Switching up your Talent Attraction Strategy from Lead Gen to Demand Gen

Generate hyper qualified candidate pipelines by using a demand gen talent attraction model to build the business into a destination employer


Written by Pete Donaldson, Chief Growth Officer

In Marketing there are two common ways to generate business, Lead Generation and Demand Generation. We are seeing a shift (especially in the B2B space) from a 100% Lead Gen focus to a more blended approach. The question is what if we applied some of this thinking to Talent Attraction? Could we shift how we generate hyper qualified pipelines of candidates?

What is demand generation?

Demand Gen is focused on building brand awareness and creating an interest in products or services. It is all about creating a connection and building trust. It’s about easy to access top of funnel content, building your brand in the market more widely and ultimately taking mindshare.

Why is it better than lead generation?

Lead Gen is a strategy focused on collecting contact information from potential customers. The goal is to create a list of prospects that can be contacted with sales and marketing messages. In Marketing we use free e-guides, webinars etc in exchange for contacts.

This route allows you to capture people at a moment in time, sometimes distressed, largely not relevant and out of date almost immediately. You are trying to get the 1%, which may work for now but what about the other 99% - think about the principles of employer branding and how your message needs to land with a broader spectrum.

What about Dark Social?

It’s worth noting the power of Dark Social in all this. Dark Social is social sharing that occurs through private or semi-private channels such as email, or WhatsApp, it’s considered "dark" because it is not easily trackable through traditional web analytics tools (that we love in Marketing and Recruitment in general). Dark social sharing is estimated to account for a sizeable portion (up to 80%) of all social sharing activity. This is because people often prefer to share content privately, particularly when it comes to sensitive or controversial topics. The trouble as mentioned is actually working this out and tracking anything.

The relevance to Talent Attraction and Acquisition (TA²)

If we transpose this to Talent Attraction & Acquisition (TA²), lead generation is ‘register for job’ alerts / register your interest etc and posting jobs (job boards or LinkedIn) where you capture applicants of variable quality at a moment in time (how many of us have had 200+ applications for a role and still not been able to shortlist?). To add to our frustration, it’s often those candidates we can’t see that are, the holy grail.

To shift to a demand generation model, TA functions should focus on building the business into a destination employer (works hand in hand with EVP/ EB). A strategy to engage the 99% that are not interested (for whatever reason) could allow TA leaders to move up the value chain in an organisation, shaping hiring strategy and future skills focus, ultimately potentially protecting team from redundancies in down turns like we are seeing.

It is the last part of the Demand Generation definition that really resonates: ‘create a connection and build trust’. A lot of TA² teams create personas to search for and approach, this is great, but what about the ones we can’t see or reach? Using a demand generation approach we can have a wider interested audience, we could up tap Dark Talent Pools and if we hire on skills, we could create a much more highly qualified pool of prospective talent.

The challenge

How do we change our approach? We aren’t selling anything are we…. we can’t hire without an open requisition...the list goes on and I agree that if we don’t holistically shift businesses focus to agile workforce planning and skills-based value add / recruitment then it will continue to be an issue. But what if we could, what would that look like?

While I don’t have all the answers as I’m still working this out, it is a core focus on how we are now sourcing with our clients, I do think a demand generation approach would lead to:

  • More Qualified Applications / Talent Pool

By attracting people who are genuinely interested in your Company through providing valuable information and building a relationship with potential hires, you have already covered the hard yards of ‘why us’ and are likely to have applications from people you’d unlikely have had before. Mapping demand generation to future skills need and you’re 10 steps ahead of everyone else.

  • Lower Cost Per Acquisition

With demand generation, the goal is to create a steady stream of interest and build brand awareness over time. This means that you don't have to rely on expensive paid advertising campaigns, instead, you can focus on creating high-quality content that resonates with your target audiences.

  • More Sustainable Growth

Demand generation is a more sustainable approach to marketing than lead generation in marketing, so I assume the same to be true when applied to Talent Attraction. Through the long-term building of brand awareness and establishing trust, you can create a talent community (rather than pool, which is really just bucket of profiles!) of potential that can sustain your business over the long term – think #futureskills.

While sticking with what we do now will continue to be effective in generating candidates, it has limitations. If you look to encompass the principles of demand generation into your strategy, I think you can get ahead of your competition and ultimately continue to elevate TA leaders up the value chain in their organisations. A focus on building brand awareness, creating high-quality content, and establishing relationships with potential candidates, tagged to the future skills we will need will surely lead to a better quality of talent community (not pool!) and more sustainable growth model.