I did a website analysis and custom demonstration for a local IT recruiting company yesterday.  This is a very successful company. They're a leader in their field and they have a good number of recruiters working for them.

They've adapted to using online social networks (namely LinkedIn) to identify passive candidates in the last few years and it's serving them well. If you know anything about recruiting, you know that identifying passive candidates (ie the ones not necessarily looking for a job) is the holy grail. The theory goes that if someone is looking, they're probably not the best candidate you can find. That's certainly not always the case, of course. Nonetheless, many recruiting firms say they can find "passive candidates" and that's their big selling point. 

So, this recruiting firm is good at networking: online and in the real world. 

But, they're clueless when it comes to generating leads via their website.  Just like every other recruiting firm, they need to fill two pipelines. They need a pipeline of companies that want to hire them to recruit on their behalf. And they need a pipeline of candidates to fill those positions. 

This "two pipeline" requirement is pretty unique to the recruiting industry. But, at the end of the day, they need to generate "leads" that get fed into some kind of offline sales process - just like most b2b [and many b2c] companies do.  They're not much different. 

Nonetheless, as I was identifying their needs; talking about where they are now; and what they're goals and challenges are, one of the partners was skeptical about search engine optimization (SEO). He actually said to me, "No one searches at Google for a recruiting firm".  

Of course this isn't the first time I've heard something like this.  These are usually the same people who say something like, "We don't sell anything online" when I ask them about their internet marketing strategy. Many people haven't really wrapped their head around how marketing is changing from push to pull and how it's possible to generate highly qualified 'ready to buy' inbound sales leads online.

If we're on a demo and I've done my research I can usually just show these people how many people are searching for their product and services at Google and which keyword phrases to focus on first in order to start generating some of that traffic. After a demo, usually people are atleast a bit less skeptical.

I certainly would never suggest that 10,000 people start their day thinking: "I'm going to hire a recruiter today", and then do a search in google for "IT recruiter", then find a company in the results, check out their website and hire them the next day. However, it's certainly reasonable to expect that a good number of hiring managers do searches at Google for "IT Recruiter" and then:

  • Download a white paper about "Successful IT Recruiting" or "The Benefits of Passive Candidates".
  • Leave a comment (or subscribe) to a blog about IT recruiting.
  • Bookmark a site on a social bookmarking site where they can look it up later and where some of their contacts might discover it.
  • Register for a webinar , a seminar or a newsletter.

I could certainly see passive IT candidates exploring their options and downloading a market or salary report, attending a webinar on a topic of interest, or entering a programming contest .

In short, there's no shortage of ways a recruiting company could start capturing leads on their website and building their pool of candidates and their pipeline of companies who have hiring needs.

Repeat after me:
Leads. Leads. Inbound Leads.
They Want to Talk to You Now.
They Buy Much Faster.

(Can you come up with a better Inbound Marketing Haiku ?)

Unfortunately, "Leads. Leads. Inbound Leads." isn't going to happen without a comprehensive and coordinated internet marketing strategy.  

The nice thing about search engine optimization, blogging and social media marketing, is that the results are cumulative and compounding. Ultimately, they can be exponential. 

However, if each of these online marketing activities are done in a silo, they're a lot less likely to produce an exponential ROI.

A more positive way of explaining this is like this:

  • Blogging Supports SEO Efforts , especially On Page SEO. Blogging is the quickest way to generate a lot of keyword dense well optimized pages on your site around your keywords. People are much more likely to link to a blog post than your 'services page' too. And links are a critical part of rising in the search engine rankings. 
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM) Supports SEO Efforts , especially Off Page SEO or Link Building. Social bookmarking sites like Digg, Mixx, Reddit and a million topic specific ones at coRank ; forums; blog communities like MyBlogLog ; meme aggregators like Techmeme and literally a few hundred other sites that could be classified as "social media" can help you build links directly, just by usng these sites. These sites are also places where your followers will promote your content and where someone else might find your content and link to it. In short, social media helps with link building, which is critical for SEO. 
  • Social Media Marketing Supports Blogging by Driving Traffic to the Blog. I frequently answer questions on LinkedIn and leave a link to relevant blog posts I've written. Every month, Hubspot generates a few leads that turn into clients as a result of this activity. Additionally, every one of our posts has a quick link to Delicious, Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon. This makes it easy for our readers to share our content on these sites. Every month, Stumbleupon is one of the top 5 referers to our blog and our main site. Social media builds our readership and helps fill the top of our marketing funnel.
  • Blogging Supports Social Media Marketing. It works the other way too. Our blog has about 4,000 RSS and email subscribers. A little while ago, we added a button on our blog that points to our " Marketing Mavens " LinkedIn group. When I log onto LinkedIn, it's hard to look at 5 profiles of marketing professionals and not see a "marketing maven" badge on atleast one of their profiles. Our blog lets us more easily connect with people on social networking sites by directing them to what we're doing. I've also started using Twitter to communicate with existing and prospective clients and have used my blog to drive traffic to my Twitter page and build up my Twitter fanbase. (Yes, I'm tragically connected . But, so are many of our prospects.) 
  • SEO Supports Social Media Marketing. This one takes awhile to take effect. But, HubSpot generates a good portion of our traffic from search engines now. It builds our blog readership, our email list, our webinar attendance. All the people that "opt-in" eventually self-select into leads. Whether they become a client or not, we're converting a high percentage of them into HubSpot fans. As a result, our ability to promote our social media activities gets easier. When we released Press Release Grader the other day, a few blog posts and a few Tweets later, 20+ bloggers blogged about it and many more Public Relations professionals told their Twitter followers about it. As Dharmesh reported the other day, 1,000s of people used the site in its first week. The compounding effect of our SEO, blogging and social media activity allowed us to launch Press Release Grader with a bang even though it was minimal effort. 

Ok. So, hopefully by now, you're convinced that SEO, SMM and blogging can and should work in concert to generate leads for your B2B company.

From the examples above, you should see that they can have compounding and cumulative effects that lead to consistent traffic and lead volume growth

You might still be wondering... "But, why can't I start with SMM or blogging? Why is SEO first? Why is Blogging second? Why is SMM third? And if that's the case, why are so many companies (especially recruiting companies) using social media and ignoring blogging and SEO?"

Why? Because they're doing it wrong. And they just don't know any better.

Yeah. I know. That's not a good answer. Here's why:

  • Search Engine Optimization is the Foundation.  It should be obvious from the order of the examples above that blogging and social media marketing can have a huge impact on SEO. So, if that's the case and you're going to do blogging and/or social media marketing, why not take a few hours and learn how to do keyword research, on page SEO and off page SEO in order to maximize the return on the amount of time you're going to be spending blogging and doing SMM? Wouldn't it be great to rank on the first page of Google for IT recruiting in a year or so. Would it be cool to rank on the first page of Google for "IT recruiter Boston" in 3 months?
  • Blogging is Your Home Base. Once you learn the basics of SEO and you launch and start building your readership for your blog, you'll quickly realize that your blog is your home base. You'll start sending people there more often than your website. It's where you publish your smartest thoughts. It's where you rant after sales calls (like this one). It's where you link to when you leave a comment elsewhere . For this reason, it's important to start blogging before you go crazy in the social media world. If someone finds your profile on Digg or thinks your answer to their question on LinkedIn is solid, they're going to want to check you out a bit more. If you send them to your home page, they'll probably leave. They want more of YOU. Your blog is your place to be YOU; to be a real person.
  • Social Media Marketing is A Loss Leader Activity. Using social networking and social media sites is the easiest thing to start doing. There's no cost to get started. And everyone in sales should do it in order to fill their own pipeline and support marketing for their company . However, for most companies, I believe it's still a loss leader time-sink activity, especially if it's done alone. We generate many more leads directly from our blogging and SEO activity than we do our social media marketing activities . This is true for the majority of our clients too. However, social media marketing drives a lot of new traffic. It fills the very top of our marketing funnel. It builds brand awareness. It builds blog readership. It supports SEO. It helps our sales team connect directly with prospects and get introduced to other prospects through trusted mutual contacts. But, it does not, for the most part, drive a lot of direct traffic that converts into leads and sales. It's a trickle. For this reason, my opinion is that it should be done, but that it certainly should never be the first or only activity, atleast if lead generation through your website is your goal.

Not to beat a dead horse, but as the title of this post says, here's the order of online marketing activities that will yield the best results for you, no matter what type of company you are, and especially if your company is B2B and has a traditional person-to-person complex sales process.  

  1. Keyword Research/SEO
  2. Blogging
  3. Social Media

(And btw, we are hiring . And we do use recruiters for certain - not all - positions, in addition to our own efforts which have been the most effective so far. I don't think we'd really work with a firm that wasn't fully leveraging the process above. Why? Better prospects - whether you're selling or recruiting - come to you. Also, like many other buyers, we usually start in search engines, blogs and social networking sites before we hire anyone.) 


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Originally published Jun 13, 2008 7:14:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


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