Getting Past the Gimmicks: How to Market Your Company Without Smoke and Mirrors

How many articles have you seen recently touting the fact that companies are taking often-ridiculous measures to attract good employees? But have they motivated you to offer any of the following to your company’s employees:

  • Turbocharged sports cars
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  • Flying lessons
  • Pet health insurance
  • Onsite aromatherapy

There may be a person or two somewhere in recorded history who took his or her job because of one of these aforementioned perks. Call me conservative, but I’d say those are the kind of employees you don’t want. A Product Manager who works at your company because you gave away a BMW would have every right to leave for a job that offered a Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari Testarossa. There is logic to these employers’ unique offerings: all things being equal, a candidate will take a job that has additional benefits (however ludicrous they might be) over a job that does not. Unique and unusual benefits are also a good PR gimmick that can have immediate short-term benefits. It often gets these companies’ names out to a mass audience, fast, through additional exposure from newscasts and word of mouth. But the reality is that most companies do not have the resources, infrastructure, or flexibility to offer such perks. And most companies and opportunities are rarely created equal. There will be other, more important factors that will drive a candidate to accept a position, not the least of which are higher salaries, more career growth, more generous stock options, greater long-term company potential, better benefits, more cutting-edge technology and/or a more casual work environment. To borrow a tired clich?, marketing your company to job seekers is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And with every passing day in our tight national labor market, recruiting becomes more of a marketing discipline. Successful employers are increasingly focusing on sophisticated marketing concepts like brand identity, customer loyalty, and community building, and are bypassing clever gimmicks that are the recruiting equivalent of giving away a free toaster. This dictates thinking like a marketer. But as a recruiter, you have a tougher task ahead of you than a typical marketer. You’re selling a place to work, not an off-the-shelf product. And you’ll usually have to be much more selective about who you employ than who buys your company’s products. Here are some of the basics of marketing as they apply to recruitment that will help get your employer brand off the ground. If you’ve ever taken a marketing class, you’ve heard these most often referred to as “The Four P’s.” I’ll be covering each one of these topics in more detail in future columns. Product Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes for a moment. Ask yourself if the types of jobs you offer are desirable compared to the other job choices that qualified candidates might have. Benchmark competitors often; perform primary and secondary target audience research to determine what motivates potential employees to take one position over another; and find a way for your company to deliver on these expectations. Place Are your company’s offices located in a desirable area? Can you move them to a place that is more desirable or has a faster commute? One company I’ve worked with intentionally locates call centers near major universities to take advantage of the qualified stream of part-time workers. Many companies locate their tech operations in high tech hot spots. Price In recruitment terms, this can be defined as the offer. It includes the combination of salary, benefits and training opportunities. Benchmarking and research will help you determine if you’re staying competitive. Promotion Building and continually reinforcing a positive, creative brand that your target audience can identify with can do much of the work of selling a candidate on your company before they even interview. All of your promotional elements – your employment website, print ads, radio ads, collateral materials (i.e. brochures and premiums), email/database marketing campaigns, targeted websites for specific audiences, events, sponsorships, etc. – should be tied together by one creative, relevant message that you want candidates to remember. One common mistake (in recruitment and product advertising) is assuming you know your target audience, what motivates them, and where they go for information. Focus groups and online surveys can be powerful tools that give you incredible insight into your target audiences’ motivations and media habits. You’ll be surprised what you discover. (Suggested reading: Truth, Lies and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning, by Jon Steel) Conclusion Don’t burn yourself out on the first lap by relying on gimmicks that get your name out there. The instant gratification you can get from a clever gimmick will fade away quickly as others rush to offer faster sports cars, more unique perks, and outrageous benefits. Instead, try to learn from the techniques that traditional marketers have been building on for decades. If you’re having trouble thinking like a marketer, find an expert within your marketing department or advertising agency to help you build a long-term brand strategy. Your efforts will pay off as candidates stop thinking of your company as the one that gave away a free sports car and start thinking of your company as a premier employer. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (, a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.


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