June 21, 2018

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Harry Potter and the Secrets of Marketing Staffing Services

Wow! I was just reading a little about the launch of the latest installment in the Harry Potter series (quick side note, I'm a definite fan...if you've never seen the "secret identities" from our website, be sure to check mine: Secret Identities).

Anyway, I read that the publisher printed 10.8 million books for this release. At an average price of $20 a copy, that's just under a QUARTER BILLION in sales they are expecting from the first printing of this book. Not bad, eh?

As I thought about the global phenomena that is Harry Potter (and prepared to read my copy of the Half-Blood Prince), I realized there may be a lesson or two in J.K. Rowlings success for all of us. So here's my take on Harry Potter and the secret of marketing staffing services:

  1. Tell a great story

    Harry Potter is not just a series of children's books, it's a great story, an epic tale. It has heroes, heroines, evil villains, comedy, drama, action, adventure, and even an object lesson or two. Likewise, what you sell is much more than just's the story of your company, the story of your sales team and recruiters; it's the story of your candidates, and the story of your clients and your local market.

    The trick is to make your story compelling. Create drama in the way you serve your clients, and in the way you market yourself. For example, are you the small start-up fighting to slay the corporate giants? Are you part of a husband and wife team defying the odds by running both a successful business and a successful marriage? Are you the people's champion, helping individuals find rewarding career options and better manage the stresses of their chaotic lives? The challenge you face is to write your own epic. Tell a tale that others find compelling, and make that tale become the heart and soul of your organization.

  2. Help people live (or at least visualize) their dreams...

    The beauty of Harry Potter is that the story takes place in a magical world. It's a world of witches, wizards, giants, goblins, elves, and even a famous hippogriff. But more importantly, it's a world where one young boy, along with the help of his closest friends, can defeat even the most sinister of enemies. It's a place where the reader can go to dream what it would be like to have magical powers, invisibility cloaks, and the ability to aparate (transport themselves) from one place to another in an instant.

    In the staffing business, you too create dreams. You enable people to gain skills and experience they may not have believed possible. You help people make career moves they could not have found on their own. You help businesses overcome intense competitive pressure to operate more efficiently and profitably. But do you sell these dreams? Or do you sell temps? If you really want to dazzle your clients (and fight fewer margin battles), focus more on tomorrow's dreams than on today's tactical staffing needs. Help your clients and candidates envision a future with incredible possibility and position your firm as the conduit to achieving that vision.

  3. ...But still allow people to mentally connect with what you're selling

    As a fantasy, Harry Potter is a terrific story. But what makes the books even more compelling is that the characters in Harry Potter are us. Whether we identify with young Harry as he struggles to discover who he really is, the ultra-intelligent yet socially outcast Hermoine Granger, or Ron Weasley who must deal with not being as smart, successful or well off as his friends, there is a character for us all in Harry Potter (and maybe a bit of every character in each of us as well). By creating characters that kids (and adults) can easily relate to, J.K. Rowlings masterfully enables readers to not just enjoy her tales, but to become emotionally involved in them. Harry is not just a wizard, he is our friend.

    In promoting your services, do you create emotional bonds with your clients, prospects and candidates? Do they see you as not just a vendor, but a trusted friend? Are they able to visualize themselves in the ideas you present and the solutions you sell? If not, your sales and marketing process may lack the emotional connection that is vital to building trust, selling solutions and achieving higher profits and greater customer loyalty.

  4. Make what you sell special...and fun

    At 12:01 AM on July 16 bookstores across the World celebrated the official release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with parties and celebrations. People came in costume. People wrote essays. Every major news station and paper reported on the event. And millions of dollars of books were sold.

    So how can you make what you sell special? Unfortunately you probably can't rely on releasing one blockbuster product every two years. You need to sell your services every day, but that doesn't mean your sales efforts have to boring! The trick is to focus on the customer experience. How can you create an experience for clients and candidates that is truly extraordinary (think Southwest airlines or Ritz Carlton hotels)? How can you create events to celebrate? What else can you do to make it more fun and special to work with your organization?

  5. Have a GREAT product

    Harry Potter isn't just another children's book. It's a great series of books. Each book is incredibly well written. They capture the imagination and are exciting to read. You truly can't put them down (I know this from personal experience as I've lost several nights sleep because I had to read "just one more chapter.") In short, J.K. Rowlings created a great product…one that is clearly superior to the competition.

    How about your business? How does your product compare? Are your services truly differentiated from the competition? Do you serve a unique niche? Do you offer a unique value? Or are you really selling a commodity—a service that is not all that different from the dozens (or even hundreds) of competitors in your market? Great marketing can make up for an average product (look at what Microsoft did with Windows). But it's easier and less expensive to be a great marketer when you start with a great product.

    Your challenge is to find ways to make your product great. How? You may consider redefining your product…to sell outcomes, or expertise, or something other than "hours"—something that thoroughly distinguishes your services. You might change the nature of the services you sell (e.g., consulting vs. staffing), develop expertise in a specific industry or technology, focus on specific types of positions, or redefine your service process to create a unique customer experience. This last idea is what Build-a-Bear workshops did in the stuffed toy market. They redefined the process for buying a stuffed animal. They made it an event, and in the process, they created a retail concept that produces double the revenue per square foot of average retailers.

  6. Make it easy to do business with you

    Where can you get a copy of the new Harry Potter book? Just about everywhere! From your local supermarket to and a host of places in between, Harry Potter is everywhere you turn. You could order your copy months in advance or pick it up at the check out line. Part of Harry Potter's success is their distribution strategy. They made it easy to buy.

    How about your business? How easy is it for people to register with you? Do they need to block off 2 to 3 hours for an interview and assessment testing? Are you conveniently located? How about clients? What are the costs of switching from their current vendor to you?

    Getting someone to register with your service or switch from their current vendor to you requires a significant investment of their time and "emotional capital." What can you do to streamline, simplify and reduce the risk of working with your firm? What can you do to be the easiest staffing firm to use? This may require greater use of technology, more (or different) locations, extended hours, same day staffing services, deeper market knowledge and industry expertise, and eliminating any steps in your process that really are not needed.

  7. Create scarcity

    Scarcity (or better yet, the perception of scarcity) makes things more valuable. Think diamonds. They aren't the most scarce gemstone in the world, but thanks to great marketing, they are the most expensive. The people behind Harry Potter have created scarcity in two ways. First, they are selling a totally unique item. There is no direct substitute for a Harry Potter book. Sure you could read A Series of Unfortunate Events or Artemis Fowl, but they are not Harry Potter. And that helps make each Harry Potter book more valuable.

    Second, with each release, the publishers create the perception of scarcity. They encourage people to order months in advance to ensure their favorite retail store won't be sold out. With 10.8 million copies in print, no one gets sold out, but the publisher invented the possibility of a sellout to maximize pre-order sales. And it worked! 8.9-million copies sold on the first day in the United States and Britain, with 250,000 copies sold per hour in the U.S. alone, breaking all records for book sales.

    So how can you create scarcity? For some firms, it may be by only taking on a select number of clients. For others, by only working with certain types of candidates, or having market knowledge no one else has. Scarcity exists when the buyer believes there is no good substitute for your services and expertise. In other words, you must create the perception that your services are unique, and once you've done that, you will be able to create scarcity.

  8. Know your customers

    This may be lesson #1 for any business, and there's no question J.K. Rowlings knows her customers. Individually, each book contains elements designed to appeal to her audience. The story lines are exceedingly well crafted to capture the attention and imagination of the reader, yet not so complex that they lose (or so simple that they bore) today's kids. The style of writing was crafted to draw in the Playstation generation and keep them more engaged than the latest release of Tekken. And the characters in the stories are people we can all relate to and cheer for.

    What is even more interesting is how the writing in each book in the series has matured as the main characters do. The words get bigger. The plots more elaborate. And with each book the text gets longer (at least until book six, which still weighs in at a hefty 652 pages). J.K. Rowlings actually made her product "age" along with her customers. Add it all up, and you have a product that very effectively creates an emotional bond with its customers.

    To apply this lesson to your business, focus on your customers' emotional needs. If all you do is provide a service that fulfills a physical requirement, you're never going to capture the hearts of your customers. You're going to be seen as a commodity. Look at Starbucks. They don't just sell coffee, they sell a coffee experience. For their customers, the experience is clearly worth the expense.

    Now take a look at your customers. What are their emotional needs? How well do you satisfy those needs? Your challenge is to get to know your customers better than anyone else. Understand the factors that drive their purchase decisions. Understand their fears and desires. Understand their true emotional needs. Once you have this understanding, you can use that data to redefine your service process—to create an experience that delivers not just a physical result, but also an unparalleled emotional benefit.

It Doesn’t Take Magic to Create Magic

J.K. Rowlings was a divorced, unemployed, single mother struggling to pay the bills when she embarked upon writing the first Harry Potter novel. At the time, she was so poor that when she finished the first book, she typed additional copies of the manuscript on a cheap old typewriter because she could not afford to have them copied.

Fast-forward 11 years, J.K. Rowlings is now a billionaire worth more money than the Queen of England. Yet, it was not magic that created her success. It was hard work. It was a passion for her craft. It was research (she spent nearly 10 years collecting bits of information that became incorporated into her books). It was perseverance to overcome severe adversity including poverty and depression. And of course, it was great marketing!

-David Searns

Remember, Haley Marketing can help! Whether you need assistance with direct marketing to get the door open or nurture marketing to keep it open, call on us. We have two new, and very cost effective solutions that can help your business to stand-out, stay top-of-mind, and increase sales.

Just give us a call if you'd like to know more: 1-888-696-2900.