Developing and protecting a specialist recruitment brand has become increasingly difficult over the years as online growth has made it ever simpler for others to invade your valuable business space. In the past it was relatively easy to build and develop your business’s visibility and reputation via advertising in specialist publications and the best route of all “word of mouth”. The latter still very much applies today, but the internet has now in truth eclipsed it, along with most traditional advertising routes, and its growth is of course exponential. This growth has led to numerous previous generalists starting to establish either real or supposed specialist divisions, along with teams, within their business. Any modern day search will identify numerous new specialists as known keywords are being extensively used to bring increased traffic and opportunities to the table.
Over the years it has become increasingly essential for the already established specialists to adapt to the challenges presented by a continually evolving marketplace and the emergence of new competitors. Whilst it is nearly impossible to fend off all the new competition, as some of it will be strong, it is essential to try to find areas of differentiation and illustrations of true specialism and use these to your advantage. It may mean making changes to the ways that you interface with clients and candidates but will undoubtedly mean making changes to everyday client and candidate communications. At the end of the day, the success of any recruitment business is driven by the levels of service and communication delivered and experienced by people at both ends of the equation. It is surprising how many businesses in the sector have forgotten all about the pure basics as they rush to find new ways to spread information electronically.
Whilst it is essential to adopt and utilise modern technology, it is equally essential to remember or perhaps learn all of the basics that make a customer serving business survive and thrive in any sector. We are all exposed to both good and bad customer service daily and tend to remember both and ultimately may even discuss them with others.
I was involved in the recruitment and search business, as a specialist in automotive, initially at a time when communications were totally in the analogue age and communicating via computers and mobile phones were equally very much in their infancy. In the continual quest to deliver customer service, I started running my business on a handheld computer in 1988 and was a very early adopter of the virtual world by going down the totally virtual route in 1997. I worked closely with an outsourced IT provider and with their guidance built simple day to day operational systems that could be easily and regularly updated and adapted, as required. I was then free to concentrate on the continual development of the brand and the ongoing development of overall customer satisfaction and service delivery.
In the early days of digital it was fascinating to explore all the new ways of spreading the brand and attracting more and more potential clients and candidates. We very quickly learnt that it was essential to control and focus this information flow and accurately aim it at the most relevant targets to build a true area of customer focussed specialisation. This ensured that we were ultimately developing a smaller, but highly focussed and ultimately much more protectable brand.
We have been working recently with recruiters who are either looking at ways to protect their existing specialism or new entrants to specialism looking for advice on how build the right levels of customer service and brand identification to build a successful business. In both cases they have recognised that it is easier every year to position themselves online as a specialist recruiter, but more and more difficult to deliver a business service that truly sets them apart from others. It takes time and considerable focus to continually keep a tightly controlled target audience informed and loyal.