Running a niche job site is akin to operating a successful retail store – what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. You always have (and always will have) competitors who are bigger and better known than you. Some are competing on price, some on volume, and some on flashy advertising and relentless PR.
Then there are economic forces (recession, anyone?), technological change, and the winds of fashion and grooviness (Web 2.0, quirky names, and some aspects of social media). You gotta have a spine of titanium, right?
But…those competitors are after your customers for a very good reason: they are worth something. And those competitors are willing to fight for your customers (I guess that’s why they call them competitors).
So what are you going to do?
a) sell out
b) keep doing what you’ve been doing, because heck, it’s working
c) do something different
Let’s opt for (c). And let’s look at those ‘advantages’ the big boys have – and how to counter them.
1) Advantage one: a Big Name. How does a site become well-known? By advertising, selling, and promoting relentlessly.runs TV ads, LinkedIn has great PR, and rules SEO. But there’s a catch: becoming and staying a big name is expensive, because they are appealing to everyone. Guess what? You don’t have to. You can focus with laser intensity on the sector or area you specialize in – and you can pick the right combination of channels needed to achieve domination. You should know your niche better than anyone at a ‘big site’ – which means you also know how to reach your niche better than they do.
2) Advantage two: Volume. This can play out a couple of ways – the Big Site can have large numbers of candidates, and/or they have high traffic. Guess what – lots of traffic and candidates aren’t necessarily what most employers want. They actually want quality candidates that can become quality hires. Your site must (a) determine what constitutes ‘quality candidates’ for most of your clients, and (b) screen/test/qualify your candidate pool. And yes – you need to quantify why your candidates are better than the Big Site’s, and you need to blow your own horn. After all, no one else is going to.
3) Advantage three: Price. Listen, price is relative. Some employers will think that the Big Site’s price is outrageous, and others will see it as a steal. Same goes for your price. The bottom line: can your clients get the same results from another supplier for less? Probably not, if you’ve paid attention to #1 and #2 above. Make the price fair, always talk about it in relation to the outcome (quality candidates, quality hires), and, um…focus on quality, not price.
There will always be competitors gunning for your clients. Some will be new and shiny, some will be established, and some will appear out of nowhere. Fine. That’s the market. Look forward, don’t look back, and remember – they’re your customers to lose.
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