How Online Marketplaces Help you with Marketing and Business Development
Let someone else do the marketing and business Development through online marketplaces
Executive matchmaking companies have been around in many forms for decades. From executive recruiting firms to up-and-coming technology-enabled online marketplaces, there is a wide range of companies to help executives find their next “gig,” whether it is a full-time role or their next interim engagement. Because we focus primarily on the independent executive, we will limit information to full-service firms and the online platforms within this space.
Looking back to the start of Cerius, it made a lot more sense to have the select few who were really good at marketing, business development, and sales represent the hundreds (and now thousands and tens of thousands) who are best at working directly on the engagement. In an ideal world, these select few could bring enough business to the masses that there would be no need for individual efforts in these key areas. Unfortunately, supply still by far outweighs demand, so the vast majority of independent executives are unable to solely rely on these companies.
Online marketplaces are on the rise and have been rapidly proliferating in the past few years. They are very similar to intermediaries, but are more technology-driven and more directly connect the company with the executive. Having an online lead source can be an easy way to give yourself visibility to more companies and projects. If you don’t have a consistent source of leads, either from building it up through the years or from your days in your prior career, an online marketplace can be very advantageous.
The availability of these marketplaces does give you the option to do your due diligence. The interesting thing is that executives are being very picky about which ones they sign up for due to mixed experiences with both intermediaries and online marketplaces. Major concerns include their time investment, the sale or distribution of their information without permission, the quality and reputation of the database, and the types of clients. There is also the brand fear associated with being part of what may be perceived as a tainted database. Do your due diligence and be clear on your requirements and your intent regarding how they fit into your overall marketing strategy.
You can use the same list to evaluate online marketplaces as noted above, with some distinct differences. For example:
- Online marketplaces create more direct competition with other executives since opportunity alerts go out to many executives, so sharpen your differentiation and sales skills.
- The client vetting is more reliant on you. Since interactions are more technology-driven and not relationship-driven, the intermediary typically doesn’t know much more than you do from their profile.
- Client vetting and evaluation of opportunity are now up to you.
- More of the sales process (understanding what the client needs, convincing the client you have the right expertise, and getting the client’s signature) is now your responsibility.
These are typically boutique-size or larger companies who act as a broker between the client company and executives. Though executive recruiting has been around for decades and most companies and executives are well aware of them, in the independent executive space, there are not as many, compared to their counterparts. As a result, there are fewer companies to get the word out and represent this growing population. With the growth of the independent executive segment, we expect this to change in the next few years. With the newness within the space at this point, there isn’t yet a set standard for the independent marketplace. As everyone looks to improve and understand what each side of the equation needs, here are a few things to consider when determining whether this is a good option for you and who to work with.
How is your information, particularly your resume, being handled? Are you contacted prior to your resume/background being shown or discussed with any clients? Are they speaking with you first and finding out more information prior to sending it to the client? Are you one of ten candidates the company is looking at, or one of two? Though there is no way to know across the board, each firm likely has a standard or average they work with and can give you an idea. Either way, most responses to these questions are neither good nor bad, it will depend on your preferences.
Depending on whether you are paying for the service or not, the amount of contact and updates you receive will vary greatly. Get some clarity from the intermediary about what you can expect and make sure that meets your expectations and there is enough value in it for you.
- Membership/Subscription Model. You pay a monthly or annual membership fee to be listed on their site. Some provide additional services for increased level of membership or additional fees. You get the benefit of their marketing efforts, and most everything else in the process is up to you. It is solely a lead source. You do not need to be exclusive to any one site or service.
- Revenue Share. There are no direct up-front costs to you, other than your time investment going through the initial process of signing up and any other processes that may exist. Any job you get through the company is done on a revenue-share basis. For example, if the share is 70/30 and the client is billed $1,000, you receive $700 of the $1,000. You gain the benefit of their marketing, sales, contracts, negotiations, and billing, to name a few. Most of your focus is on the initial discussions with the client, understanding what they need, translating that into an SOW, and doing the work itself.
- Partnership. This is a combination of an up-front investment or “buy-in” and a revenue share. You gain the benefit of their brand, systems, marketing and internal referral network. You are exclusive to this brand. Regardless of where your leads originate, the revenue share will apply.
You can do business under any of the online marketplaces, as there is no exclusivity required to join.
Understand what their process is and set realistic expectations. These can vary greatly from company to company. Is it simply submitting your resume? Or will more information be needed, requiring more of a time investment on your part? What are the steps they use to get to know you and your skill sets, and at what part of the process? For example, is all of the information they need gathered at the point of sign-up/application? Is it gathered over time? Or do they wait until there is a potential opportunity? Most will gather basic information from you at the beginning with no further time investment until there is a potential opportunity.
Type of Work
Intermediaries will generally focus on types of work and types of clients. For example, is it mostly hourly, project-based, boards, or part-time/interim executive engagements? Is their client base primarily SMB, Fortune 500, nonprofits, or the private equity/investment community? They may also be focused more on individual placements, such as interim executives versus putting together teams of consultants for big projects. Take this into account when you are considering the type of structure, environments, and arrangements you want to work in.
How much information do they know about the client and can they share with you? Are most of their engagements straightforward? Or do they need to spend time with the client understanding their end goal in order to help them better formulate the executive expertise they need? They should also be watching for red flags with the client and be willing to walk away from the client at any point.
As always, keep in mind you may never receive any business from any one intermediary. It all comes from referrals. Keep your expectations realistic. One thing to remember is that intermediaries can be one source of leads, but like your other sources, these may be plentiful or may bear nothing. We would highly recommend not relying solely on these and certainly not solely on any one. You decide how much support you need in the process and how much you are willing or not willing to invest up front versus on the back end.
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