There are over 37,000 recruitment agencies in the UK, how is yours standing out? Achieving stand out and differentiating your business can be tricky – you need a well-thought promotional strategy. Strategic marketing can help you reach the stars, but when you don’t have the right one in place, it can potentially slow your growth. There are three typical challenges a recruitment agency can face:

  1. Dependence on referrals. Your main source of leads come from referrals. The risk here is that growth is unmanageable and unpredictable. 
  2. Monotony. You have sales and marketing departments, but communications need uniqueness, engagement and authenticity. That will help you to get new clients and improve your margins. 
  3. Limited geography. You have a good position in the UK market and want to scale abroad, but finding clients overseas is challenging. 

In this series of articles, you will get tips to help you promote your recruitment agency, stand out in your market and achieve breakthrough. 

How to Conduct Market Research for a Recruitment Agency 

Before deciding on the position you want to achieve in the market, it is important to understand your business landscape. For this, you must look into general market trends to better understand your competitors and your target audience. Let’s break down each part. 

Market Trends Research – Know What the Market is Up To

Why do you need to understand global and local recruitment trends? 

  • Knowing which professions will be in demand in the future will help you to choose a growing market segment. And vice versa: you don’t want to specialise in recruiting skillsets that are facing decreasing demand. 
  • If there are new recruitment technologies or models, you can get a competitive advantage by adopting them. This activity contributes not only to marketing but also to business strategy. 
  • Taking current trends into account in planning, messaging and content strategy can provide a solid basis for your marketing activities. 

You can leverage the PESTLE framework to analyse global or UK trends. The acronym stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental factors. Understanding each one of those will give you insight into threats and opportunities. For example, the increasing amount of self-serve machines in retail stores might lead to less demand for certain types of retail workers. On the other hand, favourable changes in alternative energy legislation (Legal, Environmental) will affect the demand for engineers with relevant skills. 

To see the complete picture, it’s best to understand four key areas: the global market, your local landscape, the dynamics of recruitment and the sector that you focus on. Below are some links to help you start your research. 

Where can you track global trends? Here are some examples:

If you want to have a closer look at trends in the UK you can look at: 

Recruitment Trends & Predictions: 

Of course, you will find more by googling and following big consulting and research companies on social media or by signing up for their newsletters. Don’t forget to analyse trends and predictions in your focus sectors too, for example, “finance trends” if you place candidates in the finance sector, “retail trends 2023” if retail is your focus, etc. 

After collecting insights from market trends, you must implement them into your marketing strategy. The most convenient way to do this is to analyse how each trend influences your recruitment business with the SWOT framework:

  • How does a trend reinforce your recruitment business STRENGTHS?
  • Does a trend expose any WEAKNESSES your business might have? How can you adapt? 
  • Are there new OPPORTUNITIES that this insight creates for you?
  • Will there be new THREATS, and how can you avoid them? 

After answering these questions, it’s good to visualise them and create a SWOT matrix – you will need it for the next steps.

Competitive Research for a Recruitment Agency: Establishing market listening 

To understand how to stand out in your market, you need to know its other players. Firstly, create a list of your main competitors and segment leaders. No need to analyse all 37,000 recruitment agencies in the UK, you need only the best and those you consider to be your nearest competitors. 

How to find competing recruitment agencies?

  • Analyse top UK recruitment agencies on B2B review websites like Clutch;
  • Google keywords such as “top recruitment agencies in the UK”, “recruitment agency for finance”, etc,
  • Recall the competitors you met throughout your career,
  • When researching a competitor website, find similar companies with Similarweb (we will cover it later).

To analyse rivals, create a spreadsheet with fields such as: 

  1. Company name and website.
  2. The number of employees. You can get a good understand of that from the company’s LinkedIn account.
  3. Value Proposition – the main value add that the company promises clients. Usually, this is the text on the first screen of the company’s website.
  4. Type of positioning (we will cover it later).
  5. Sectors the company specialises in. Usually, they are stated on the website. 
  6. Price segment. This is more difficult to get and is often confidential in nature.  
  7. Amount of traffic the company’s website gets.
  8. Messages the brand usually uses in advertising. You can find them on the brand’s website, ads, and other communications.
  9. Key marketing channels it uses for promotion. 
  10. Catchy website solutions – interesting pages and sections that you might want to consider as best practice to adapt for your own business. Do keep in mind that you should never plagiarise or copy anyone else’s work.  
  11. Content topics – ideas for content you can adapt for your marketing. 
  12. Testimonials and reviews– what clients liked and disliked about collaborating with your competitor. That will give you ideas for messages and content for your campaigns. 

30-40 top competitors are more than enough to understand the market. Now let’s break down some of the specific components in this list to give you an idea of how to find this data. In most cases, you can retrieve it with a free version of Similarweb

Other great tools that will help you are SEMRush or Serpstat. Both will provide you with details on paid and organic traffic to the company’s website, as well as information about the messages and keywords it uses. You can keep them in mind when defining your positioning and communication strategy. 

Acquiring insights about your competitors  

Firstly, define competitors that get the biggest amount of traffic. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily the best in the market, but you must pay attention and learn from them. 

Then analyse their traffic structure – that will give you an idea of which marketing channels to use in your communications.  

  1. A large amount of direct traffic means the company’s website has many returning visitors. That doesn’t mean they are clients because clients mostly communicate via direct channels like email. However, it could mean that the company has relatively good content or online tools on their website.
  2. Traffic from search engines means that the recruitment agency has quite a good SEO optimisation and valuable content on their blog. Check the SEMRush data to understand the proportion between paid and organic traffic.
  3. Referrals are responsible for traffic from media and blogs, meaning the competitor invests in PR and partnerships. Analysing the referral structure, you can find potential media or bloggers for collaborations.
  4. The structure of social traffic will give you an understanding of which social media your brand should be present on. If you know that your target audience loves a specific platform, but there are few competitors, you can fill this gap to capture a larger share of voice on that platform. 
  5. Display ads. If the recruitment agency gets a lot of such traffic – it is worth checking which creatives they use. SEMRush’s Ad Clarity can help you with that.

Try to see the bigger picture here. Which channels are used by all players? Which are ignored but have potential? And what channels are better to skip altogether?  

Positioning Matrix – See How Other Recruitment Agencies Position Themselves in the Market

Positioning defines where your company stands against competitors in the market and the clients’ minds. You must understand other companies’ strategies and messages to determine this positioning. Usually, recruitment companies leverage methods such as:

  1. Price segment: low, medium, premium. 
  2. Industry: health, finance, IT, etc. 
  3. Type of specialists: e.g. IT developers, marketers, designers. 
  4. Based on service characteristics or a client benefit: reliability, speed, ability to recruit rare talent.
  5. Job-to-be-Done: hunting A-players, scaling teams, building a remote company, etc. 
  6. Target Segment: small, medium businesses, or enterprises.
  7. Geography: work with certain countries or areas. 
  8. Agency processes and unique resources: automation level, agile-based, owned media, etc. 

When you understand your competitors’ positioning strategies, you can create a positioning matrix – a “map” of the key techniques and messages your competitors use to stand out. Categorise companies by the strategies they use. It will look something like this:

It is time to take step two – a matrix for a specific strategy. Sure, the final positioning will depend on all parts of your research, company history and personal preferences, but for simplicity, let’s suppose that you have chosen to position yourself via a specific Job-to-be-Done. The following matrix can help you spot a type of JTBD that is rarely used so you can fill this gap. 

Now you can see which messages companies use the most and which do not. Filling in the gaps in terms of messaging could be a winning strategy for your company, but you need to analyse your target audience first. 

Target Audience Analysis for Your Recruitment Agency

Last but not least – an analysis of your target audience. First, obtain some demographical data from your Google Analytics and LinkedIn Insights.

Google Analytics will provide you with information about the following:

  • Language
  • Country and city
  • Demographics

Linkedin Analytics will provide some insights into your followers’ career parameters:

  • Job Function 
  • Company Size
  • Industry
  • Seniority

Now you have a solid piece of information, but more is needed to create a complete picture of your audience. That’s where some manual work could help, providing you with more qualitative data. First – analyse the LinkedIn profiles of your current and potential clients. 30-40 could be enough. You might be able to pull some valuable insights from this:

  • Which posts get the attention and engagement of your target audience?
  • What kind of content do they post? 
  • Where did they study and work? It can help to understand their skills and professional background. 
  • What events do they attend? 
  • What specialisms do they have? That is a source of ideas for content to create. 
  • What influencers and media do they follow? What groups are they in? That will give you ideas for your content plan and places for promotion. 

The final stage of target audience analysis is in-depth interviews with current and potential clients. It is a series of open-ended questions that will give you information about their needs and interests. Usually, fifteen respondents are more than enough. Here are sample questions:

  1. Why have you decided to use a recruitment agency instead of an in-house resources?
  2. What factors were essential for you when you were choosing a recruitment agency?
  3. Where did you look for a recruitment agency?
  4. Why have you chosen us?
  5. Please share which competitors you may have also considered when making your selection. What stopped you from collaborating with them?
  6. How did you conduct your research to make this decision? Which information helped you?
  7. What do you value the most in your work with us?
  8. What would you like us to improve?
  9. What do you want to achieve with the new employees you will find with our help?
  10. Were there any occasions when you recommended our services to your contacts? What was the context? 
  11. What type of professional content do you read? What influencers and media do you follow?
  12. What social media do you use? 

Of course, this is not a complete list, you can remove or add questions as you see fit. In-depth interviews could reveal unexpected insights about your audience, their interests or business terminology or jargon you can leverage in your campaigns. 

As a result, you will be able to create a customer persona (or several) for your target audience. A customer persona is a semi-fictional depiction of your ideal buyer based on your research:

However, often a Customer Persona doesn’t cover everything. Keep in mind that each client is different and the personal is only an indication. 

An excellent framework that complements Customer Persona is Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD). Its main idea is that each client “hires” a company to get some of their jobs done. For example, a client doesn’t just hire a person, they do to get a particular job done: for example help scale the business, enrich their team with a creative person etc. It’s good to have a recruitment-specific CRM to document all JTBD for each of your clients. Sonovate partner, Firefish Software, can help you with that. 

The general formula for deriving JTBD looks like this: 

For example: “As a startup after investments, I intend to scale very fast, and want to hire a good CMO so I can get enough traction to demonstrate progress to my investors”. Here are some more examples of JTBD:

  • As an entrepreneur, who opens an office in a new country, I want to hire a new team to start generating income quickly. 
  • As a CEO, when I am unsure about the economy, I want to hire more contract workers and freelancers to decrease my risks. 
  • As a CTO, when our team decides to leverage new technology, I want to hire top experts, to reduce costs, minimise mistakes and avoid wasting time.

You will be able to derive the usual JTBD of your clients by analysing the output of the in-depth interviews and testimonials about your company (as well as competitors). 

Wrap up

Now you have the complete market picture: trends, competitors, and audience. It is time to process this data and create a compelling brand for your recruitment agency. Our next article will include information about how to define an ideal positioning, value proposition, and brand messaging for your recruitment agency. We will share what marketing channels are the best for a recruitment agency, how to leverage them, and what are the best ways to promote your job openings. Follow Sonovate on LinkedIn to make sure you don’t miss it. 

If you need additional funding to market your recruitment agency or pay your workforce, book a demo with Sonovate. We can fund your invoices in full.





This blog is general in nature, it does not constitute business advice or recommendations. It has not been prepared with your objectives, financial situation, or specific needs in mind.