B2B vs B2C Marketing for Staffing Firms

Let’s start with a general rule – marketing is either B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer). And while the two share some common characteristics and objectives, their differences are quite pronounced. How audiences “targets” are defined and engaged, the use of emotion or logic in messaging, and the decision process for each are distinctly different. 

B2B Marketing

Business-to-business marketing is exactly what it sounds like. It’s marketing directed at another business and not at individual consumers. The marketing message is aimed at decision makers at target organizations. In addition, B2B buyers are information-driven and perform rather extensive research on their purchasing options, which leads to data-driven decisions. However, these decision makers are still influenced by relationships. Even though the process is structured and information-driven, in the end, professional relationships also play an important role in the outcomes.

Business-to-business marketing directed at clients should be data-driven, while business-to-consumer messages aimed at candidates should be more emotional.

B2C Marketing

Business-to-consumer marketing focuses on individual consumers of products, services or solutions. The intended outcome of the buying decision is for the consumer’s personal purposes. B2C buyers favor brief overviews of what is being offered and easy-to-understand value propositions to help them make decisions. Unlike B2B buyers who approach the process logically, B2C shoppers tend to make their decisions based more on perceived emotional benefits. It’s about what they believe will satisfy a desire and lead to improved lives. Supporting factual evidence plays a secondary role.  One right word said the right way and at just the right time, can make all the difference in the world in B2C marketing. 

Staffing Industry Marketing – B2B, B2C, or Both?

As a former staffing entrepreneur and executive and now a professional marketer providing services to the staffing industry, I know firsthand how important it is for staffing firms to understand the B2B/B2C similarities and differences so they can develop effective marketing strategies. We would certainly all agree that staffing organizations are first and foremost sales-driven organizations. They are structured to drive new business growth by directly engaging potential staffing buyers (companies). Clearly, this calls for a B2B marketing approach, and for the most part, the industry does a good job of crafting its messaging and branding to effectively communicate with business entities. But what about the candidate market? What about those individuals who must fill the needs of the business customer? Without potential employees, a new staffing account is meaningless.

Candidate Marketing as a B2C Endeavor

If we go back to our earlier definition of B2C marketing, it focuses on an individual buyer (candidate) as opposed to a team. It also prioritizes an  emotional appeal over a logical argument. If that is true, the staffing industry has been deploying the wrong marketing strategy for sourcing, recruiting, and retaining employees for their client assignments (assuming that they are conducting any marketing towards candidates since many are not). Developing an effective strategy for ongoing candidate recruitment, then, must take on the shape of a true B2C marketing campaign.

The 4 Steps in Creating Your B2C Marketing Program

If we agree that candidates should be treated more like consumers rather than business decision makers, then how do we begin to create our B2C marketing program that will effectively attract candidates to our staffing firm?

  1. Target Audience.  Unlike B2B marketing where the target audience is defined as the key decision makers in a company, the B2C audience is defined by a group of people who share common characteristics that meet your hiring criteria but have unique individual needs and preferences. The objective, then, is to define the requirements necessary for a candidate to be considered for the roles you are attempting to fill, then create messaging that speaks to each one of them on a personal level.
  1. Logic vs. Emotion. In my experience with staffing clients, I often find that messaging directed towards the candidate market uses logical and rational reasoning as to why the candidate should become part of the staffing firm’s team. As we have learned, this type of approach works well in discussions with potential clients but not as effectively with candidates. In order to engage candidates in a meaningful way, the message must speak to them on a very emotional level. In addition, the message needs to be simple, direct, and prompt immediate action. Emotional decisions are made in an instant. Logical ones are not. The use of staffing employee testimonials, when used correctly, can often provide immediate motivation for a candidate to apply. Another approach is to focus more on what the candidate can gain as a result of working for your staffing firm. It’s not about the assignment, but what the assignment can provide the individual in the way of financial gain, emotional security, and stability.
Testimonials from current staffing employees are a proven method for inspiring candidates to apply.
  1. Sense of Urgency. B2C requires the ability to communicate a high sense of urgency to the consumer (candidate) and then be able to move quickly to “close” the transaction once the individual has made their decision. In many cases, staffing firms do not develop urgency in responding to a candidate inquiry and, as a result, the “consumer” simply moves on.. In addition to urgent, fast-paced messaging, the “buying” process needs to be streamlined. A long and complicated hiring process can drive many qualified candidates away just because of the inconvenience.
  1. Messaging. The messaging and content must be tailored to the B2C candidates in order for it to attract their immediate attention. The ideal approach to crafting your message is to talk with current staffing employees who are on assignments. What are they interested in? How did they decide to work for your staffing firm? What were some of their negative experiences with competitor staffing firms? By talking with your current workforce you can gain a clear understanding of what your messaging should and should not say. 

B2B or Not B2B?

The staffing industry faces enormous challenges as the economy recovers from the global pandemic. The most pressing issue is sourcing talent in order to fill client job orders. This problem will not go away any time soon, so it is imperative that staffing firms address the need for a solid B2C employment branding strategy that will contribute to solving the labor shortage. Approaching candidates more like consumers is a vital first step.

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