How to beat large brands in attracting top talent

Small and mid-sized businesses have to compete with some of the industry’s biggest and brightest brands for talent. They have to: a business is only as good as its team. But how can a small business make itself more attractive to employees than a large brand?

Here are a few ideas that might help you get the talent you need to grow your business.

1. Tell a story

Bigger companies tend to have a strong brand, or they are the ones you go to if you want a career in their sector. For instance, if you want to work for a big retailer you may go to John Lewis or Sainsbury’s. These companies have desirable brands and since they are household names they can rely on that to attract candidates.

But they don’t always have a good story or inspirational message, so smaller companies can definitely have the edge here. If you have a story which captures the imagination you should ensure you shout about it. Perhaps you’re aiming to be a consumer champion by taking on the big boys at their own game, or want to show how and why your company started and what rapid success you have enjoyed, or demonstrate ambitious (yet realistic) plans for future growth. This can hold real weight with prospective employees, making them feel like they could become a really significant part of your organisation rather than just a cog in a wheel.

As an example, I was working with a Salesforce.com consultancy who had never had a marketing function before. They wanted to recruit a marketer to deliver a marketing plan which would enable the company to realise its ambitions of growth. The empowerment they offered sparked the imagination of prospective employees and made them think creatively about what they would do if they didn’t have any support and were creating a marketing function from scratch.

The ability to be responsible for building something, which was underpinned by a sound commercial business, was quite a compelling proposition. Especially when considering other opportunities at the same level within larger organisations would be focused on deploying strategies created by others and there would be very little input into the strategic process.

2. Publicise your successes

If you want to attract candidates who are interested in your business, you need to give them something to embrace and engage with about you. I am not suggesting you announce you have just poached your new marketing director from your biggest competitor, spending millions on an elaborate TV advert during half time of the FA Cup final. But being clever with your social media, regular informative posting, providing relevant industry news as well as updates on what’s happening with your company, is a good way of gaining free publicity as well as building your brand.

Sending short press releases to online news portals, creating a Wikipedia page, signing up and creating Linkedin groups where you can raise awareness of your presence in the sector, as well as re-tweeting industry information can all raise the profile of your organisation, making you stand out as a “thought leader” in your market.

Many news pieces will be indexed by Google, which means future candidates will also be able to see historic news stories on your business, giving them an informed impression about your organisation. I know the value of a “Like” or a “Share” is tricky to monetize, but remember the rule of 6 degrees of separation – you never know who is connected to whom.

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