Getting Talent on the Bus

getting talent on the busIt’s always challenging to recruit top talent for your marketing team.

If you’re an early stage company, it’s even tougher. You need extremely talented people who share your passion and vision, are willing to work longer hours, carry more responsibility, in a less defined position, and for less cash than your established competitors.

Even if you’re an established small or mid-market company, you still need to differentiate yourself against well-known companies.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins explains that great companies focus on getting talent the bus before they decide where to drive. When you have the best people on your team, you have more opportunities, experience and insight on where the bus should go. And even if you take a wrong turn, the right people can help you turn around and find your way.

Finding extraordinary talent takes special effort. You’re looking for the best and you have a lot of competition for their time and talent. You need to position and brand your company to your prospective employees.

Yes, recruiting is all about marketing! And Simona Covel of the Wall Street Journal ran a piece last week about an incredibly creative recruiting campaign that should inspire every company looking for top talent.

A Campaign for Getting Talent on the Bus

Red 5 Studios, an online videogame startup in southern California, was frustrated with traditional recruiting strategies. So CEO Mark Kern decided to market directly to his top prospects.

They started by creating a list of 250 top videogame developers (“It starts with Google, and then you branch out from there,” said Kern). Then they spent 4 months whittling their list to 100 of the best and brightest.

Red 5 created five Russian doll-in-doll-style nested boxes and put an iPod Shuffle in the smallest box – and it was engraved with the candidate’s name.

Even better, Red 5 had loaded a custom message from Kern. He spoke directly to the candidates about their past work and invited them to visit the Red 5 website to learn more about their “golden ticket” opportunity.

Needless to say, candidates were blown away, and three of them joined Red 5 within four months (another one is interviewing). And Red 5 got a lot of attention for their campaign, raising their profile in the industry, landing them in the Wall Street Journal, and increasing their total resume flow tenfold.

Total cost for this campaign? $50K. And while you may not have that kind of budget, you can use a similar creative approach to find your next superstar:

1. Define your target market. A good list is the greatest success factor for any campaign. Why not create a list of potential candidates for your position?

2. Craft your message. Why should candidates get excited about your opportunity? What’s in it for them? Create messages that will make them feel special and want to talk with you.

3. Design your creative. You don’t need to create a five-piece Russian box with an engraved iPod, but do think of another creative execution that will grab attention and convey your brand in the process.

4. Budget based on your projected return. Any form of recruiting is expensive, particularly when you need to engage a specialized search firm. So project your response rates and expected number of hires. Then determine what each hire is worth to you. This projection will tell you how much to budget for the campaign.

Consider the additional long-term and publicity benefits you may gain as well … remember that Red 5 increased their total resume flow tenfold and got worldwide press coverage, which will produce returns for years to come.

5. Shape your call to action. Make sure you end with a strong one – get prospects to contact you now. And make it easy for them to respond quickly without major commitment. If you make them send an updated resume with a cover letter to your HR team, prospects may not respond quickly. Remember that you’re going after them for a reason, so get the dialogue rolling!

6. Execute! Make sure your interviewing process lives up to the promises you’ve made. You want to maintain the enthusiasm and momentum, then make offers and close deals.

Finding great people is no different than finding great customers. This time you’re selling your company, your vision and your opportunities, not your product.

This time, you’re selling a ticket for a bus ride. All aboard!

PS – Check out these 10 great recruiting tips from Guy Kawasaki, including how you should hire better than yourself to avoid the Bozo Explosion!

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