Category: Business (page 1 of 2)

How to write headlines: 8 tips for recruitment marketers


There is an 80:20 rule when it comes to writing online, and David Ogilvy put it so well when he said you should spend 80% of your time focusing on the headline.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

The five most important headlines you should consider are:

  1. Blog titles
  2. Social status updates
  3. Email subject lines
  4. Website page titles
  5. LinkedIn headlines

For each of these there are some rules and formulas which are universal.

Tip One: Relevancy

Make sure your headline is relevant to your audience and feels like it has been written for them. Consider using words that are specific to them like “The 3 mistakes hiring managers make when dealing with recruiters”. (By the way, negative headlines really capture people’s attention.) This will potentially reduce the volume of people interacting, but increase the relevancy of those interacting. And what matters more : volume or quality?

Tip Two: Solve problems

Try answering questions you are being asked regularly. “How to …” is the most powerful term in digital marketing. Leading with this allows you to start solving business problems your targets may have.

Tip Three: Timeliness

How timely is your content? Tie your headlines to something that is happening right now. This drives up the urgency in the reader. The downside is that the content won’t be evergreen so you may not be able to keep coming back to it.

Tip Four: Tool Up

Use tools! Check out Adestra and their subject line analysis tool. It allows you to see if the key words you are using are likely to boost or drop your open rates. Using this I can see that the key word “danger” in a subject line should increase clicks in my email.

Tip Five: Short

Short and sweet. It works for blogs, social media, emails. With email marketing it is crucial you have a short email subject line especially as nearly half of all emails are now read on mobiles.

Tip Six: ACTION!

Drive action by using verbs. These doing words will help your audience start to take action themselves.

Tip Seven: Question?

Ask questions of your audience. They will be more likely to read and respond.  Wouldn’t you?

Tip Eight: Use numbers

People click on titles, updates and emails with numbers In. Use them sparingly though as some people have become bored or listicles (articles made entirely of lists). That said they still have some of highest click through rates.


So I should write a post called “5 mistakes recruitment marketers make with headlines” next week and use “How to write headlines: 8 tips for recruitment marketers” for this post.  Lets see how it works…

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.

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.

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.



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.

5 Recruitment Trends for 2015

1. Expect Growth in the Recruitment Sector

Month on month the REC has seen more placements made through recruitment agencies.  This has resulted in an increase in turnover, and according to the latest figures from HSBC’s investor report, the recruitment industry is making nearly £10billion more than it was four years ago.  This trend is likely to continue well into 2015 and beyond with most European governments expecting an improved outlook on jobs and the economy.

The challenge is that the roles recruitment agencies are filling are increasingly the harder to work placements as employers are trying to “go direct” for the “easy” positions.  Scarce skills are becoming scarcer and there are less and less people available on the market (see report below).


2. Recruitment Revenue Will Go Up

As the margins in permanent recruitment continues to rise (by 5.7% between 2013 and today according to KMPG and REC) there is real potential for recruitment businesses to improve their turnover in 2015.  Salaries are also due to improve in 2015 which means even if margins remain stable total revenue should improve.

The challenge will remain finding the right people, having those people interested in talking to you and making placements.  Establishing a true unique selling point and truly understanding the value you deliver outside of just sending CVs is going to be crucial to maintaining the fees and margins that we are expecting.


3. Small Businesses Challenging Big Businesses

Across global, large and small recruitment firms huge effort is being put into developing a clear brand and concrete message to market.  Whilst many larger brands struggle to create relevant propositions for each of the industries or functions they recruit for, smaller businesses are taking full advantage of their expert status.  As businesses continue to focus on niche skills this will only become more commonplace.

The challenge will be to grow and diversify whilst still maintaining what has made your business successful in the past.


4. Serious Mergers and Acquisitions To Take Place

In 2011 the biggest purchase acquisition was for $770m when Randstad bought SFN Group (at the time the world’s 13th largest staffing firm).  In the past year we may not have seen acquisitions on that scale, but the number of purchases has shown confidence in the market and the perceived value of the recruitment sector increasing.

NES (who themselves were bought in 2012 for £234m) made two investments this year to cement their foothold in the Nordic oil and energy sector.  Allegis (the 32nd largest private business in the US) bought Talent2 to further strengthen its APAC offering.  Hays invested £28m for 80% of Veredus Corp to further develop their offering in NAMER in the IT recruitment space.

According to the 5th largest global recruitment firm Recruit Holdings’ President Masumi Minegishi, their business is likely to acquire in order to further develop their global presence.

“We are constantly eyeing deals globally and have more than 50 potential targets on our list,” says Minegishi in his latest interview with the Wall Street Journal.

With more large businesses looking to acquire in order to broaden their base expect to see a raft of moves for middle tier recruitment organisations.


5. Recruitment Firms Take Their Employer Brand Seriously

This week LinkedIn published a list of the top 25 most in demand skills of 2014.  Globally “recruiting” was the 15th most in demand skill.  In Brazil it was 2nd, Netherlands the 5th, the UAE 8th and UK 17th.  I have no doubt that this trend will continue as the industry sees more money pumped in from investors, through improved margins and profits in the sector.

The challenge will be to stand out from the crowd and to improve the brand of the recruitment industry as a whole.

Companies like Lawrence Harvey are doing a great job of this with collateral like their recent video.

Recruitment Trends 2015What are the top trends you see emerging in 2015?  Leave  a comment below…

ROI of a Telephone

Do you measure the return on investment of your telephone?  Probably not completely.  The return on investment from your phone won’t dictate if you renew your phone contract, although you do expect good service at a good rate.

Do you measure the cost of your people and establish how profitable they are? I should hope so.  The return on investment from your people will dictate if you keep them on and if you reach your financial goals or not.

Shouting down the phone

A telephone is just a tool to connect you with someone.  So why not send a letter?  Or just send more emails?  Why invest in a telephone too?  Because the potential in the telephone is huge.  You can communicate with people pretty much anywhere in the world and pass on whatever message you want.  You can instantly change tact if the message you are sending isn’t resonating.  There is a constant feedback loop to help steer the next message in that conversation.  But the success of a telephone really lies with the person dialing out.

Next time you think about the channels you market through assess if the way you are “dialing out” is good enough.  The success of marketing often lies with the person dialing out.

Are you a competitor to the competition?

You probably know who your competition are.  These will be businesses you are keeping a close watch on, possibly to emulate, but certainly organisations you want to beat.

Some competition you consider to be in front of you.  This you want to change.  Others behind you, but probably gaining.  This you want to remain.

Do the competition consider you a competitor?  It is time to worry when you aren’t on their list.

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