December 17, 2018 Robert Woodford

The rise of #RecruitmentMarketing – reflections on 15 years

2003, The year England won the rugby world cup, Chelsea FC were bought by Roman Abramovich, we were all eagerly awaiting the release of the Nokia 3200, ‘Where is the love’ by the Black-eyed peas was constantly playing, and we were all bereft when S Club 7 announced they had indeed stopped movin’ to that funky funky beat.  It was also the year that I made my first move into recruitment marketing.

Yes, I was a mere child sensation when I started, and reports that I was a 24-year-old economics masters graduate are outrageously wide of the mark.

After working in business analysis for Reed, just at the infancy of reed.co.uk (And freecruitment – remember that anyone?), my first proper job in marketing was with Brook Street where I was, along with other duties, responsible for the lineage adverts.  Every Monday all the newspapers would arrive in the office and I would have to go through them to check our adverts had run properly.  For those of you who don’t know what a lineage advert is, then it is a pre-curser to a tweet. In effect you paid about 75p a word to advertise that week’s jobs.

It’s amazing the things you learn from your weekly copy of the Scunthorpe Telegraph or Eastbourne Herald.  Not least how newspaper ink gets absolutely everywhere.  Anyway, I digress.

One of the jobs we also undertook was that we posted all of the jobs onto the job boards.  Yes, that is right, recruitment consultants would email their jobs to the marketing department and we would upload them.   This was in the days when Broadbean was just an idea and its predecessor, conkers, was only just coming onto the market.

Fast forward 15 years (and the average job board credit rises from 75p to £5.75) and it is now inconceivable that a recruitment consultant wouldn’t post their own jobs.  We may have to nag some of them to do it, but nevertheless it is seen as part and parcel of their job.

Yet as a marketer this does create a few issues.  The selection criteria is, for all intents and purposes, the same for recruitment consultants today as it was in 2003.  Yet it is no secret that the role is becoming more marketing focussed.  Without assessing a potential consultant’s ability to write engaging copy, are we really surprised that marketers are faced with adverts going out that range from Shakespearian through to Kardashian?

It’s also a pre-cursor to how social media is being run.  In 15 years’ time, I believe it will be inconceivable that recruitment consultants will not be responsible for their own social media and mandated to have it as part of their job.  Those who take advantage sooner and work with their marketing departments to embed this culture will reap the rewards earlier.

Whilst I have moved on; worked for the global players, aim listed businesses, SME’s and start-ups, one thing strikes me: Some things have not changed.  The need for marketing to be results focused, supporting sales and ensuring we maximise ROI is as strong as ever.  The medium may be different – websites are far more important than A boards and window displays, but the principles still remain.  Yes, there are still those who think recruitment marketing is all about glitter and felt tip pens; but I fundamentally disagree with them.  Always have done, always will. And whilst I may not be able to rock the floppy hair and hipster beard, I do know how to make my clients more money from their marketing.

But for me that achievement has also become more interesting over the years.  Back in the day, you made sure the Yellow Pages entry was correct, and left it at that, secure in the knowledge that it was permanently placed and in alphabetical order, and everyone began asking this chap called Jeeves when searcing the web.  But now the work required to maintain a google ranking is significant in comparison and an art in itself.

At a time when social media meant being on Friends Reunited, the marketing department arranged for students to hand out leaflets and put posters up on community boards or placing adverts into magazines and newspapers.  Now we can target hundreds of thousands of people with a few clicks of a button through LinkedIn and Facebook, instantly track results and adjust the campaign in real time to ensure it is delivering.

Back when we were all wearing cargo trousers, bomber jackets and polo shirts with poppers on the collar, it was a lot easier to get a return on your marketing budget.  You did one thing and it worked.  But just like  the evolution of David Beckhams hair, recruitment marketing has also become more grown up.  We’ve ditched the blonde mohawk for something that makes us look credible.  But now you need to invest in a number of different areas/tools to generate a similar return; marketing has become multi-faceted, is a lot more complicated, and with it the rise of the recruitment marketing professional.

In fact, the value that a great recruitment marketer can bring is easily as equivalent to a top biller or inspirational leader.

As an economist I studied the American Daniel Hausman and his belief that economics was an inexact and separate science; I believe that marketing within recruitment is just that.  It’s a thrilling, unique art; which has the power to frustrate and enthral in one go.  But it’s also an area where business owners are realising that within a recruitment business, marketing needs to be at the top table.  Because without investing in your strategic marketing and tactical approach, you’ll end up doing as well as our 2003 Eurovision entry.

(It is truly horrendous!)

I’ve loved my 15 years in recruitment marketing.  I’ve met some great people, many of them are still in the industry.  I’ve launched the careers of many marketers, grown brands, merged brands, created brands, won awards and been fortunate to have been at the forefront of developments during this most exciting of time.

The fundamentals of the job have not changed.  Neither has my desire to continue to espouse the virtues of marketing within recruitment. As we move into the next 15, we can look forward in the knowledge that AI, blockchain et al will not remove the need for the recruitment marketer, but make them more relevant.

But this experience also puts me (and The Marketing Junction) at an advantage; we not only have the skills and tools, but we have been there and done it.  Yes there is choice out there but consider this; would you board a plane piloted by someone who used to be cabin crew and who has flown just one flight during the day in good weather, or a formidable sea ship captain who thinks they can turn their hand to air planes?  Or would you choose the pilot who has flow in the worst conditions, has thousands of hours under their belt and is used as an expert by government officials and the aviation industry?  It’s as simple as that.

So, here’s to the next 15 years. I would celebrate with a bottle of Hooch, but you cant get it, so I’ll just have to settle for a kale smoothie – how times have changed.