Job Board Journalist: What Killed Print Classifieds & Why Should Job Boards Care?

Peter Weddle

Newspapers used to rake in billions of dollars a year with their Help Wanted classifieds. Now they don’t. Why? Why were some of the most powerful media on the planet unable to hang onto their recruitment advertising customers? Hint – it wasn’t the speed or the cost-effectiveness of job board technology.

That’s the conventional wisdom. Job boards began to populate the Web in the mid-1990s, introducing a technology that made online recruitment advertising cheaper, faster and more effective than the print classifieds. The role of technology, however, was secondary to the real reason for newspapers’ loss: lousy customer relations.

Newspapers had been the only game in town for so long, they got out of the habit of building customer relationships, except with their largest and most important advertisers. In effect, they became order takers. They had legions of in-bound telephone sales people who didn’t know the person on the other end of the call at all; they just took down the insertion orders of customers who had no other option for reaching talent.

It was a sweetheart deal … until the sweethearts had other options.

What does that have to do with today’s job board industry? We have to avoid making the same mistake.

No Worries, We Invest a Lot of Time & Effort in CRM

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Any job board worth its salt exerts a lot of effort on CRM. It likely employs outbound telephone salespeople, enterprise salespeople, even contract salespeople to stay in touch with current clients and nurture new ones. In stark contrast to newspapers back in the day, today’s job boards are order seekers.

That’s certainly true. But here’s the rub. With so many sourcing options now available to employers and recruiters, defining CRM as interactions based almost exclusively on sales is a mistake. It doesn’t do justice to the words behind the letters. Customer relationship management means more than connecting with clients when you’re trying to make your monthly, quarterly or annual numbers. It means getting to know customers as people.

Swim With the Sharks

Harvey McKay’s seminal book, Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive was published way back in the dark ages of 1988, but his counsel is still on point in today’s hyper competitive TA solutions market. Among his lessons was this: “Knowing something about your customer is just as important as knowing everything about your product.”

There are more than a few insights packed into that short phrase, but two in particular are worth noting:

• Job board leaders should hit the bricks too. Yes, it’s important to keep the technology running smoothly, but building relationships with customers starts at the top. Whatever their titles, a site’s CEO, GM, President, Founder, CFO, CTO and VP of Technology need to get out of the office and spend time getting to know customers. It’s the single best way to make sure the technology the site is deploying actually does something worthwhile for the people who are its customers.

• Getting to know a customer means learning more than their product or service needs. McKay used five or six massive rolodexes (this was the 1980s remember) to keep track of the birthdays of every one of his company’s customers as well as their spouses’ and kids’ names, where they lived and what sports teams they followed. When he talked with customers, he knew them as people, not prospects and they responded with a similar perspective. They saw McKay as a friend, not a flak for his product – someone they could trust to do business with in a fair and helpful way.

Good technology remains the signature advantage of job boards. True customer relationship management practiced from top to bottom in a company is what transforms that technology into a viable and enduring business.

Food for thought,

The Job Board Journalist by Peter Weddle is brought to you by TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.

Mark Your Calendars! TAtech’s 2017 events include:
• April 22-23, 2017 Chicago: The TAtech Spring Congress & Deal Center, with The Business Accelerator for insights on your customers’ spending trends, practices and needs.
• May 17-19, 2017 Barcelona: RecTech, The TAtech Industry Congress in the EU in partnership with the AIM Group.
• May 31-June 1, 2017 Minneapolis: The TAtech Leadership Summit on Programmatic Ad Buying, featuring two tracks: Programmatic Ad Buying Applications & Programmatic Ad Buying Technology.
• September 27-29, 2017 Denver: The TAtech Fall Congress & Deal Center, with The World Job Board Forum and the 2017 ReSI Awards Gala.


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