketing and branding recruitment strategies, everybody must be on the same page. They must also realize their individual roles and how they contribute to the big picture. (As with all successful endeavors, effective communication is the key.)
#4—Continually refine and tweak both systems.
Find out what works and what doesn’t and react (and act) accordingly. Marketing and branding your firm and its services should never be a stagnant process. It should always be evolving, changing, and adapting to meet your unique needs, as well as the different challenges presented by today’s marketplace.
In the recruitment industry, all you deal with are people. People represent the customers. People represent the service. They also represent the product. And all of these people have the power to brand you in their minds, either negatively or positively. Make it one of your top priorities to influence their branding decision any way that you can.
Remember, a successful recruitment campaign is just the beginning. Using your recruiting software and recruiting network to deliver the promises of that campaign, and fulfill them consistently, will allow you to brand yourself and your firm positively and make you the recruiter of choice for both candidates and clients.
Recruitment branding and training videos
If you’re an agency recruiter or search consultant and you’re looking to improve your recruitment branding efforts, you can do so with continuous training and education. The good news is that we can help with the Top Echelon Expert Recruiter Coaching Series of webinars!
These webinars are conducted by some of the most popular trainers in the recruiting and staffing industry on the second Tuesday or Wednesday of every month. If you register for a live webinar and can not attend, we record the sessions so that you can access it at a later date. These recorded versions are then posted on our website as free recruitment and selection training courses in the Top Echelon Recruiter Training Library.
Top Echelon’s coaching series of webinars addresses the fundamentals of the recruiting and staffing profession. They also include the latest tips, trends, and strategies in the industry. These topics deal with candidates, clients, and sometimes both, depending upon the speaker and their areas of specialization and expertise. As always, our goal with these webinars (and corresponding videos) is to help agency recruiters and search consultants make more placements.
Training videos about recruiter branding
Below are two of the videos in the Top Echelon Recruiter Training Library that deal with recruitment branding. Click on the title of each video for access.
- “Advanced Branding Strategies for Recruiters” by Jon Bartos
- “Personal Branding: Your Secret to More Applications and Better Candidates” by Brad Bialy
In addition to webinars and training videos by some of the biggest names in the profession, Top Echelon offers a recruitment software and ATS that can help you brand yourself and your agency effectively and also save time in the process. We invite you to try our top applicant tracking system FREE for 15 days. You don’t need a credit card to start your trial and there is no obligation.
Click HERE to start your free trial of Top Echelon’s recruiting software.
But have no worries. You don’t even have to commit to a free trial period. You can request a live demo first to see if the software will be a fit.
Click HERE to request a live demo of Top Echelon’s recruiting software.