Your Next Employees Are Your New Marketing Audience

Recruiting: It’s the new marketing.

French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more things stay the same. That concept can be applied to business too. Since the dawn of time, business has been based on making money by producing or buying and selling services:


  • Produce a product or provide a service as cost effectively as possible.
  • Market or spread the word about the benefits of the products and services.
  • Then sell them at a price that produces a profit.

Things have changed, technology has changed – from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution and even the computer age – but the basic formula has stayed the same. For over the past three millennia, the focus has been on the end product or service and the customer. That’s what it’s all about, right? Make it, market it, sell it. Repeat.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Businesses survived Y2K. They even came roaring back from the Great Recession in 2008. So why should the formula of make, market, and sell change? Let’s look at that definition of a business again: make money by producing or buying and selling services. Notice anything missing?

Or more importantly, who is missing? Who is going to make that product or sell that service? There has never been a significant focus on the who – the worker, the team member, the employee. Well, that has all changed. If you haven’t noticed, there is a labor shortage, across many industries. Many industries were already headed there, and the pandemic has only accelerated the challenge for those industries and more.

So what does that mean for businesses? Executives and owners need to broaden their focus and their marketing and sales efforts beyond just their customers. It’s no longer about just selling a product or service; you need to sell your company, your internal brand, and your culture to prospective workers. There are a few key aspects to keep in mind:

Budget. Businesses spend thousands, if not millions, of dollars promoting their brand to an end consumer. Chick-Fil-A spends almost $100M/year trying to convince you to eat chicken instead of McDonalds. How much does your business spend promoting itself to prospective customers?

But whatever you spend on prospective customers, you need to spend as much – if not more – on prospective workers. How much are you spending to convince potential workers to join your team? Quality prospective workers are often harder to find than prospective customers. It is essential that you are marketing to them the same way you market to your customers – and in today’s tight talent market, it’s probably even more important.

Marketing Materials. I’m sure you have created a totally cool website, produced some fabulous videos, or printed some slick brochures – all aimed at touting the benefits of your products and services. Your social media channels may be full of fabulous posts about your latest and greatest offerings.

But what have you created to recruit people to join your team? You need to market to them with the same energy, enthusiasm, and compelling messages that you use for customers – actually more so these days. You may have a great website, but can your potential recruits find the careers page? Do you have content geared toward telling your internal story, or why it’s great to work at your company?

Culture. Beyond the visual aspects of your brand, are you investing in your culture, and spreading the word about what a great place to work your company is? You may think that rests with your human resources team. But what marketing tools have you provided to them? Do they have access to the same high-quality resources and budgets your marketing and sales team have? If not, it’s time to consider supplementing their efforts so they can reach your next stellar employees. Culture sometimes is uncovered through a third party, and many potential employees will look to reviews on GlassDoor. What does your GlassDoor profile look like? Company culture may not be a primary reason for leaving a job, but it may be a strong reason for staying with a company, reducing your turnover, too.

Marketing is always an investment, and the thought of making an investment that doesn’t have a clear ROI may be a tough decision. But as we are seeing now with staffing shortages affecting a business’ ability to even deliver its products or services, investing in finding the right people is just as, if not more, crucial to the success of your business. Competition has always been fierce in business. There are the burger wars and the chicken sandwich wars. But now there are the worker wars. And you need to have the best arsenal available to win.

Allison (Martin) Mertens ’85 is SVP, Corporate Growth, for Crawford, a woman-owned, full-service marketing and branding agency located in Greenville, S.C. After graduating from Williams, she moved to Washington, D.C., to work in political advertising and voter research, followed by a stint with management consultant Monitor Group in New York City. Since returning to her hometown, she has held management roles at a number of creative agencies, serving clients in telecom, healthcare, international sourcing and banking. In her current role, she oversees Crawford’s business processes and corporate development. A version of this article originally appeared in Greenville Business Magazine.