Differentiation is the True Strategy
Over the last decade and a half, there has been a huge increase in the number of recruitment businesses, with nearly 4,000 registered in 2018 alone. With employment rates at an all-time high and low barriers to entry, the recruitment pond is quickly becoming saturated. On top of a highly competitive market, employers are demanding more for less, whilst also establishing internal talent teams, meaning the need to differentiate your business has never been more important.
The only way to stay afloat in the current climate is to create a brand that sets you above the rest and will allow you to thrive during the profound transformation of the sector over the next few years.
From our unique positioning in the market, Camino Partners CEO, Sachin Ruparelia and NED, Suhail Mirza explore the core concepts needed to differentiate your business.
Sachin Ruparelia is the CEO of Camino Partners. Under his stewardship, the business has doubled in size and net fee income over the last two years. He has over 15 years’ experience within the recruitment sector and has partnered with hundreds of recruitment businesses to develop their internal infrastructure to enable their growth.
The key to differentiation is to find a tight niche and know that niche inside out. In the ever-evolving world we live in, there will always be new niches being created and owning your market will put you heads and shoulders above your generalist competitors. Understand what value you can add and establish yourself as the thought-leader. Creating a high-profile brand within a tight niche means you will soon have candidates and clients approaching you to leverage off the exposure and content you provide, whether that’s events, blogs or podcasts. By positioning yourself in the centre of the network and showcasing unrivalled expertise, you become the natural choice for your clients and candidates.
Differentiating yourself is about getting in somebody’s inner circle and having them come to you. The power of what we have built within Camino lays with how we have become ingrained in our network and have become the natural choice for C-Suite, Leadership and all operational functions within a recruitment business. For example, a week doesn’t pass where clients aren't coming to us asking for advice, whether that is on growing their business, supplier recommendations or salary benchmarking. Going in and understanding a business and then having the ability to help them achieve their goals puts you in a true position of partnership.
Another great way to differentiate yourself is by having an innovative proposition, whether that be a pricing model, a sourcing model or extra services (online portals, video platforms, psychometric testing, etc.). By understanding your market inside out and the challenges associated with it, you can offer something truly unique and value adding that will leave your competitors behind.
The final point here is to place integrity at the forefront of everything you do. Delivering a service that leaves your candidates and clients ready to recommend you at the drop of a hat, will truly differentiate you from the rest.
Suhail is a prominent and widely respected figure within the recruitment sector. He is a former qualified solicitor who specialised in employment law and is currently Chairman at two recruitment businesses as well as People PAYE. Suhail’s network doesn’t end there. He has been the City Editor at Recruitment International for over 12 years and a judge for its awards globally. He is also the author of the widely celebrated book about the recruitment sector “Meet the CEO”.
Attraction and Retention
In an industry with a reputation fraught with negative candidate experiences, the attraction and retention of top talent is incredibly important. There are many examples of employers having the same contractor working for them on repeat assignments through different agencies, highlighting the necessity of gaining candidate loyalty.
But how do you do that? An obvious method is to provide an exceptional customer journey where it is absolutely clear your candidates are more than just a number. This is an old-fashioned principle and goes back to the human element on which all recruitment should be built. If you ignore the human element, you may as well set up a commoditised Uber-style platform where candidates can go straight to the client.
Further to outstanding candidate care is adding value to them. Placing yourself in the position of a career coach, means you are not just focused on the short-term goal of getting a candidate their dream job, but can help to improve their performance (and subsequently the businesses they join) and become a partner throughout their career.
These are all timeless principles but help to establish long term partnerships and encourage candidate loyalty.
Intelligently used technology can further aid the candidate journey and play a huge part in differentiating yourself. Not only can automating processes remove elements of human error that may cause frustrations (timesheet portals, onboarding platforms, etc.), they also reduce the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, allowing your consultant to focus on the human elements mentioned above and enable them to deliver an outstanding candidate experience.
Consider your client’s pain points and how your internal systems and processes can mitigate this. For example, if you operate within the public sector, implementing a payroll arrangement which eliminates supply chain risk would make you the natural choice over your competitors.
Finally, if you truly want to differentiate your brand, marketing and communication of your message are key.
The reality is that the marketing team is the centre point of your candidate and client acquisition strategy. They are the people that build brand recognition that starts the journey to customer loyalty. They are the people that produce and communicate the content that helps your candidates become better at their jobs. They help your clients to understand how you will benefit their business but further to this, attract the internal talent you need to deliver on those promises.
An accountant by trade, Alan holds the record as the youngest person to become a qualified accountant in England. He entered the recruitment industry in 1084 by joining a fast growth, post-MBO, IT recruitment business (Hunterskil), and was appointed FD in 1987 and latterly in 1992, MD. During Alan's time at Hunterskil, turnover grew from £5m to over £70m and he left in 1997 after the successful sale to a US Group which is now part of Adecco.
Alan formed his own recruitment business in 1998, specialising in senior financial recruitment for the growth company market. He created a niche in recruiting at FD level for companies in sectors such as recruitment, marketing service, and leisure/hospitality. Alan has successfully placed FD's with a number of listed recruitment businesses and several private equity-backed groups and became the principal source of FD's into recruitment businesses.
You can be the best in the world at something, but you can’t be the best at everything.
The most effective ways to differentiate yourself is to either specialise in a very tight niche by industry, or role specialisation, or by having the best quality.
When I was a specialist in recruiting Finance Directors within the recruitment sector, I was incredibly efficient and became known as the expert. The other side of having this degree of specialism is when you’re pitching for business, if you’re very clear on the business you want and are the expert, you can present yourself as such. The aim is to be the obvious choice for your client – why would they want to consider going anywhere else when you’re the expert in this field? It will also help in not wasting any effort when there is business you don’t want.
If you command your niche, your efforts will be incredibly efficient, and you will get an economy of scale and repeat business.
How do you differentiate yourself? Either specialise in a very tight niche by industry, or a role specialisation. To me, specialisation is differentiating yourself. It’s not necessarily about doing things differently but having the best quality.
There are thousands of ways of differentiating yourself, but the tricky thing keeping hold of your differentiation! Because of the low barriers to entry in the sector, if you have a good idea there is no reason why somebody can’t create a business having copied it!