Many staffing agency sites feature vague value propositions that may be causing them to lose out on attracting clients and talent.
The unpleasant secret about the staffing and recruitment industry is that a lot of your customers perceive you as a commodity. There are many market forces at work that contribute to that perception. Pricing pressure from clients, competitor undercutting, the ubiquity of sites like CareerBuilder or Zip Recruiter, and efficiencies gained from technology have all perpetuated a race to the bottom for many staffing firms. In this competitive landscape, differentiating yourself from the competition is of paramount importance.
Unfortunately, in our analysis of the value propositions of regional staffing agencies, we found little evidence of any effort by recruiters to effectively distinguish themselves from one another in their web collateral. Most of the articulations were vague, supplying generic information without even specifying the industries that they concentrated in. Very few managed to state what made them different, let alone answer why a client or candidate would choose them over another company.
A typical value prop looked like this (taken from an actual analyzed site, with the company name redacted): “Ultimately, Clients choose XXXXX to staff their team, grow their business and achieve business results. Candidates choose XXXXX to enhance their career and develop their skills.” Congratulations, you’ve told us that you’re a staffing firm! But we already knew that when we typed “staffing company” into Google and hit Enter. Other agencies' sites relied on lukewarm taglines, like “Find Your Dream Career,” or “Where Talent Meets Opportunity.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with these statements, but they fail to convey anything concrete about what the agencies do to assist candidates or clients.
There are some external factors that might explain this lack of specificity. Over the past decade, significant ups and downs in the staffing industry have shifted power away from clients and into the hands of talent. During economic downturns, staffers may be reluctant to turn away talent they think they can source, especially if they’re smaller boutique firms that can’t afford the loss. Still, it’s a missed opportunity for recruiters in the region to sharpen the distinction between their business and competitors, and thus provide a reason for clients and candidates to choose them.
A value proposition answers a fundamental question: why should I buy from you as opposed to the competition? When I’ve asked this question to recruiters in person, they typically have a lot to say, providing multiple justifications for their value: “We have a 90% retention rate,” or “We have access to the largest pool of healthcare candidates in the southeast.” Yet this information seems curiously absent from their marketing collateral, and we’re instead presented with diluted messaging that tells us what they think we want to hear.
Remember, when you choose to serve a market, you’re also choosing which markets you’re not going to serve. Everyone wants to “grow their business and achieve business results.” Unfortunately, you can’t serve everyone. If your marketing can’t answer fundamental questions about what kinds of business results you’re going to achieve, then I don’t have a reason to buy your services.
As a recruitment company, you have a lot to offer potential customers. When looking for staffing services, customers truly want to know why they should choose your agency. They’re looking for a reason to start a conversation with you. It’s incumbent upon you to articulate those reasons clearly and credibly wherever they encounter you, and your website is likely the first thing they’re going to see. How are you going to start the conversation?
Ryan Hickey is a rapid-fire, coffee-drinking devotee of hard data. As the Director of Digital Strategy, he guides S4’s strategic approach to both internal and client work with a near-obsessive commitment to critical thinking and substantiation through methodical tracking and analysis. Ryan studied diplomacy at Georgetown and has been known to turn a poisoned pen to album reviews in his spare time.