Has it ever been more important to have a clear strategy for your business and the ability to execute that strategy in all parts of your business?
2012 is a period of economic uncertainty where business leaders need to be pragmatic and prepared for change. We should leave it to the economists to contemplate what might happen, if we can only concentrate on what is in front of us while keeping an eye on the weather.
In addition to the general market conditions the recruitment industry is also changing. We have the rise of internal recruitment teams executing the easier jobs, outsourcing workforce management to VMS/MSP providers, purchasing of services rather than talent, changing candidate expectations especially with social media communication, and of course procurement-led supplier agreements continuing to reduce margins. All of these are having an impact on a recruitment agency's market, competitors, rates, and services. The recent Australasian Talent Conference in Sydney helped highlight some challenges and opportunities.
What worked for you before the GFC will not necessarily work now.
HHMC certainly believes the recruitment industry can learn from other industries in terms of how marketing and sales need to be aligned and how they are the drivers of the business strategy.
The best is worthless if not executed well. The marketing function needs to be inspiring the right customers, the sales team needs to be closing the right deals. This can only happen if the organisation is working to the overall business strategy and the execution of the strategy includes systems that measure and automate so the success of the strategy can be evaluated.
Australian company MathMarketing assists companies align sales and marketing so they are jointly accountable for results. Here are six strategies they think you might want to contemplate during 2012.
1. Massively shift costs out of your combined Sales and Marketing engine.
Businesses that still rely on Sales to generate their own opportunities are retaining costs that may prove a luxury during the next decade. Consider investing now to change your processes to have Marketing generate a higher proportion of the opportunities which close. This means Marketing needs to be accountable for closure rates, not leads. MathMarketing's alignment study in 2007 found the benchmark to be 24% of revenue from marketing-generated leads, but perhaps we need to set our sights on a much greater proportion in the future. This means you need process redesign, that you need Sales and Marketing to buy in to those new processes, and you need to do it fast.
2. Aggressively focus Sales efforts onto only those deals which can close.
Sales people love relationships, are eternally optimistic, and they hang on to opportunities long after they are dead. Consider building better indicators into your funnel management systems and processes, and use those indicators to prise the sticky fingers of optimistic sales people off deals that won't close soon, and hand them back to marketing to nurture. Most businesses buy into the need for marketing automation as a nurturing tactic, but few are deliberately leaking their stalled opportunities out of their funnel and handing them off to well-built automated marketing programs which balance low touch with high scrutiny. We need the low touch for cost management but we also need the high scrutiny to know which leads are again ripe for handover back to the sales force.
3. Increase visibility into your engine, and use it to stop low-yield programs.
Consider recording your opportunity management systems so that you can record name source, trigger campaign (the campaigns which brought the opportunity to the fore), BDM, lag (time to progress) and leakage (failure to progress) for each stage in the buyer's journey. These insights will help you to cancel campaigns that yield leads that don't close (e.g. trade shows), and opportunities that are stalled. An opportunity that has been in your funnel for a long time is not necessarily stalled; consider an opportunity that took an interminable long time in the early stages but somehow managed to progress through the last two fairly quickly - that's not necessarily the one to rip out of your funnel. Visibility needs to be precise.
4. Forget about branding.
It doesn't matter what the market thinks about you, if they don't. Consider massively reweighing your efforts from branding towards demand generation. Focus on reasons why businesses should be changing what they do at all, rather than the merits of your approach over others. Leave that to the sales people and focus Marketing's efforts towards getting your sales people in front of more prospects to have that conversation.
5. Churn low performers and lift the skills of others.
You already know that the difference between a high performer and a low one is not a blip but a chasm, so lose the low performers and invest heavily in training for those you plan to keep. This is as true for Marketing professionals as it is for Sales. In uncertain times throwing greater salary packages around won't increase retention of your stars, but continuous investment in professional growth will.
6. Outsource marketing.
Smaller companies already do this, but usually because they do not have the time or skills to build great marketers, nor the environment to keep them entertained. Larger firms may consider retaining only their domain experts (market or product experts) and outsourcing the specialist area of demand generation to experts who can do this better, and can handle the lumpiness of that activity.
Remember, for leaders within the business it is all about execution and follow through. A mediocre strategy implemented well and with consistency will always beat a brilliant strategy that is never implemented.
Originally Published in Recruitment Extra June 2012