Hollinden Inbound Marketing for Professional Service Firms

Shifting Marketing’s Focus


Finding and retaining top talent continues to be a top priority for professional service firms across the country. For the past several years, the topic of staff shortages, recruiting strategies, and succession planning have been at the forefront of discussions. The pressure on staffing has created a ripple effect. One ripple has been to expand the reach of marketing. It isn’t enough to focus all marketing efforts on gaining new clients; the strategies of today’s firm must include marketing to current and potential employees. The competition for talent is as great, if not more so, than the competition for clients. Talent is still in the market. Firms must now position themselves as an employer of choice.

The Rise of the Employer Brand 

One vital way to become an employer of choice is to strengthen the employer brand. The term “employer brand” first surfaced in the mid-1990s. It referenced a firm’s reputation as an employer, as opposed to its more general brand reputation. The idea gained traction between 2004 and 2008 when large corporate brands like Shell and P&G applied the same marketing focus to their competition for talent as they did for customers. This led to the development of an Employee Value Proposition, which defined the key benefits offered by the company as an employer, and the production of employer brand guidelines, which aimed to bring greater consistency to the company’s recruitment advertising. Employer branding was predominantly outward facing, advertising driven, and implemented by the HR department.

The Impact of Social Media  

Times have changed. We all know the impact of social media across our society – news, family, religion, causes, and politics, to name a few. Social media has also pushed companies across industries to become more transparent. Just like with purchasing a car or hiring a service provider, people are more likely to take other people’s word for it—relying on employee reviews and input when researching where they’d like to work. We all know that things are only a snap or click away from moving from an isolated event to an Internet wildfire.

Because social media has intermingled firm reputation with client experience, external communications are increasingly important in shaping the employer brand. Many firms now highlight the quality and dedication of their employees in their marketing, which naturally affects how they are perceived as potential employers. Similarly, the strength of the employer brand can have a significant impact on the work product, pride, and engagement levels of your team. And with the knowledge that happy employees lead to happy clients, it’s not surprising that most firms are realizing the necessity to align recruiting marketing with traditional marketing.

Building your Employer Brand

  • Gather input from current and prospective employees to evaluate your current employer brand awareness and reputation. Any surprises? If so, develop an action plan to rectify the deficits.
  • Define how you’d like to be seen as an employer based on a realistic assessment of your firm’s strengths and translate this into a clear and compelling Employee Value Proposition. Then, share that value proposition across channels.
  • Proactively share stories highlighting your firm’s culture and team members via social media. Alan Long, Managing Member at Baldwin CPAs frequently congratulates team members on work anniversaries on his Facebook page. Seeing him take the time to offer congratulations – not to mention seeing the longevity of his team members – makes you want to work there!
  • Ensure that every function within the firm understands the value of a strong employer brand to the success of the business and the role they need to play in living that brand. Create and encourage living brand ambassadors – your team – to tell others about what it’s like to work there.

Given our new world of digital transparency, firms can no longer afford to rely on recruitment advertising alone to build a positive, recognizable employer brand. Whether HR or marketing takes the lead in communicating the employer brand to support the employer of choice positioning, it is imperative they work together and remember, building a brand is a continuous process.