In the past decade or so, the marketing industry has gone through some changes. One of the biggest has been the shift toward inbound marketing, the use of digital content and metrics to attract and follow customers that adapt to their changing buying behavior and expectations.
While marketers have been busy honing that approach, their colleagues down the hall in human resources haven't always moved as quickly. Some of that is changing. But in the meantime, there's still plenty that recruiters can learn from the insights and methods that inbound marketing has already brought on the scene: The digital approach that draws in customers can also help you appeal to great talent. Here's how.
A Google study late last year followed the journey of one consumer—Amy—who was booking a trip to Disney World. In a two-month period, Amy had 419 digital "moments." As Google researchers explained, "She made 34 searches, watched five videos, and made 380 web page visits. And 87% of these moments happened on mobile."
The most interesting thing is that Amy was the one taking action, not Disney World. She didn’t go to a travel agent; she did the research and booking herself. The brand was simply there for her—and "being there," for brands, means identifying the channels your buyers are already using—social, search engines, publications, and so on—and then optimizing your presence on them. What the best marketing teams in the world have done so well is adapt their strategies and resources to the way modern consumers make decisions.
That's a quick primer on inbound marketing, but it's also a pretty good description of how job seekers are behaving too: They’re taking to Google, social, review sites, and forums to learn about career opportunities.
The trouble is that too many talent acquisition teams don’t have this type of candidate-first mentality. In most cases, a hiring manager requests a position to be filled, and then recruiters start the search from scratch. Had they been proactively building up their inbound channels all the while, that process could become less lengthy and resource-intensive. Marketing had to make this shift from outbound to inbound, and now it’s recruiting’s turn.
The most daunting part of putting in place any inbound strategy is having to start with a blank slate. You may have little to no content, social media presence, or pages that rank on Google. For this reason, the easiest and safest thing to do is nothing.
And it's true that this initial phase is the toughest. It takes a lot of work to generate organic (search engine) traffic or build a Twitter presence that people love—one that isn't just blaring promotional messages, but actually builds real relationships with users. That's why many companies give up, but it’s also why there’s such a massive opportunity for those that persevere.
Incremental gains can add up fast. In inbound marketing, momentum is real; done right, you can see growth in numbers like followers, traffic, and conversions accelerate over time. But it's a long-term game, and you have to stick with it in order to begin seeing top-shelf talent come to your doorstep.
Marketers could never have executed the shift toward an inbound approach without data. When it comes to the web, nearly everything is measurable. From Google Analytics to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn analytics tools, you can quantify your performance at virtually no additional cost.
Despite the accessibility of all these resources, recruiters have traditionally been behind the ball on using them. Many organizations still don’t have a grasp on the traffic to their own career page or where completed applications are originating from.
Without basic, reliable metrics, there's no way to know what's working and what isn't. And when you can’t show the value of your efforts, others in the organization won’t get behind it, and before you know it, you’re back to the outdated basics. Top candidates, on the other hand, will have already moved on.
Mike Roberts leads digital marketing at Jibe, a New York City–based recruiting software company. Most of his career has been spent at startups building and executing on inbound marketing strategies. Follow him on Twitter at @mp_roberts or check out his writing on the Jibe blog.