Remember 1999? For those of us in online recruiting, it was the year ran an ad during the Superbowl. Overnight the job board went from sort-of well-known to very well known. Part of it was a memorable ad. Part of it was the venue. And part of it was the era (remember, job boards were still relatively new). At any rate, Monster’s traffic (and value) went through the roof.
The impact on the industry was significant. I was marketing director of Dice at the time, and more than one of my bosses suggested we run our own Superbowl ads (it didn’t happen, thankfully). The Monster ad was part of a bigger narrative as online companies spent billions of dollars on conventional media, trying to (somehow) make an impression – and money. We know how that particular bubble ended.
So let’s jump to the present. I don’t think anyone in the industry would argue that an expensive, mass-market ad campaign is appropriate for the vast majority of employment sites. Why? It’s simple – you’re wasting lots of money on people that have no conceivable need for your product (for example, how many retirees watch the game? Lots.).
But…you have to market your site. Why? If you don’t, people don’t know you exist. Maybe you spend your money on search engine marketing or search engine optimization. Maybe you focus on ads and events targeting your specific niche. Or perhaps you use distribution networks or aggregators to reach candidates. (I would suggest an intelligent combination of all these techniques). The fact of the matter is you still have to become visible to your audience. If you don’t, you’re toast.
Money for marketing is great, but an employment site can successfully market itself without spending tens of thousands of dollars. Effective use of surveys and PR can get you free exposure in blogs, newspapers, and magazines – but you have to put the time and effort into creating the content first. Don’t want to send your limited funds to a SEO firm? Spend a few hundred and educate yourself on SEO basics. You may be surprised how far this can take you.
The most important thing, however, is to do something - and to do it consistently, day in and day out. Marketing is all about repetition, as I’ve mentioned before, and you must have the discipline to develop your marketing message and then deliver it, over and over.
Finally, help yourself stay honest by using survey data to determine how visible your site really is. Get a random selection of candidates and employers in your niche and find out what they know (and don’t know) about your site. Do this at least once a year – and adjust your marketing accordingly.
Stay visible – and stay in business.