This week, a coworker and I dined at a funky stir fry and salad bar in downtown Chicago with a techy twist: Our orders were fully customizable via a kiosk ordering system. The number of choices were thrilling, but overwhelming. Should I get a sesame stir fry, or the noodle arugula salad? Should I top it with an egg or tofu? And what is “togarishi?”
Then I considered my long-term goal: to eat healthier. So, I read the menu more closely and realized the noodle arugula salad had half the calories of the stir fry. Focusing on my health goal guided my choice and even helped me get creative with unfamiliar sauces (hello, red coconut curry!).
As when ordering at a restaurant, we’re faced with tough choices in recruitment marketing (harder ones than which protein to choose for a salad). As a content marketer, two of the most challenging ingredients to balance in a project are strategic focus and creative agility among stakeholders.
Working on whip-smart teams means innovative ideas and strong, valid opinions are sometimes at odds. Not to mention the evolving, 24/7 marketing industry is throwing new, flashy tools at us daily, making it easy to fall behind competitors. Pepper in the pressure to be original when 70% of recruitment marketing is targeting passive talent who are more selective than ever. These factors often lead to two binary project management attitudes between team members:
Project Stakeholder #1: “Why aren’t we on Snapchat? Snapchat is all the rage. Also, did you know you can customize Bitly links? Let’s customize every link in our editorial calendar because it makes the links look better. Have you heard of LinkedIn Elevate? We should do it because it’s new. We’ve got to beat everyone else to the punch and be cutting edge. If it’s new, it’s better than what we’re already doing.”
Project Stakeholder #2: “We aren’t on Snapchat because that wasn’t part of the original plan. We need to stick to the strategic ideas and not disrupt the system we have in place. If we haven’t done it before, we have absolutely no idea how it will perform. Pivoting is intimidating and stressful. Can’t we just wait until next year?”
So, how is it possible to create a long-range strategy that directs decisions while leaving wiggle room for imaginative, innovative tweaks? By adopting a third attitude, taking the following five steps throughout a project:
1) When something new is proposed, revisit priorities on a macro level. Consult the strategy and contract to ensure the new idea is in line with the original objective. Ask “What will this idea accomplish, and can a tactic we already employ accomplish the same thing?” Knowing the strategy and available resources like the back of your hand also gives you a sobering understanding of bandwidth. For instance, a modest creative budget could be completely burned through by producing one video! Or creating content to increase visibility of a priority job category might already be dominating the team’s time.
2) Make decisions based on data and industry research. Someone on the team wants to use more infographics for variety, but infographics attracted less-than-stellar engagements in the past. Your creative budget is better spent on something consistently high-performing. Maybe another partner is interested in using Instagram, but your target audiences are mid-level warehouse workers and senior level corporate professionals—and 59% of users are millennials, according to Sprout Social. Not every tactic is appropriate just because it’s popular. Last, don’t forget to evaluate current tactics, either! Identifying low-performing tactics frees up room to give innovative new ideas a whirl.
3) Live by the mantra of quality over quantity. The goal in recruitment marketing is not to get as many applicants as possible, it is to attract qualified applicants. Likewise, the content marketing goal is not to push out as much content as possible, but to push out quality content. Sometimes new tools give strategies the kick they need, but nurturing a couple of ongoing campaigns will make a stronger impact than constantly resetting and testing. Candidates are educated and perceptive, and require robust, informative content to make a decision during the hiring process. Using content marketing in recruitment does not mean saying yes to every creative tool available. It means saying no to hundreds and saying yes to the few that rake in relevant conversions. Like a wise marketer once said, the grass is green where you water it. If a tactic is working, invest more money and creative thought into it.
4) Still not sure if you should implement that new idea? Run a test. Remember Project Stakeholder #1, who wanted to customize every single Bitly link? Customize a few of the links over a course of months, and compare how much web traffic they bring in compared to the control group, the standard Bitly links. The numbers will speak for themselves. Maybe your team wants to know if a social media ad with a gif would draw more engagement than an ad with a stock image, which is your usual choice. Run an A/B test to see how audience behavior changes between the control ad and variable ad.
5) Align stakeholders before moving forward. To prevent fragmented communication, explain what decision has been made to your team and why. Providing the rationale reminds teams of the goal being worked toward, and encourages them to consider those same factors when they’re faced with a fork in the road. Recruitment marketing has many moving pieces, and because stakeholders have different roles and expertise, they focus on their short-term goals, which might all be different. Use this opportunity to show how each short-term goal will help reach the ultimate target.
Recruitment marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, which is why balancing purpose and flexibility is crucial. Strategies aren’t cages; they’re malleable frameworks that guide decisions. Strategic focus and creative agility have a symbiotic relationship that drives bottom-line impact.