There are so many cliche sayings that relate somehow to being relevant, and most of them have underlying tones of being adaptable and flexible: “Roll with the punches” and “Go with the flow” immediately come to mind. But however you choose to say it, keeping yourself relevant within your industry, and particularly with your customers, is an essential part of business. Scott Ginsberg, whom we’ve written about here before, recently ran a fantastic article titled 5 Ways to Retain Relevancy So Your Organization Doesn’t Fall off the Face of the Earth. In this article, Ginsberg outlines five simple ways to keep yourself and your business relevant today. Ginsberg asks the tough question: “How much profitability are you sacrificing by being irrelevant?”
- Teach the dog new tricks anyway. This is a tough one for many business owners, because the way you’ve learned things is a sort of comfort zone. In recruiting, a tried-and-true method is easy to settle into and justify a lack of need to change, adapt, or consider new methods or technologies. If you’ve found success by using a business model or a technique that you learned years ago, why change? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But, as Ginsberg says, “…if the new trick matters to your customers, you still have to learn it.” I personally wrote an article back in 2007 with some examples of situations where things could be changed to go from good to great. A post by Carmine Coyote is referenced (which unfortunately is no longer available), and Coyote stated, “Change is more about letting go of old ideas than finding new ones. Most of the time, people are sufficiently happy with the way things are, so they see no need to change. Life may not be perfect, but it’s good enough…” In the end, what will matter most is what your customers are ready for. If they’re embracing new technology, the very least you should be doing is educating yourself so you can stay relevant in their eyes.
- Your customers will tell you how to stay relevant. Competitive intelligence gathering while speaking with your customers can be adjusted to “relevance intelligence”. Let your customers share with you the ways in which you can remain top of mind to them. Steve Jobs says, “Turn feedback into inspiration.” When clients share the way they do business with you, don’t view all of it as roadblocks to working with them, view it as an opportunity to find a middle ground and a way for you to adjust small parts of your business to make it even better. “The customer is always right” isn’t necessarily correct (in fact, it’s often dead wrong!) – but “The customer wants to be heard” is important to keep in mind.
- Enable a regular attention stream. Again – for those of you who are heads down working your desk, this can be an incredibly difficult thing to do. But another cliche comes to mind here – “Out of sight, out of mind.” With the speed at which our world operates today, it is very easy to slip out of the view of your clients and potential customers. They will say, “What have you done for me lately?” No matter how amazing a recruiter you are, you need to fight for their attention. Ginsberg says, “If you want to retain relevancy, you have to remember that you’re competing against everything else in people’s world.” There are ways of automating this information stream – newsletters, RSS feeds, or using Twitter for business (I can feel many eyes rolling!) are some easy ways of doing so. Find something that works for you, and, based on point #2, is a relevant method of delivery for your audience.
- Grow bigger ears. This follows right in step with 2 and 3. Having your ear tuned in to the pulse of your industry is vital to a recruiter looking to build their reputation as a subject matter expert. All excellent recruiters pay attention to the news within their niche and know who the players are in their space. But it goes beyond this: Ginsberg says, “…listen for the right reasons. Not just enough to flip the answers for your own uses. Not just to boost your ego. And not just to confirm what you already think. Staying relevant means getting out of the way of what you need to hear, listening to where you suck, then responding by becoming better.” (Yes, he said suck.)
- Maintain a steady stream of minor enhancements. Any excellent recruiter knows that consistently delivering quality candidates will help with all of the above items. and Ginsberg says, “…consistency is far better than rare moments of greatness.” We all know at least one ‘flash in the pan’ recruiter who made a huge placement and then was never heard from again. It’s the recruiters who are consistent in their efforts who stick around and remain relevant. This last recession was a tough reminder of this. Your ‘enhancements’ could include things like a quicker delivery, more efficient process flow with your clients, quicker or easier methods of invoicing, or any number of things to make both your and your client’s role in the recruitment process more streamlined or time efficient.
So as any successful recruiter, manager, or business owner knows, staying relevant is not easy. Nor is it always convenient. What we want and what our clients want aren’t always the same thing. Very often you have to do things you may not want to do, things that you’ve been resisting, or hear things that you really don’t want to hear. But this is what growth is all about. It has often been said that the thing you want to do the least is the thing you need to do the most in order to break through and reach your goals. And at the end of the day, if hearing these things or doing these activities puts more money into your pocket, isn’t it worth it?