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How to grow: many paths to job board nirvana

Growing any business is an inevitable – and continual – challenge. Somewhere along the line, after the start-up obstacles but before world domination, you are faced with a very simple problem: how can you make this thing bigger, faster, and better?

Guess what? Job boards are much like any business – once you push past the $1M mark in revenues, you begin looking at your options to expand your client base, your revenues, and your reach. Luckily, we have several examples of how you can do this via the events of the past 12 months. Let’s take a look:

  • Acquisition (expanding via new services): Beyond is of course well established, with thousands of sites. But that doesn’t mean that it has no place to grow. Witness its recent acquisition of JobCircle. The regional niche site filled a hole for Beyond in two ways: via its presence in the Mid-Atlantic area, and via its career fair. This type of targeted acquisition is a traditional way of expanding a job board: identify the weaknesses, holes, and opportunities in the existing services, then find a site(s) to fill it. As another example, think of how Monster bought Trovix so that it could offer a semantic search product to its customers. 
  • Acquisition (expanding into new niches): Dice is a good example of how you can purchase a site to move into a new niche, then leveraging your existing marketing and sales operation to grow the acquired site. The purchased site retains its brand and identity, but backoffice functions are merged to some degree. This is typical for sites that ‘own’ their existing niche and are looking for ways to grow without cannibalizing their core job board.
  • Acquisition (acquiring traffic/clients): Doostang provides our 3rd example – a straightforward acquisition of JobFox purely for its traffic and registered users, and with no plan to continue the acquired site. If you’re already a niche leader and want to solidify your position, this can make a lot of sense.
  • Selling yourself: Indeed sold itself to Recruit – and in return it got a very deep pocketbook for future expansion, and strategic support for moving into non-U.S. markets. The site retains its identity, brand, and personnel. This typically will work only for those sites with a strong brand, good revenue profile, and robust internal structure.
  • Moving into new geographic markets: Similar to expanding into new niches – for example, Jobsite.co.uk recently launched Jobsite.com in an attempt to duplicate their success in the UK here in North America. This works best for boards with strong brands, deep pockets, and a solid understanding of the nation or country they’re tackling. (Be sure to ask Monster how challenging this can be!)
  • Grow your own: In other words, develop new products and services internally, then market them to your existing clients. Probably the toughest path to growth – often attempted, but rarely done successfully. In essence, you are creating a new business inside of your existing business. Sometimes you get lucky.

The common threads? Money, knowing the right people, money, luck, timing, money, and hard work. I expect to see quite a bit of the various types of growth above during the coming 12 months. Will I be writing about you next year?

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