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How to: Create a marketing function from scratch

Recruitment Marketing Start Camino Partners

How to: Create a marketing function from scratch

As we see the recruitment sector bounce back from what can only be described as a 'tumultuous' year... lots of businesses are in rebuild mode. This presents the opportunity to start again and shape the business in a new mould.

BUT HOW EXACTLY DO YOU DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF AND ATTRACT THE MOST SOUGHT-AFTER TALENT?! Cold calling, right? It’s not dead (as Linkedin tells me circa 63 times day). Wrong-ish. Write ‘we are different from other recruitment companies’ on your ‘about us’ page? Yawn. How about increasing the number of candidates positively interacting with your business, through providing them with thought-leading content, improving your SEO so they can find your business and have a slick candidate experience? Yes!

Marketing is the differentiator!

THAT SOUNDS AMAZING. I WANT A MARKETING DEPARTMENT NOW. Ahh marketing, you little temptress, you are great.

Hold the (cold) phone, what exactly is marketing?

Seriously, what is marketing? A ‘Beginners Guide to Marketing’ defines it as, ‘the process of teaching consumers why they should choose your product or service over your competitors’.

Creating any business function from scratch can be challenging, and marketing is no exception, particularly within a recruitment business. We reached out to some top marketing professionals with experience creating a marketing function from scratch for their top tips.

Speak to people to understand the business

You need to know what you’re marketing. Very simply, if you don’t understand the business, how can you take them to market?

“Take time to understand the business; engage with everyone. In the first few weeks sit on the desk with consultants, listen to them on the phone, make yourself part of the team. Make them feel that you are listening to them and you are going to develop a strategy that will support them.”Robert Woodford – Founder of The Marketing Junction.

“Have a detailed understanding of each sector/division of the business before you try and start to put together a marketing strategy for the business or specific team (sit down with each team in the first few weeks and find out what they have done before marketing-wise, what they think they need, and what you think they should do).” – Anon.

 “Speak to people! This is always my first priority. Get out, speak to people and find out where they need support.”Jenny Ayre, Marketing Manager @ Capita.

Make it clear what marketing is

Recruitment businesses, particularly SME’s are typically very sales staff heavy and (another generalisation) have had little exposure to marketing previously. Clearly defining what marketing is and what effect it can have on the business is essential for it to be successful. If there is a lack of understanding as to what marketing does, how can it be effective?

“Most recruiters have no idea what marketing really entails so make sure you inform them, so they can help you (I did a breakfast presentation to the business about what I did, my plans for the next year and what they could do to help me). They are the people with the networks, so you need them onside first!”Anon.

“Reassure them [consultants] about the purpose of the marketing department and start by understanding their business and what they do.” – Robert Woodford – Founder of The Marketing Junction.

Love your consultants

Recruiters are a fountain of knowledge, tap into it. And if you don't know how click here.

“Many people make the mistake that they need to get the owner onboard. Wrong. You need to focus on the consultants just as much. If they buy into you then you will be successful.”  – Robert Woodford – Founder of The Marketing Junction.

‘Getting recruiters onboard with marketing is a key challenge which you need to overcome. I would recommend starting small, initially work closely with a couple of people, this will give you real-world results and as soon as the placements start rolling in and the benefits of marketing become clear, the wider businesses will want a piece of their peers’ success.’ Natasha South – Head of Operations & Marketing @ Camino Partners.

Don't expect results overnight

Marketing is remarkable, but it is a long-term investment. Whilst there are short-term wins to be made, the greater returns are long-term. Would you have heard of Jimi Hendrix if he couldn’t play a chord? Would Mark Zuckerberg be valued at $65.8bn if he never learnt how to programme? Invest in the foundations and it will pay dividends.

“Return on investment is slower than sales with work completed in January 2017 often bringing in its ROI in 2018. Whether that’s an SEO campaign or a year's worth of project work needed to set your company in good stead to win an award application.”Nicola Lawler, Head of Marketing @ JCW Search.

“Prioritise! Rome wasn’t built in a day. There’s only so much you can achieve in your first 3/6/12 months so make sure you spend some time with senior management identifying your immediate and long-term objectives, prioritise, and work accordingly. And make sure you manage expectations!” Jenny Ayre – Marketing Manager @ Capita.

Find marketing champions

Reggae Reggae Sauce. You know the brand, right? The delicious jerk barbeque sauce which is known and loved throughout the UK. How did Levi Roots (the creator) go from having an immensely popular Rasta’raunt at Notting Hill Carnival who banks refused business loans to, to being worth £30m and about to open Rasta’raunts up and down the country? He found some marketing champions in Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh.

“I’d recommend identifying marketing champions within the company – there will always be a few people who really understand marketing and the value it adds. Spend some time working with them and provide the support they need and they’ll shout about it. Making your job a million times easier!” –Jenny Ayre – Marketing Manager @ Capita.

Quick wins

Imagine you’re having your home completely redecorated, how irritating! You’re living room is completed quickly, whilst the rest of the house is still a mess. This is a quick win. The bathroom finished a few weeks later? Another quick win. People love a quick win, even if the finished article isn’t ready yet.

“You need to go for the quick wins. These are the things that will support the consultant to do what they are ultimately there to do – make bonus! But if you show that you are an invaluable member of the team, your job will become easier.”Robert Woodford - Founder of The Marketing Junction.

Stick to your guns & manage expectations

Failing to deliver what you say you’re going to do erodes your credibility. When going into a new business it is human nature to want to impress those around you, but it is essential you manage expectation. Under-promise and over-deliver.  

“On day one you will be told by recruitment consultants that they need 75 new job boards, a super whizzy website, a range of promotional merchandise and 35 brochures in a range of languages. Give them the slightest hint that they will get it and you have lost them. Similarly, the owners will want you to spend no money, deliver enough candidates so that they don’t need to use job boards and turn water into wine. So, you also need to be realistic. Don’t pick fights or battles in your first few months. People will only side with you once you have established yourself. Therefore, take your time.” – Robert Woodford – Founder of the Marketing Junction.

“The role of Marketing within a recruitment business is to take a helicopter view over the whole process. The candidate journey, the candidate experience, and tie every little thing together. You need to be disruptive and challenge the norm…for the better of the company.”David Rennie, Head of Marketing & Recruitment @ Robinson Medical Recruitment.

“People will try and tell you how to ‘do’ marketing. Anyone from the finance guy to the sales team. Have an ideas box where people are welcome to submit their ideas and by all means use it, but you need to gain control over the final say. Whether it's getting clearance for a project or how to write a marketing email, hold your ground.” – Nicola Lawler – Head of Marketing @ JCW Search.

Your candidate are the consumer

As the battle to attract the strongest candidates intensifies, recruitment marketing has shifted its focus to the candidate experience. This is a trend which is only set to continue and develop, whether that is through marketing automation, improved functionality on your website, providing through-leading content or even Artificial Intelligence, the candidate experience is everything.

“Remind them [your team] that at the end of the day candidates are consumers on the jobs market. They behave like consumers and expect the same level of engagement when searching for a job that they would when shopping on Amazon, Netflix, and Airbnb. Show your team that you can build relationships for the future, cut through the noise and open new doors to reach those future candidates and clients and you will quickly become an invaluable member of the team”Rowan Hughes – Marketing Specialist @ Brooks Quayle.


Marketing is such a valuable tool for any business and the initial phases of creating the marketing function are vital in its creation. Remember, marketing is a long-term project, take time to ensure the foundations are strong and the results will take care of themselves.

If you are looking for your own marketing whiz to create your marketing function, or you’re a marketing professional looking for your next challenge, get in touch today!

To have a look at our latest Marketing roles, click here!

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