Toe-dipping marketers don’t finish first

Digital marketing is measurable and you can scale up from a small start.  You can test to your hearts’ content.

Dip your toe.  Try this.  Optimise that.  Tweak this.

Dip your foot.  Optimise.  Tweak.  Try a bit more.

Dip your ankle…


“Don’t bunt.  Aim out of the ball park.  Aim for the company of immortals.”

David Ogilvy


When your competitors tested it a while back and are today using it successfully what are you actually “testing”?  Are you testing the platform, the product, the channel? Or are you testing your own ability to use them effectively?


Digital marketing doesn’t need more testers of the mainstream – especially not in saturated markets.  Marketing needs a hero to do it bigger, better and have more impact.


So when they are swimming laps and you are still dipping your toe it is unlikely that you are going to win the race.

Swimming pool

Why “added value” makes me want to punch myself in the face

Halfway through a conversation I had to refrain from punching myself in the face as I realised I was falling victim to the buzzword de jour, and in doing so devaluing my job, experience and that of my team.

The conversation went something like this:

“So this new process will mean less time spent doing X and more time spent…”

I paused… and slowly saw a smile creeping onto the face of the person with whom I was speaking.

“You were about to say ‘adding value’ weren’t you?”

“I was, and now I hate myself,” was my reply.

Like most buzzwords over time they lose their meaning and start to drift further into the ether of abstract corporate waffle.  Adding value could literally mean anything.  When I talk about my team and what we do on a day to day basis “adding value” is possibly the weakest way of describing it.

We aren’t “adding value” – we are working with our clients to help them use complicated tools in simple ways.  We are helping them to achieve their goals through intelligent marketing.  We are sharing the experience and knowledge that we have amassed over years of study, from countless books read and from the tens of thousands of client interactions.

Is that adding value?  Of course it is!  But to belittle ourselves by referring to it in such an abstract and feeble manner is not self-deprecating; it is bloody ridiculous.

3 Steps to Easy Content Marketing

Content: It is important but difficult to pull off. In fact according to research from Hubspot creating content and measuring the return on invest are two of the biggest challenges faced by marketers today.

Despite statistics demonstrating that posting and sharing content helps build your brand, drives engagement with your target audience and actually leads to more conversions (applications to jobs or clients getting in touch) the vast majority of recruitment businesses haven’t invested in content marketing training or hired content experts. This is huge lost opportunity.

Over the last 12 months my team and I have spent many hours educating our clients on how to make creating content simple. Here I’ll share a couple of tricks which will save you time and effort.

So what can you do today to save time, create more content and have an instant impact?

It starts with the way your structure your content. Since school we’ve heard about building stories with the right Beginning, Middle and Ending. When it comes to content creation and content marketing think of these three steps as chapters titled Problem, Solution and Resolution.

Chapter one. The Beginning – Problem:

Highlight a problem that your target audience of candidates or clients face. This could be a problem that they are very aware of (how do I prepare for an upcoming interview) or something that is news to them (did you know the job of a marketing director will become redundant because of “Growth Hackers”).

Conversations between recruiters and their candidates or clients should raise challenges that these individuals or businesses face. Build a process in your business where marketing and front line recruiters speak regularly to share what the hot topics of the day are.

When highlighting problems that your clients and candidates might not be aware of – such as changing market factors which could impact their career progression, or legislation changes which might mean hiring certain candidates becomes difficult – try to add statistics or data from third party sources to validate the issue.

Chapter two. The Middle – Solution:

Explore what your clients and candidates can do to solve these problems. In the earlier examples this might include a vide tutorial on how to act in an interview and some tips for the most common questions, or training courses and book recommendations for marketers looking to learn about “Growth Hacking”.

The more comprehensive your solution, the better you demonstrate how well you understand your business and the market. For years now recruitment consultancies have been talking about the “value added service” which they offer alongside their standard recruitment offering. Here is the opportunity to deliver on that promise.

Content with a framework or process which is easy to follow will often be more successful and increase the number of social shares you receive.

Chapter three. The End – Resolution:

Having highlighted a problem, explained how it can be fixed you now have an opportunity to share examples of people / businesses who have followed these recommendations to see success.
Showing real life examples instantly builds credibility. This is like a case study on what your business has done and therefore what you can do for other clients or candidates.

Going back to the earlier examples you might show how someone managed to get their dream job as a result of your interview advice, or how “Growth Hacking” has changed your client’s marketing department.

Well does it work?

Heck yes! In fact this process is used across case studies, self-help books, adverts and infomercials.

Take the recent advert on television from AO. They highlight a problem shared by many parents; children get dirty, and occasionally washing machines break down. Then they describe the solution which involved contacting AO. Finally the entire video is a resolution because it is narrated in the first person by the family involved.

In a recent session with clients in the LinkedIn office several recognised this formula from articles they had read or had written themselves unknowingly.

Content Marketing photo in office
Even this blog post takes the format of Problem, Solution, Resolution.
Problem: “Content: It is important but difficult to pull off.”
Solution: “It starts with the way your structure your content.”
Resolution: “Take the recent advert on television from AO.”

Please let me know if you try this formula and if you have success with it. Any feedback is welcome.


For more information check out this slide deck below…


Sales Vs. Marketing – should you do one without the other?

The best recruiters act like marketers. The best marketers act like sales people.

The challenge modern businesses face is that whilst the roles of marketing and sales are on their way to converging, the day to day activities each party undertakes are still distant cousins.
According to HubSpot the tools that marketers prefer are predominantly inbound lead generators – like social media, whereas sales professionals lean more towards outbound tools – like the telephone and email.

Marketing vs Sales

Inbound activities such as social media and content marketing are like marketing with a magnet whilst cold calling and untargeted traditional advertising is marketing with a proverbial sledgehammer smashing your prospect over the head with your message regardless of their interest or relevancy. Thoughtful and targeted still works when it comes to advertising and cold calling. Take for instance the practice of calling companies who are posting job adverts; if you are recommending the perfect candidate the client is more likely to listen to you. That is smart and relevant. Your prospect has an obvious business problem which you can fix with your candidate.

In the above example I say “more likely” because the fact of the matter is that this prospect has probably had a dozen calls this morning already and two dozen emails with the “perfect candidate” being speculatively pitched.

2013-11-26 09.18.422

Rather than extol the virtues of inbound marketing and sneering irreverently at telesales professionals I truly believe that both have a place and should work in conjunction for maximum impact. Having started my career making cold calls (a job / challenge that I absolutely loved!), I believe that there is a still a place for telesales and cold calling. However cold calling without the support of marketing is like bringing a knife to gun fight.

One person, one phone, how many calls?

It is impossible to make unlimited calls within a finite timeframe, and although training and coaching can help people to hone the skills of a sales person on each call it is still a lot of investment with a variable return.

Whilst I would never say that marketing generates 100% returns I will say that the equation of sales and marketing working together is better than the sum of their parts.

Sales + Marketing = <Sales only OR <Marketing only.

(Measuring the ROI of social media is hard – but here are a few ideas)

Marginal Gains

“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”
Dave Brailsford

Mr. Brailsford was on to something. The fact his cycling teams won 59 World Championships and multiple gold medals at the Olympics was no fluke. Make everything you do more effective and your business will be more successful.

  • Training makes each call better.
  • Good call lists and research make every call more relevant.
  • Fantastic candidates to pitch increase the likelihood of a close.
  • Warmed-up contacts who have been marketed to make for better calls and conversations.
  • An inbound lead makes for the quickest of turnarounds.

Maximise your calls
In the same way that untargeted calls get little return it makes sense to have a targeted approach to marketing. Focus your energies and resources on a specific audience which is manageable (by manageable I mean reasonable within the means of your time, budget and skills). Select the audience you want to influence and begin to market to them.

Business courses and marketing qualifications talk about the “buyers journey”,” sales funnel” or “marketing funnel”. Familiarise yourself with it. Understand who needs to see your business and start to build up awareness with this target audience, deliver a message that makes them consider you and your services. If that message is good enough and resonates that target audience will start to generate a preference or bias towards you compared to other businesses and competitors. At that point you may well drive conversions directly through inbound leads, but equally you should be targeting these people with traditional sales methods like telesales. Calls to a warmed up audience are substantially more likely to drive returns.

Buyers Journey

According to the Harvard Business Review 57% of a decision to buy from a business happens before contact with a sales person. That top of the funnel marketing activity dictates the success at the bottom of the funnel.

The Cold Call

Killing the cold call starts when you warm up the audience with marketing. A colleague of mine worked for a well-known recruitment agency (the one where everyone wears blue suits and brown shoe wearers would historically be sent home to find more appropriate attire). In his years at this agency he never once made a cold call. The reason being that every person he interacted with already knew the business, the brand and had made their mind up if they were good or not. The quality of the recruiter rarely came into question as quality was assumed based on the brand’s reputation in the market. When this colleague moved to a start-up he finally learnt what cold calling was. Introducing a new business or a new concept is hard when your target audience has no frame of reference to work with.

If you ask him where he preferred working he can’t deny that life was easier at the well-known agency.

Make your life easy. Be a well-know agency.  Start marketing now.

Why I Never Wear T-shirts to Client Meetings

LinkedIn is one of the most laid-back companies I’ve worked at from a dress-sense perspective.  I’ve seen people wearing shorts in the office.  Actual shorts.  Sometimes even with flip-flops.

Whilst I have adapted my old-fashioned ways and developed a fondness for Casual Fridays (heck, I’ve been spotted in a t-shirt and hoody) I will never see a client in a t-shirt.  And neither will the majority of my colleagues.

But why not?

A t-shirt in a business meeting doesn’t deliver the right message.  No matter how laid back your company or your client, if you are discussing a professional solution the industry standard is to wear something professional.  Not necessarily a suit.  Suits are no longer the by-word for professional.  That isn’t expected in this day and age.  But you need to wear something that meets the standards of a professional company.

Casual Friday Darth Vadar

Your clients and candidates expect to see you in a certain way; and whilst you may wear shorts and flip-flops in the office when no-one is around, you need to be dressed to impress online.  How are you positioning your business across your website or social media?  Is it shorts or a shirt?

Having a minimum standard is essential.  A website and social media presence today is how you are dressed when no-one is looking.   Button up or risk the chance of failing at the first impression.

Some of my best friends are Active

In recruitment marketing people seem to see the Active Candidate as a dirty word.  We just forget about these folks. The fact is some of my best friends are Active.  Probably 25% of them in fact…


25% active – 75% passive

These active candidates who only make up between 20-25% of the talent out there have nothing wrong with them.  They may still be able to do a good job for your business, and we shouldn’t forget about them.

When I started as a recruiter I focused on purely active people.  During that time I placed my now-wife (she ruined my profit margins by negotiating an extortion pay-rate), as well as friends and family in roles when they were looking. I was a hero to them.

As I became a better recruiter I realised that only tapping into those who were looking wasn’t going to allow me to fill every role I picked up.  This is when I went Passive.  I was finding the best people in the market, not just the best on the market.  I was a hero to my clients.

Today I am not a recruiter; I haven’t been for years.  But I still get emails and InMails from contacts asking if I can help them with their next job.  Some of these contacts I placed previously, many of whom I didn’t and for years I’ve been completely useless to them… but suddenly I am useful again when they become active.

Why contact me?  Why not Google a recruiter?

Because all I do, all day, every day is talk, share, blog, Tweet about recruitment.  They see me as the expert in this field.  I have managed to stay top of mind for several years and my brand is such that I am still a trusted advisor.  I will say this: there are much better recruiters than me out there (the best I worked with was probably Elleni) – but why would someone go and look for them when they know exactly where I am?  Let us not forget that not everyone trusts recruiters, and in fact the recruitment industry in general still doesn’t have a great name .  People go where they see an expert and avoid a cowboy.

No matter how well known you think you are, how many candidates you have placed or how big your database is you can’t guarantee that your target audience is thinking about you right now or at the moment they want a new job.  Ask yourself: when was the last time my target audience thought about me in terms of their career or their next job?

When friends and family contact me for advice on their CVs or interviews I am more than happy to help.  In fact, most of the time I am flattered if not a little surprised.  But when you think about my social footprint I seem a pretty logical choice.  Recently whilst on holiday with my wife in Mexico I had a bracelet made.  I shared it on Instagram…

#Staffing taking over in #Mexico now. Don’t hate the player – hate the game. #Staffing4life

A photo posted by Alex (@alphanovembercharlie) on

Recruitment consultancies need to constantly get their message out to market to promote the fact that they are experts in recruitment and experts in the industries in which they work, otherwise they won’t see the applications, registrations or inquiries when people finally become active.

Buyers Journey

The investment of time, resource and skills upfront may seem large, but it generates a never ending cycle of potential talent.  Build your brand, build awareness and build a following and you can reap the rewards long term.  Stay top of mind as your ideal candidate may just be becoming active…

Solving Strategic vs Tactical Problems

In business we spend our time solving problems.  Most of us are thinking about fixing or improving something before we clock off at the end of the day.  This probably means we are thinking tactically.  Thinking tactically isn’t a bad thing as it would be terrible to think strategically all the time; nothing would ever get done.

But in a business there needs to be a combination of strategic thinking and tactical decision making.

How can you tell the difference?
Ask yourself what your current problem is.

“I need more CVs from accountants”

Tactically you might do a dozen things; post some jobs, ask for referrals etc.  But if you probe deeper and ask “Why” you’ll unearth something new.  A bigger problem.

“Why do I need more CVs from accountants?  Why don’t I already have them?”

It might be because you aren’t known in this market or it is incredibly competitive.

“Why aren’t we known?  Why is it so hard to attract these candidates?”

It might be because your brand isn’t recognised or respected in that market.

“Why isn’t my brand known?  Why don’t people care about us?”

If you have a problem then ask yourself “Why” at least three times or until you come to the root of a problem.  These are your strategic problems.  A strategic problem when solved should help to improve your business for the long term and understanding your strategic problems will help you know the best tactics to use.

Start by asking “Why” more.

Update to post…

Tim Grogan kindly shared this framework called “The 5 Whys”.

You can read more about this here…

Can you Tweet your brand?

The optimal length for social media updates keeps getting shorter.  The top performing LinkedIn posts in the last month were 120 characters or less and all contained images or videos.  The optimum length for a blog headline has also shrunk down to just 6 words.  This post only used 5, as have all of my most read blogs.

As our attention span shrinks and our need for instance gratification increases brands need to develop easy to digest core messages that describe what they do and how they do it.

This exercise should be taken further than just the social media space.  In Talk Like TED it recommends that each business interaction and presentation be summarised in a less than 140 character, the length of a Tweet, in order to be memorable for the audience.

Can you capture what you do in less than 140 characters?

My headline on LinkedIn is:

Helping recruitment agencies to get the best from LinkedIn.

9 words.
59 characters with spaces.

If you can Tweet what you do then add it to your LinkedIn profile as a headline.  This will be added to every connection request, every InMail you send and be seen when people search for you or visit your profile.

Following most presentations I gave in 2013 and 2014 I checked Twitter to see if it had been mentioned (come on we all do it!) and time after time the same phrases was Tweeted and reTweeted:

The best recruiters act like marketers.

6 words.
39 characters with spaces.

The best recruiters act like marketers

Today the market has changed and people understand that recruitment is evolving.  Now I spend much of my time helping recruitment agencies that are trying to be more marketing focused to get the most from LinkedIn (as my headline would suggest) through media, marketing, branding, and communication.  I would sum up most of my conversations or presentations with the following Tweetable sound-bite:

How people see you will dictate your future success.

9 words.
52 characters with spaces.

What should your message be?  What do you want your candidates and clients to remember about you?  Make sure you can Tweet it.


Here is an infographic from Buffer with the optimal length of status updates across various social platforms.



Are we social media sheep?

Marketing is getting the right message to the right people.  In social media to get the message out to the right people we need to think about two elements: building our follower base, getting our followers to share our message.

The first; building your followers, focuses on building an organic reach.  This is an audience of individuals who have said, “Yes I am interested in what you have to say and I am an advocate.”

The second; getting followers to share, is often referred to as your earned reach.  You improve your reach as more connections of your followers see your message through social sharing.  The quality of your message will dictate your success.  This reach is potentially unlimited.  Viral marketing is based on this concept.  On LinkedIn roughly 33% of company status updates are seen from an earned audience – people who are not currently following that company but have seen it through their connections sharing, liking or commenting on that update.

The more followers you generate, the easier it is to gain even more followers.  And the more your content gets shared and distributed by your followers the more likely future shares are to occur.  The opposite is also true – if you post poor content and receive no interactions it is hard to suddenly generate engagement… but that is another story.

There are three psychological factors that are behind this concept:

1.    The Fear of Missing Out
Fear of missing out (or FOMO) is a form of social anxiety.  This is especially associated with modern technologies such as mobile phones and social networking services.

2.    Social Proof
Social proof is where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.

3.    Bandwagon Effect / Cultural Phenomenon
The bandwagon effect is where the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others.

The Fear of Missing Out
To make the most of the Fear of Missing Out you need to demonstrate why people should follow you.  Explain what it is you are doing to improve their life, and in recruitment marketing specifically, how are you influencing and improving someone’s career.  Are you opening them up to opportunities?  What might they miss out on if they don’t follow you?

Social Proof
If people assume the masses can’t be wrong then you can take advantage of this by generating high volumes of followers which in turn makes it easier to generate more followers still.  Getting yourself added to directories and lists of people to follow will serve as evidence that you are someone that others revere and are interested in.

Recently Facebook optimised videos in their news feed to take advantage of this.  You can now see how many people have watched videos, and as the numbers of views increase, this small design tweak will drive up still more video views and help content to go viral.

Facebook view counter

Bandwagon Effect / Cultural Phenomenon
You have a window to accelerate your success early on in social media.  Being the first to do something increases the likelihood of people wanting to be involved with your brand.  Everyone loves something new and exciting.  When Twitter and Facebook first launched people would follow everyone and everything, whereas today we are more selective as the initial novelty has worn off.

Have your competitors beaten you to the punch and have they all started using tools or platforms that you haven’t?  You have a window of opportunity to get in before it becomes harder to generate followers.

The first advertisement on Instagram was posted by Michael Kors, and as they were the pioneers they sparked such interest that in 18 hours they had acquired in excess of 34,000 new followers.  Being the first to market has its benefits!  Being too late to the party means that people may well already have made their allegiances and you may struggle to achieve success organically.

5:15 PM: Pampered in Paris #MKTimeless

A photo posted by Michael Kors (@michaelkors) on

With each of these elements there is an opportunity.  Start looking at your marketing strategy to establish how these psychological factors can improve your social media strategy.  The more you focus on the bandwagon effect, FOMO and social proof the easier it is to grow you organic reach and generate more followers as well as improve the likelihood of these individuals sharing your content.

Measuring social media is hard. But not impossible

Measuring social media is hard.  Extremely hard.  Everyone will tell you a new and different way that they quantify success.

The challenge becomes harder still when you try reporting these measures to recruitment directors who still struggle with digital communication in the 21st century.  Some of the fastest growing, best known and most successful recruitment businesses are run by people who years ago were recruitment consultants themselves.  As they move up the ranks and proceed to move further away from the coalface of recruitment and making cold calls they continue to look back on the process fondly.  Measures for these people are based on activity and direct outcomes.  How many calls did you make today?  How many jobs did you pick up?  How many CVs have you sent?  How many first interviews are arranged?  How many placements have you made?

When I was in recruitment I had a daily target called my “2x2x2”.  Two jobs picked up.  Two new candidates seen face to face.  Two interviews arranged.  If you did that; you would be successful.

Measuring social media is slightly different.  The outbound activity in social media doesn’t have to result in a business action directly through the same post, person or even channel.  The way in which we measure social and digital interactions impacts how companies buy and invest in solutions.  Only 36% of finance executives agree that the metrics they use to assess technology investments are commonly understood across the company according to Capgemini.

With my 2x2x2 KPIs, my output was being measured – and so too where the results that followed.  If the placements didn’t come it showed that something was falling down somewhere along the chain.  When thinking about social media there are so many potential business outcomes that feed into so many places and the impact can and affect many different people that it becomes harder to measure.  But not impossible.

The way I look at measuring social media is as follows:
Views – Actions – Business outcomes.views actions business

Views: How many people have seen us?

Views are the number of times that your content, updates or brand has been seen.  You can track this across most social channels.  In the last year Twitter has made substantial updates to its reporting platform to help advertisers and individuals better understand their reach.  On LinkedIn it is possible to track both the views from personal status updates as well as from company status updates.  From company updates you can see impressions, clicks, and interactions.  Facebook has a similar tool for Pages.

Actions: How many people have interacted with us?

Actions should include things such as social interactions – the number of clicks, Likes, Shares, Comments, Favourites and Retweets.  This helps you to understand if the message you push out resonates with your audience.  If you divide the actions by the number of impressions you can calculate a percentage of people interacting with you.  On LinkedIn and on Twitter we call these an Engagement Score and you should be aiming a score of 1%+.
Twitter analytics
Business Outcomes: How many people have given us something to start making money from?

Business outcomes are harder to measure on social.  This is where you require tracking set up on your own website to understand what visitors do when they get to your business and where they originally came from.

Using things such as UTM codes you are able to track people from social media, content, email, advertising etc. and understand how these individuals use your website and what they do.  By eventually linking back each application, job spec and internal applicant to the source of origin paints a picture as to what has been successful.
Google Analytics
As your business starts to drive up awareness across multiple channels and your marketing becomes more layered, intricate and possibly complicated it becomes harder to establish what has influenced the eventual conversion.  Was this candidate Following up on LinkedIn before clicking on a link from Twitter and then applying?

Many social media monitoring businesses such as Radian6 and Adobe’s insight tools are demonstrating how each platform and channel impacts your business’ marketing funnel.  Google has a section in its analytics called Attribution (you will need to have your Webmaster Tools and Analytics set up correctly to use this.  Find it under the Conversions tab).

attribution modelling
I highly recommend looking at the data in detail to see if you can spot trends, but also seeing what your gut feel is.  If you can sense that a channel is a key influencer then you can establish if your strategy helps to drive up applications across all channels.

From tomorrow start to report on the key metrics that you can influence as a marketer.  Look at the number of views, the actions and finally set up correct tracking to link business outcomes back to each channel.

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