Marketing has always been a field loaded with early adapters and adopters. With the audience’s attention the ultimate prize, grabbing it in new and exciting ways tends to be an effective approach. But despite a penchant for the latest and greatest, every marketer knows that one strategy will forever outdo all other approaches, no matter how shiny, new, and exciting they might be: Word of mouth marketing, or WOMM to its friends.
People can be hesitant to trust brands because brands are biased. No matter how impartial they might try to appear, their job is to sell you something.
People put far more trust in other people. You’ve probably read the stats before: 92% of consumers trust the recommendations of their friends and family above all other forms of advertising, and 88% trust the reviews of strangers every bit as much as they trust the reviews of loved ones.
Armed with a background that combined marketing, staffing, and tech, David Folwell saw that turning these insights into action was something that the staffing industry was struggling to do. Founding Staffing Referrals at the beginning of 2017, he sought to change that fact. The mission: “to help staffing firms improve their digital presence and get more placements,” and thus far the team has done a rather good job.
“We’ve helped companies obtain 150% more referrals within the first 60 days of our partnership,” he says. “There are companies that now have 70% of their placements coming from referrals – something that was absolutely unheard of.”
There’s the cake he baked. Now let’s find out how he made it.
Let’s begin by defining what we mean by a referral. Staffing referrals are when a past or present candidate recommends a staffing service to another potential candidate in their network. It’s important however that we understand exactly what is being referred. At the risk of stating the obvious, when a person recommends a car, they’re recommending a car – there’s no ambiguity. But when a person recommends a staffing firm, things are a little hazier – there’s no obvious ‘product’.
The product in this case is the recruiter. A former candidate might make the mistake of recommending a particular job, which doesn’t really align with how most staffing firms work. By bringing structure to the process of obtaining staffing referrals, you’ll have more success in getting the right type: those that recommend a specific recruiter who has a range of open roles, one of which might be the right fit for the new candidate.
Referrals reduce – and in a perfect world, remove – the need for a firm to cold call. By way of comparison, staffing referrals are to cold calling what B2B warm leads are to cold leads. A staffing referral is that B2B warm lead that has visited your site, downloaded materials, who hasn’t yet reached out for a demo, but who’s going to be more open to a conversation.
Many in the staffing industry are unaware that referrals are the number one source of qualified talent. And it's likely that their importance will only increase.
“If people don’t like your company, don’t try to get referrals,” warns Folwell. “If your Net Promoter Score (NPS) is bad, this is not the strategy for you.”
Again, we might be stating the obvious, but if your car is a lemon, asking for a referral will probably only serve to highlight that fact. And this is why staffing referral success can only be achieved by those companies that have done the groundwork; who have offered a fantastic product – their recruiters – and are now looking to build on that solid foundation.
The importance of NPS can’t be understated – it’s perhaps the simplest yet most effective metric for understanding your reputation in the market. A high NPS score is as good a sign as any that people love working with your recruiters, which in turn indicates that referrals will be a fantastic tool. A low NPS tells you that you have work to do – whether in improving your service, better managing your reputation, or both – before staffing referral procurement will become an effective strategy.
Your NPS shows you whether you are loved. If you are, you can then leverage reviews to find out exactly who loves you and why. Once individuals are identified, it’s then time to lead them into the referral program, so they can declare this love to their friends.
Marketing automation is a key component of modern staffing referrals. Recruiters are famously time poor, so a smart tool that can draw out referrals largely without human hands is incredibly helpful. Relieving recruiters of mundane and repetitive tasks gives them their time back, allowing them to focus on the more human side of the job, which in turn will increase the quality of their service and referrals.
Whether you use an automated staffing referrals platform like Staffing Referrals, or build a system internally to reduce the work of your recruiters, it’s important to automate and simplify the process. Here is a list of items that you can do to enhance and expedite your referral program:
Once you have a plan in place, the delivery of these messages can be a more unique problem. It demands patience and a healthy dose of failure, because that’s how you figure out what works. Strategies like A/B testing allow you to be incredibly efficient with this failure though, so it’s not as painful a process as it once was.
Staffing referral automation reflects a broader move toward automation by the industry, a switch that has been spurred on by the events of 2020. Folwell believes that COVID-19 has seriously accelerated digital transformations, saying that he has witnessed an increase of “maybe two to five times the speed of adoption for digital tools.”
In many cases this has been driven, regrettably, by lay-offs. But perceiving the glass to be half full, this presents the perfect opportunity for staffing firms to streamline their processes and otherwise improve.
“To me there are areas that should be a focus for downsizing. We have to ask ourselves: what value are [internal] departments like Onboarding and Credentialing actually adding? For the most part these operations can be automated.”
A switch to automated systems not only streamlines a firm’s internal operations, it also ensures that you don’t force inefficient manual processes on candidates, instead allowing them to complete all the necessary requirements in minutes from their phone. The question should be ‘how easy can we make the process for the candidate?'
It’s not that employees should be replaced with machines – in fact this switch may not result in a single redundancy. It’s more that humans should be given the chance to do the human work, and machines should take care of the rest. Like coal miners, milkmaids, and elevator operators before them, certain staffing professionals will simply be asked to take care of a different set of tasks.
Can you imagine a new reality where you no longer have to cold call, and instead use glowing referrals to make your placements?
People trust people. It’s an inescapable truth of marketing and one that savvy staffing firms are increasingly using to their advantage. Check out Episode 13 of the You Own the Experience Podcast to learn more.