Why I’m Not Giving Up on Marketing – And Nor Should You

Published on

May 20, 2020

Written by

Alison Humphries


A few weeks ago, I was helping a client with their cash flow forecast prior to a CBILS application. One of the changes he’d made to his budget pulled me up short.

He had completely deleted his marketing spend.

His thinking went like this:

  1. I built this business without marketing, other than e-shots with “hot candidates” and posting on job boards. Therefore marketing is a luxury purchase I don’t really need.
  2. I can’t track every pound spent on marketing and show direct results for the investment. Therefore the value of marketing is questionable.
  3. No client is going to register a vacancy with me right now on the basis of marketing, so why bother?
  4. My staff (he employs 30) are all idle right now so they can hit the phones, right?

I expect he isn’t the only person out there who is thinking this way. And I’ve been advising all my clients who own or manage recruitment businesses to be realistic about business recovery (even after lockdown) and eliminate non-essential spend.

As you’d expect, as a NED/business adviser, I’ve taken my own advice. But I want to explain why I think marketing is essential.

Not some – ALL of my clients are business owners/directors who have got in touch after multiple “touches”. When they get a personal recommendation from a former Recruitment Leadership client, they look online and what do they see?


Even if they already recognise my name, they want to see whether my persona is thought-provoking, in touch, directed at them and people like them.


Even the ones who consciously think “She always sends out helpful, apposite content”, are thinking this for one reason.


Sometimes, it’s just a question of timing. One message hits home at the right moment, or reminds them of me, because of…


You are reading this now because of…

Well, you get the point. I’ve never been short of content, but I lacked the technical expertise, time and understanding to position that content consistently in front of the right people.

However, it is mission-critical that you don’t be tone-deaf.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read a lot more of the unsolicited marketing emails that pop into my inbox than I usually do.

We probably have that in common, as stats show that open rates (normally about 2%) have increased to about 30% in lockdown. That’s across B2B channels.

Lots of it has been great; helpful, practical, entertaining.

What has astonished me, though, is how tone-deaf some of that marketing has been.

“There’s never been a better time to plan a holiday”…

“How I made millions in recruitment”

“Chillax – you’re on furlough” sets the teeth on edge if your job and income are on the line.

Dreamworks’ David Geffen did the same by posting that he was self-isolating in the Grenadines on his $590 million yacht.

How did these get through someone’s filter in the time of Covid-19?

Today they look almost as cringe-worthy as the ad that Dove put out on it’s Facebook page.

The ad promoting the skin-care brand’s soap shows a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman.

Many social media users felt the images were reminiscent of racist ads of the past that depict black people as “dirty”, until they use a soap that transforms them into a “clean” white person.

Just more noise…

The other kind of marketing that the recruitment community has always generated a lot of is “me too” marketing. It’s marketing eating itself.

An example is posting a selfie video on LI that has nothing to say except “I heard that video was really important for engagement, so here’s my first video”.

Or simply republishing other people’s content (different from sharing with people you know it is relevant to).

Or confusing marketing with cheery approbations of other people’s postings. (Do this, but don’t think marketing is just about saying something that gets your profile picture up.)

It’s not just about being visible. It’s important to be valuable at the same time.

So, what do we know?

There’s a great opportunity here to build your brand and an asset library for future use.

I continue to invest with my marketing company – Loaded Hype – who provide me with a very reasonably priced service.

  1. Make your contact reflect the situation. Refer to COVID 19/the situation, but remember we have all been affected differently. Some people are better off, some have lost their jobs, some are struggling with extended family. A simple acknowledgement is sufficient such as:
    “During these difficult times…”
    Be sure to keep any reference at the beginning of your email and keep it very short and simple.
  2. Because the proportion of people using Webmail has doubled, complex HTML emails are worth avoiding. Plain text emails work much better. Desktop has dropped significantly from 43% to 4% – this very likely suggests a move from the office computer to a home laptop using WebMail.
  3. Research from Pinpointe marketing found that by using a specific personal name, rather than a general email address or company name, you can increase open rates by as much as 35%. Check this data from emailmovers:
  4. Do sense-check your search-generated circulation lists. If I had a pound for everyone who has told me on LI they are “certain they can help me generate more candidates”….. Well, I am not a recruitment agency owner any more, so I don’t want candidates. Please segment your list and address them by clearly identifying why they are relevant.
  5. If you can, keep a variety of media covered. Your social media is more likely to be aimed at candidates and does not need to be daily. Different people engage with different media. In addition to blogs, magazine columns and conference speaking, I’ve been using podcasts for a good while now, and I’ve published an eBook too. You can access the podcasts here and eBook here.
  6. Make sure your communications offer some specific actions/how to’s. Be valuable AND visible. Don’t assume people will work it out for themselves. Also, do have a clear call to action- explain specifically what you can do and how to reach you.
    Sure, I’ve spent hours in the last few weeks giving free advice to people I’ve never met and who are in no position to pay me. If just one of them remembers and acts on it in better times, it will have been worth it.


And so, here’s my call to action:

Alison Humphries is a highly experienced MD and NED, with 35 years at the top of the recruitment sector. She advises directors and owners of recruitment businesses on how to maximise profitability, grow robust businesses and put in place the infrastructure for a profitable business sale. To talk to Alison about how you might work with her now or in future, email alison@recruitmentleadership.co.uk or contact her via LinkedIn where you can read some of her clients’ recommendations.

To contact Loaded Hype, email hello@loadedhype.com quoting Recruitment Leadership.

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