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Building revenue through subscriptions: advice for job boards

Pop quiz: which of the following will increase profitability the most?

  • A) Individual job postings and/or resume access
  • B) Annual or semi-annual job posting/resume access subscriptions

I’m betting that most of you answered (B).

So why do the vast majority of job sites I visit promote individual job postings and resume access  so heavily? When I ask the question, these are the typical responses:

  • ‘Employers want to try before they buy’
  • ‘Selling a subscription is too hard (via ecommerce)’
  • ‘Employer needs are intermittent’
  • ‘I don’t know’

This sells your employer short – they’re not getting the best value from your job board with just a single posting; and it sells your site short – you’re cutting profitability and increasing your sales effort. In fact, I’ll go one step further – you owe it to your employers to offer a subscription package first. Here’s why:

  1. Subscriptions offer a lower overall cost per candidate than individual single purchases – in other words, more ‘bang for the buck’
  2. Subscriptions increase the likelihood for employer success by allowing postings and access when they are needed – without the delays that come with purchase approval, etc.
  3. Subscriptions fit better with most employers’ HR budget planning, allowing for annual or semi-annual purchases
  4. Subscriptions allow employers to annualize intermittent and unpredictable hiring costs over a 6- or 12-month period
Subscriptions are not just an altruistic move for job boards, though – they help you in several ways:
  1. Subscriptions reduce your selling efforts to an annual or semi-annual basis for your employers
  2. Subscriptions drive up your average revenue per employer
  3. Per #1 and 2, subscriptions drive up your overall profitability
  4. Revenue is more predictable
Most importantly, though: subscriptions move your employers away from viewing your job board as a ‘transactional’ site (i.e., post a job), and instead toward thinking about your job board as a candidate sourcing and hiring service. You’ve taken that first step away from being ‘just a job board’, and toward being your employers’ core hiring tool.  Isn’t that a better place to be?
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8 comments… add one

  • Jamie Leonard

    November 27, 2012, 9:32 am

    Good post Doc and I agree. Overall, job boards need to stop looking at what they have as products and start to look at offering solutions. I know that sounds very ideal but the employers I speak to are not interested in what a banner looks like or how many applications a job posting gets. They want to pay for a solution. Need 20 call center staff in Derby? Fine, you don’t need to know what I’m doing in the background as a job board rep to make that work for you you just want to know that I’m the best person to make it work for you and I’m doing what I can to do so.

    My only disagreement is with “More bang for your buck”. It does if you have the right type of employer, but you also have companies that buy subscriptions for the year at board level and their people just refuse to use it, no matter how many times the sales rep reminds them that it’s still there.

  • Jon S

    November 27, 2012, 11:02 pm

    Great post, but I’m afraid I would never run subscription options for any advertiser unless I knew them and their team well. A case study was Monster allowing Adecco free rein for a reported £500k: they were not incentivised to close ads but continued to collect candidates, and I believe that this would be true of other competitive agencies. Why leave five or ten postings blank if you’re paying for them? It might not be strictly legal for them to do it, but it is human nature not to want to waste.

  • Amit De

    November 28, 2012, 11:33 am

    Very thoughtful post! Finding a reliable solution for employers is a must and creates a level of credibility. I really like the point you made about straying away from being ‘just a job board.’ Presenting yourself as much more can truly benefit you in the long run.

  • Will Peavy

    December 2, 2012, 2:02 pm

    If you do this query on CareerBuilder: http://www.careerbuilder.com/Jobseeker/Jobs/JobResults.aspx?SB%3Asbkw=supply+chain&SB%3As_freeloc=new+jersey — the first 5 results are all for the same job, and were all posted by the same company. I’m guessing CareerBuilder doesn’t allow recruiters to list the same job title, at the same location – so the recruiter listed the same job in various cities around NJ. Does CareerBuilder offer a subscription service that allows posting of unlimited jobs? I’m guessing that a subscription based payment model would attract the sort of recruiters that want to spam the board with lots of nearly identical listings.

  • Cliff

    January 7, 2013, 6:22 pm

    Great post. How would you calculate what to charge employers for a subscription?

  • Job Board Doctor

    January 8, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Cliff, it really depends on what you’re including in the subscription. Obviously you want to discount the normal pricing, but as to what percentage, that really depends on your niche and your competitors. I’d say you should discount normal pricing by at least 15%. Jeff

  • Dennis Gorelik

    December 3, 2013, 8:34 pm

    I see you reposted this article here:
    http://www.jobboarddoctor.com/2013/12/03/how-to-build-your-job-boards-revenue-through-subscriptions/

    Do you know if more job boards started using subscription model?

  • Job Board Doctor

    December 5, 2013, 9:38 am

    I don’t have firm numbers, but anecdotally, I have seen more job boards adopting a subscription model over the past 2 years

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