Marketing Communications in the Search Industry

In the past six months I have traveled extensively domestically and internationally to Hong Kong, Spain, Belgium, and most recently the Czech Republic to conduct training workshops for recruiters and search firm owners. Participants have come from over two dozen countries.

While the cultures and some marketplace dynamics can be different, there is one universal truth. That is that marketing is not just an act of picking up the phone and trying to get some job orders, but rather it is an integral approach to creating separation between one organization and its competitors.

About a year ago we began a solid commitment to perpetuating the positive integrity of our brand Kaye/Bassman International and to begin our new Next Level Recruiting Training division. We turned to our partner that we had been using for the past half dozen years and really addressed the benefits of a fully integrated marketing communications strategy to attract clients, candidates, and associates. We also wanted to see what a new launch might look like for our new training organization.

After many hours and days of discussions, the answer was obvious. We needed to hire our partner and dedicate his expertise as both an in-house resource for us and an external consultant to the search industry, and thus Kaye/Bassman Communications was born.

Many recruiters think of marketing as a website, a brochure, a business card, and a telephone. While Darren did do all of these for us this past year as well as produce all our DVDs and video emailing campaigns, we have learned that effective marketing communications can and needs to be much, much more and it doesn’t have to cost that much!

Effective marketing communications can have a profoundly positive impact on even the smallest firm trying to separate its message and define itself with consistency. Since we are ending 2007 and kicking off 2008, I thought this topic might be timely in that this can be the time of year when we can look for new and creative approaches to ensure a successful new year.

The topic is “Marketing Communications in the Search Industry.” I could think of no one better to write this than the head of Kaye/Bassman Marketing Communications, Darren McDougal. Darren has over two decades of marketing, branding, and technology experience, with the past decade heavily involved in creating new technological approaches to marketing communications. He not only brings tremendous expertise in technology and marketing but also understands the need for pragmatic, cost-effective applications in the search industry. I hope you have received value out of the articles that Next Level Recruiting Training has written over the past year and that you have a very prosperous 2008 filled with health, happiness, and many, many successful searches! You just might find some sparks in this article that will ignite your 2008!!!

“The Search Firm Voice”

Got Milk?
Just Do It.
The Ultimate Driving Machine.

Can you name these brands? Care to guess the value of these taglines?

These “hall of fame” taglines are just one element within an overall successful brand. A company brand speaks volumes about the business and communicates a promise to customers. A successful brand is consistent at every touch point with its audience, including clients, candidates, press, community, and peers. Most perceive a brand as just a logo, but to the contrary, by reviewing the taglines above, one can see that a holistic brand is much more than just a logo. In the case of Starbucks, their brand is an experience: smells of coffee, sounds of the music playing, tastes of food and drink, and the overall feeling of a cozy coffee shop. Branding isn’t just “fluff” from the marketing department or an ad agency, but an integral part of the DNA of the business. The value lies in its perception, and if successful, the conversion to results – particularly sales results.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest brands. Coca-Cola, Nike, Apple, Google, and Disney have figured it out. Of course, they have huge budgets, but the search industry can learn a thing or two from their success.

First, they establish a brand and enforce consistency in its application. Let’s use Coca-Cola as an example. They are pioneers of brand consistency and prove it every day. Whether one is a consumer of soft drinks or not, most people will recognize the Coca-Cola color and shape and can describe to others what their “look” is. What’s more, people who do quench their thirst with Coca-Cola products will notice a taste consistency from one serving to the next. To reinforce even further, all their packaging, signage, bottles, cans, delivery trucks, and advertising communicate a clear and consistent message.

Now let’s transfer this concept to the search and recruiting world. Go ahead and count the multiple touch points with clients, candidates, and a search firm. Is the telephone the primary communication method? What about other vehicles such as email, printed brochures, pocket folders, testimonials, customer case studies, specialty practice and industry presentations, and video email? Shouldn’t these be consistent too? From the front office answering the phone, to the voicemails left for clients and candidates, to the email signature emanating from everyone in the company, the brand should be consistent.

So how do we get there?

In our experience at Kaye/Bassman Communications, a client brand is usually in one of three phases in its lifecycle: creation, revitalization, or extension.

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At Kaye/Bassman, we’ve spent most of the 2007 year focusing the revitalization of our own brand promise, including a shift in our corporate color palette to complete reworking of our specialty practice teams marketing materials. During the revitalization process, we created a “brand guide,” including defined and specifically sized file formats of our logo, plus well-defined colors and rules for font usage. All this is included in a document for quick and easy reference. This document is valuable, and available whenever an outside vendor, supplier, or media needs to apply our brand outside our office. Typically, a branding guide has been available only to midsize and larger companies, but now smaller firms are realizing the value of time savings, ensuring brand consistency, and overall awareness leading to competitive advantage.

Now, with the brand foundation in place, the real work begins. The next step is paying special attention to our electronic elements, namely ensuring consistency of our email signatures, PowerPoint presentations, and electronic versions of our marketing materials. This initiative was a challenge, and it’s paying off for each one of our specialty practices. How did we do it?

First, we stepped back to review each practice and how they communicate. What does each team member use the most, and which is used less frequently? How should we allocate our marketing communication budgets? What percentage should be print, electronic, interactive, email, and video? What is the best method for delivery? Once we found that electronic is the preferred format, we created electronically and then print upon necessity. Funny, no matter how much email or interactive a firm uses, there will always be a need for printed pocket folders and brochures. A hold-in-your-hand, leave-behind collateral material piece is still an important part of the marketing mix. Some things never change.

Second, big brands are constantly extending their brand as part of their business growth strategy. How do they reach new customers? For example, McDonald’s tried to extend their brand by offering more health-conscious meals to reach a new customer. FedEx merged with Kinkos to reach the turnkey print and ship customer.

Search firms can extend their brand reach, too. Not necessarily by offering ancillary services to search, but by extending their messages to new audiences with new and different marketing vehicles. For instance, let’s look at the press release. Traditional press releases were created and sent to the media for print publication. What about combining the press release to include a written release to the media, electronic publication on the corporate website, inclusion in blogs (Web logs), delivery via email newsletter, and placement on industry websites? This aggregation of delivery outlets for a single message has been deemed PR 2.0. This concept and process is currently being implemented by the top search firms and will continue to propagate within the industry.

Now, to extend the idea of brand extension even further, some forward-thinking search firms are utilizing the power of their brand while including personable and engaging video and interactive elements to deliver marketing messages in new and exciting ways. They connect to audiences and enable them to heed the desired call to action. Imagine firms creating video marketing messages that are completely in-brand and published on industry sites, their own websites, and their job postings. The major job sites are migrating toward video presentations and personal media. Are they onto something new?

Look at the success of YouTube, the news, television, and film industries delivering media content online. They understand that the immediate connection that video offers is unique and powerful. At Kaye/Bassman, we have integrated video elements in our marketing mix since 2000 and can directly attribute the growth of our firm to this method of communication. To see a Kaye/Bassman recruiting video example, go to http://www.kbic.com/em/garrett/recruiting_intro.html with your Web browser.

At its core, the search and recruiting industry is centered on connections with people. That connection is precious, has a voice, and tells a unique story about the business.

So, what is your brand voice?

Jeff Kaye is president and CEO of Kaye/Bassman International and Next Level Recruiting Training. This former Management Recruiter National Recruiter of the year has helped build the largest single-site search firm in the country, with annual search revenue in excess of $18 million. His firm has won national awards for philanthropy and workplace flexibility and also was named the best company to work for in the state of Texas in 2006 and 2007. Kaye/Bassman has retained over 30 search professionals whose annual production exceeds $400,000. The same training that helped build this successful firm is now available through Next Level Recruiting Training. They are making a series of DVDs for training. The first series was on the candidate side, and the four hours were dedicated to marketing. The new series, on the client side, is dedicated to marketing, effective search assignments, and fee clearing. It is over seven hours in length. To learn how to take your practice and business to the NEXT LEVEL, please visit www.nlrtraining.com to view their product and service offerings.

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