Major retailers beat their July earnings estimates. Cash for Clunkers has pumped a little life into the auto industry. Stocks are up more than 50 percent since March. And U.S. GDP growth for the 4th quarter was reforecast from 1.5 to 2 percent.
Finally! There are signs of life in the economy!
How big the upturn will be, when it will come, or how long it will last--no one knows. But one thing is for sure…more job orders are on the way!!
So why are so many staffing firms still sitting on the sidelines?
Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.
We call it the FUD factor. When times are uncertain, and the FUD factor is high, most companies stick with the safe bets. They cut costs. They trim payrolls. They pull back on their marketing…and wait to see what happens.
In fact, a poll in the July issue of StaffDigest magazine showed that about three-quarters of staffing firms are simply in a "wait and see" mode--not investing in growth until they know that the economy has improved.
But if you wait…you might be too late!
Think about it…
What's going to happen over the next several months?
Option 1: Slow Growth
If the economy continues to grow at a slow pace, businesses will be conservative. They won't want to add overhead, so they'll be resistant to hiring. But they are going to need people. They have already cut employment so far that they lack the capacity to meet increased demand of any kind. The result? Temporary staffing and temp-to-hire will improve over the next several months.
Option 2: Rapid Recovery
Let's say things get better in a hurry (candidly, I think the market fundamentals are still too weak for this to happen, but let's assume it does). If we enter a phase of fast growth, businesses are going to need lots of people in a short amount of time. Initially, there will be a huge wave of temporary staffing followed by a spike in direct hiring. Again, staffing firms win.
When the hiring starts, who will employers call?
Sometimes they'll call their former vendor. Sometimes they'll call the cheapest vendor. And most often they will call the vendors that have done the best job building and nurturing relationships during the down time. They will call the firms they trust and respect--the firms that got aggressive about marketing long before the hiring needs occurred.
So what should you do NOW?
Here are five things you can do right now that will pay big dividends in the months ahead:
Revisit Your Positioning
What makes you unique? What differentiates your business from the competition? Positioning is a strategic decision. It's about defining how you want to be seen, and carving out a niche that offers unique value to the clients you want to target. Positioning is how you create demand and keep your staffing firm from being seen as a commodity.
The biggest mistake most staffing companies make is trying to differentiate on service. Everyone says their service is the best--it's a promise that has lost all value to HR and other staffing decision makers.
In choosing your positioning, try pick one thing that you consistently do better than anyone else, and base your positioning on that value. Here are a few specific ideas:
Stop selling staffing
Right now, most businesses don't need staffing services. So if all you are doing is selling staffing, at best, you're getting no response…and at worst, you are irritating prospects and clients who don't want to hear another call from a staffing vendor.
In this economy, you need to sell ideas. You need to sell solutions. You need to show people that you are an expert at reducing costs, improving productivity and reducing employment risk. You need to show people that you have access to insight and information they need.
You also need to position yourself as a trusted resource, so that when employers start to hire they will want to turn to you for advice and support. Now is the time to educate your clients. Become a resource for staffing expertise or even better become a resource for expert advice on issues related to hiring, managing, developing and retaining talent.
To become a trusted resource, you want to regularly share educational information. This can be done through webinars, seminars, lunch and learns, your website content, email and drop off materials. Train your sales reps to become true staffing consultants who are focused on sharing knowledge and solving problems.
Focus on relationships
You have defined your position, developed your message and have a great service to offer. Now what? Traditional sales methods, like cold calls, will leave you, well, out in the cold. You will continue to be seen as a commodity, and continue to hear objections like "we're not hiring," "we don't use agencies," and "we're happy with our current vendor."
As you know, relationships are a key element to success in staffing. People want to work with people they like. But, relationships need time to develop and nurture, they take persistence.
Right now, forget the idea of selling. Instead, think of yourself as a consultant looking to help individuals and organizations that need your expertise. Rather than cold call, find ways to:
Get closer to your existing clients
As every sales person knows, it's easier to get business from an existing client than a new one. But at this very minute, your clients may not need your services. So what can you do?
Help your clients plan for the future! Most organizations are very reactive when it comes to staffing. They plan hiring needs less than 30 days in advance, and as a result, they have to scramble to fill jobs when they get busy.
You can change that pattern! If you're not already an expert on workforce planning, become one. One of our favorite resources at Haley Marketing is www.drjohnsullivan.com - you'll find great articles on workforce planning and dozens of other strategic HR issues.
Once your sales and service teams are up to speed on how workforce planning works, get out in the field with your clients. Help them to plan for:
Right now, before hiring needs arise, is the best time to do workforce planning. If you can bring this expertise to your clients, you will not only be a more valuable resource to your clients, but you will also know their exact hiring plans--and be in an ideal position to staff their temporary, contract and full-time hiring requirements.
You might be reading this article thinking "why should I do all this educating and relationship building when I really want to sell staffing?"
The answer is simple--because you want to sell more…not just today, but tomorrow. If all you are doing today is selling staffing, most employers don't need or want to talk to you. Then when they do need staff, you won't be top-of-mind.
By educating the marketing and offering solutions to strategic issues, employers will see you as a problem solver. The more you focus on nurturing relationships and adding value, the more your become a trusted resource.
When hiring picks up, employers will turn to their trusted advisors, so the real question is: Are you going to do what it takes to become a trusted advisor?
Don't wait another day. Start communicating regularly, offering education and ideas. Use e-mail, direct mail, voice mail and personal visits to connect--and reconnect with your clients and prospects. By building relationships now, you will create far more opportunity as the economy improves!
- David Searns
David Searns is president of Haley Marketing Group. For more ideas for growing your staffing firm, visit www.haleymarketing.com
Want to Learn More? For additional marketing tips, get your copy of the Haley Marketing Best Practices Guide. It will show you how to become a trusted advisor, and it includes 28 Low-Cost Marketing ideas. www.haleymarketing.com