Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing – Which Works Better for Recruiters?

Whether you’ve been in the recruitment industry for decades or whether you are a newcomer, there’s no doubt about it, it’s never been as competitive as it is now. With the rise of in-house recruiters, and a record number of new recruitment agency start-ups, it’s only going to get tougher. This means that for many recruitment companies – especially the independent recruiters and small boutiques – it’s becoming a battle to survive.

But simply surviving isn’t good enough, is it? You want to flourish and grow. One fundamental factor in achieving consistent revenues and earnings growth is to get your marketing in shape. But what’s the best way of marketing your recruitment and staffing firm?

Inbound marketing is getting a lot of buzz. Should you abandon traditional outbound sales methods in favour of inbound? There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there.

Confused? You won’t be, it’s actually quite simple.

What Is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is essentially pushing out your recruitment company's message/brand in the hope that it resonates with potential clients and/or candidates. You’re proactively going out to identify potential customers and initiate a conversation.

This is the traditional way for recruitment agencies to reach out to new clients, the main activity being outbound telephone marketing (cold-calling) accompanied by other activities such as:

  • Connecting with potential clients/candidates via LinkedIn
  • Advertising, including print ads in trade publications, radio spots, job boards, banner ads, and Pay-per-Click (PPC)
  • Attending conferences and networking events
  • Direct mail
  • Sending InMails via LinkedIn
  • Email marketing*

*Email marketing could be considered inbound or outbound, depending on how it’s used.

What? I Thought Cold Calling Was Dead?

There are some so-called experts out there saying that say cold calling doesn’t work anymore. What utter nonsense. Outbound marketing may not be as ‘sexy’ as inbound marketing but the fact is that done well, it’s highly effective and offers a great return on investment. I work with many of the fastest growing recruitment companies in the world and the reality is that outbound marketing still accounts for a higher proportion of fee income than inbound.

The downside of outbound is that it can be expensive and labour intensive. Not to mention that it’s becoming harder than ever before to reach people by phone. (Then again, a lot of things in life are challenging. For instance, staying in shape when you’re over 40 is not easy, I can tell you! Just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it’s not worth making the effort.)

But the main drawback of outbound is that if you stop doing it, the leads dry up immediately. Whereas inbound marketing, once you have it set up, can become an ongoing source of warm leads.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is essentially focused on attracting clients and/or candidates through content that is helpful and informative. Sometimes called “attraction marketing” or “permission based marketing” – the beauty of inbound marketing is that clients/candidates come to you, instead of you having to chase them.

Through channels such as blogs and social media, recruiters can create content that resonates with their target audience. By adding value and sharing insights, you position yourself as an expert authority / trusted advisor, thus building trust and attracting high quality clients and candidates. It’s relatively cheap to do and offers a very good ROI.

Downsides? Not many – apart from the fact that unless you know what you’re doing, you can waste a lot of time with little result to show for your efforts. And don’t think this is a “lazy way to riches.” Inbound requires just as much time/commitment as outbound.

What Should We Use? Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

If you’re a savvy recruiter... Both! A good mix of inbound and outbound marketing that is highly targeted will ensure that you have a full pipeline of leads, job orders, interviews and placements. Outbound marketing such as cold-calling and networking will usually produce quicker results, so if you need new business right now, you’d better get on the phone. Inbound takes longer to get off the ground, but can become a continuous source of warm leads flowing into your business -- clients and candidates who WANT to talk to you.

Are you using a mix of both inbound and outbound marketing for your recruitment company? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter...

Mark Whitby

Mark Whitby is one of the world's leading coaches for the recruitment industry. Since 2001, he has trained over 10,000 recruiters in 34 countries. Mark has helped recruiters to double or triple their billings and owners to increase their team's sales by 67% in 90 days.

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