In this episode, David Folwell, President of StaffingHub, talks with Jack Copeland, CEO and co-founder of Staffing Future. They share ideas on how staffing agencies can get more candidates and clients from their existing websites, how you can perfect your staffing tech stack, and how the digital transformation is impacting the staffing industry.

Folwell: Hello. I’m joined here today with Jack Copeland, who was the co-founder of Staffing Future, probably doesn’t need much of an introduction in the staffing industry as he’s been in it for quite a long time, over 17 years and has a 10 year career with Broad Bean as well. Jack, thanks so much for joining me today. Why don’t we go ahead and kick it off with you giving a little background on who you are and what you do.

Copeland: Awesome. Thanks, David. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on the show. Excited to chat. Yeah, as you say, I’ve been in the staffing industry about 17 and a half years. Pretty much all of that in staffing technologies with Broad Beans for almost a decade across the world, Holland, Ireland, U.S., as well as obviously the UK originally. I worked with Career Builder for a while before consulting with various different industry players, like the Ebsta, Herefish, TrackerRMS, 3DIQ, and now as the co-founder of Staffing Future. We’ve been going about three years and we provide some tech integrated and technology enabled websites for staffing to help people not just drive leads through SEO and traffic, but use technology, our own and third-party, to convert more of that traffic into qualified marketing leads.

Folwell: Oh, that’s amazing. With that, I’ve actually thought, Jack and I had a conversation before this podcast and thought maybe would change up the podcast structure a little bit and go with some specific goals. One of the conversations that we wanted to add today was really around how you as a staffing agency, executive or staffing industry leader can get more candidates and clients from your current website traffic. We’re also going to be diving into areas where we’re going to try to provide some resources or ideas on how you can improve your tech stack and make sure you’re aligned with your tech strategy. Then as always, when I’m leading the podcasts, we’re going to be jumping into the digital transformation, talking about how that’s impacting staffing agencies. Those are a few things we’ll be covering today. I’m excited to have you on the call, Jack. I think our listeners that are on with us today are going to be very, get some insights from you on what you’ve learned with all of the websites that you manage. I mean, you guys are, if I remember correctly, you’re growing more than two X in this year.

Copeland: Yeah. We’ve seen about 400% growth this year and last year. Yeah. It’s going. It’s very exciting times.

Folwell: Yeah. With that, I think just your expertise, you’re managing all of these different websites. I’m really hoping that we can share best practices and things, give some specific takeaways for the staffing firms that are listening to this podcast today. With that, I’m going to jump in with some of the questions. How specifically does Staffing Future helps staffing agencies? How do you work with firms?

Copeland: A good question. We really believe that even before COVID, the website is your most valuable tool in terms of customer and candidate interface, right? Of all your marketing options without email, texts, being on the phone, meeting people, it’s the one area where you can be most consistent about your brand, your message and what you want to do. It’s also the area where you really don’t know what’s happening, right? You don’t know who’s visiting. You don’t know what’s  going on half the time.

So, what we really try and focus on doing is trying to bring some of the marketing techniques that you see in eCommerce in 2020, trying to bring those concepts to staffing. Starting to learn about who’s on your website, what their behavior is, how do we provide the right information to the right user at the right time? And how do we really try and convert, as you were talking about, more of your existing traffic and move away from what most of the industry is doing, which is this kind of like right time, right place, do you want to talk right now? Do you want a job right now?

And the way that we approach that is with, not going into loads of detail, but we also don’t believe that websites should be a project. We believe that, that design might be a project, but trying to get leads, trying to get client leads, candidates, trying to have an elite tech stack, trying to have something that has the right message, that’s all something that you want, not just today, but always.

So, we partner with people over a minimum of 12 months. We’ll build a website and do certain traditional digital marketing elements within that like SEO and design. But then we’ll work with them for a full year, without any sort of by the way a la cart fees, just to try and move as far as possible towards that end goal. And we find that we have a lot more success that way. And that’s how we keep a lot of our customers into year two and year three. So that’s basically our model.

Folwell: Yeah. I think it’s a great model and also something that’s much needed in the staffing industry. One thing that I always think about, you brought this up earlier, that it’s not really a project, that it’s an ongoing piece. I always think of websites, it’s like having a store at a mall and people are always like, “Oh, well, we got the website done now onto the next thing.” It’s like, “No, if you build a store, do you think you want to have somebody there that’s a salesperson to answer questions? Do you want to have somebody manage the store?” So I really think that websites, the same way you think about retail and having people there to make sure you’re communicating and continually improving is critical.

With that, if you were to dig in and look at some of the most important or valuable tactics or items that you would consider within a website, if you’re a staffing agency, what are some of the gaps that you’re seeing out there?

Copeland: So, I think, probably, surprisingly enough, a lot of the industry is not working with anyone that’s staffing specific. So our number one competitor isn’t necessarily some of the other brands that you might have heard, but is 95% of the market, everyone’s local digital marketing firm or local website provider. So, I think, really understanding the elements of jobs and candidates is probably the most important function. Do you understand how jobs relate to SEO? How you can drive traffic to jobs, how you can use different elements of quick applies and Herefish and Sense automations to drive those candidates into workflows. Do you understand how you can use candidate-centric marketing, top talent, top profiles, case studies to sort of actively enable your sales team?

So, at base level, and plenty of people will already be doing that, but that’s something that you really need to think about, is my website just a business card? Or is it something that really sort of represents my value proposition and has the right kind of dynamic content on it?

And then the other element to think about is, the top of the funnel. So, not, “Oh, okay, we’ve got this many resumes, they’re going through our app and tracking system, and that’s the metric.” Or, “We’ve got this many client needs and that’s the metric,” but really starting to understand, “Okay, our website is a funnel and you can put more into the top of the funnel to get more results. And that’s what a lot of people focus on and we have to focus on that as well.” But also you can optimize the funnel to convert more of your existing traffic.

So, the way that I position that is about how you buy something on the internet today, versus how you bought something on the internet 10 years ago. These days an eCommerce website knows everything you’re looking at. It’s desperately trying to capture your email address. It already knows your IP address. And if you don’t do what that website, what it wants you to do, which is buy something, or even if you do, and it wants you to buy more, it’s going to then present the things that you are interested in to you via email and via pay-per-click marketing, so that when you have the funds in your account, when you’re in the right position to make that purchase, you will come back and you’ll do so.

And that’s the sort of biggest thing I think our industry is missing. It’s very focused on, do you want to apply for this job now? Do you want to onboard right now? Do you want to talk right now? But there’s not really a focus on the 90% of traffic that isn’t ready to do that. How do we engage them? How do we bring them back? How we re-target and re-market them? And how do we get better value out of that traffic? Because, statistically, when you do so, when you build a brand and you build engagement, every single time someone comes back, you’re going to get better conversion than the first time round. It’s actually more effective, that repeat traffic, in the same way that you’re more likely to buy something from a store that you’ve been to before.

Folwell: I couldn’t agree more. Having the digital marketing background, it always amazes me when you are talking with agencies and it’s like, “Yeah, we don’t really know how many leads are coming through the website or what our traffic is.” I think there’s a huge opportunity if you don’t have the resources in place or marketing persons. I think you should. I think we’re seeing a major trend where most staffing firms I’m talking to are either looking to hire somebody for marketing and bringing somebody internal. I’ve seen a lot more agencies are building out true kind of big marketing teams, which isn’t what you’ve seen historically in the industry.

One thing you touched on there that I think might be worth digging into a little bit further is optimizing the funnel. And you talked about bringing people back via retargeting. I personally have a strong bias towards everybody should be doing some form of retargeting, at least a high-interest retargeting. If somebody comes and visits five pages on your website, I absolutely want to show them banner ads because they definitely expressed an interest and I don’t want them to forget about us. But do you have any other tips, techniques, advice that you would have on things that staffing firms can do to optimize their funnel?

Copeland: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s all a game of inches and it’s not about just implementing it and setting it, forgetting it. It’s like all marketing. It’s very much a case of testing and optimizing and looking at the analytics. So, the first thing you need to make sure you’ve got is the right metrics in place. You need to have UTMs going in to your applicant tracking system. You need to have the right Google analytics in place. You might want to have something like a Hotjar, which is giving you data on where people are scrolling and what they’re hovering over. You want to be able to make sure that you’re able to map out those user journeys and see where people are going and what they’re doing and what their time on the site’s like. So, that’s the sort of basics.

When it comes to the concept of top of the funnel, it’s really about any methodology that you can give a user to engage with your website that is not the obvious. So, for a client, the end goal is write or maybe submit a job order through website or the app. For a candidates point of view, the end goal is, apply to a job or maybe even go through an onboarding registration process, if you’re in light industrial and resume isn’t enough.

What can we do to move a couple of steps higher up the chain from that? How can we start to say, “Actually here’s an interesting piece of content. Here’s a case study. Here’s a video. Here’s something that’s going to add value to you as a potentially passive or active job seeker, as someone who has hiring challenges.” How can we then engage you? And what can we then do to start to capture the ability to bring you back?

So, for example, one of the things that we’re super excited about right now is in browser alerts. We’re rolling out, literally this month, in browser alerts to a load of our clients where a user lands on the site and it simply says, “StaffingHub Live would like to give you push notifications in browser.” And all they have to do is click, okay.

Now that’s a feature that we have, it’s a feature that a couple of different job boards have, and it’s something that people can build themselves. But the idea being is that we don’t even need to know that person’s name. We don’t need to know their email address. They’re just clicking a button, but now we can monitor or you can monitor what they’ve looked at. Are they likely to be a client based on what they’re visiting? Are they likely to be a candidate? Are they active? Are they passive? There’s technology that you can have behind something like this to identify that. And then you can bring them back to your site three days from now, three months now, three weeks from now, with relevant content.

So, that content could be jobs, it could be reviews, it could be case studies, it could be an ebook on the hiring process for your niche. It could be a salary survey. It could be top quality talent in your area. So, it’s about having the right kind of content available, but then also having any kind of metrics you’ve got at the top of the funnel, whether it’s email, whether it’s text, whether it’s pay-per-click advertising to bring those individuals back to the site.

Folwell: That’s great insight. And you touched on quite a few things there. I think the browser alerts are fantastic. When I think about the amount of money that I’ve spent on retargeting advertising, where you’re paying to have these banner ads displayed. And if you can just have your browser do that for you, it’s another channel to hit somebody. And it’s one that you’re not paying for every view on it. You’ve got the monthly SAS fee, I’m sure.

A couple of things that you’ve touched on that I thought might be… The A/B testing and kind of Hotjar, I’ve used those quite a bit. It’s amazing, for those of you that are listening that are not familiar, Hotjar actually lets you, it’s almost creepy, but it lets you record visitors on your website and watch the mouse movements of them throughout your site.

And, in terms of learning, what’s working and what’s not working from a user experience, that’s been kind of invaluable for me over the years. And then on A/B testing just a short, most recently I was doing A/B tests and just on a headline on a homepage and we saw it was like a 97% increase in conversions just from changing one sentence on a site. So, as we’re talking about this stuff and a lot of the stuff that Jack’s talking about right now is super powerful and things that can really have a real big impact on your business if implemented correctly.

Copeland: Yeah. I was just going to say on that, there are, with all of these things, it’s just about starting small. So, you might be a little bit overwhelmed by the concept, like a Hotjar and going, “Okay, well look, I’m not a marketing professional. I’ve got a 10 person agency. How am I going to really be able to glean insight from these analytics?” We’ll obviously there’s plenty of great partners out there that can help you do that. But to take those two concepts and just to make it something that seems more relatable for maybe a user in that scenario, even just analytics on the application process. We’ve seen applications convert, the highest I’ve ever seen is I think about 65%, where 65% of people that have said, “Hey, I want view this job.” Or, “I want to read this job.” Have gone through and applied, which is nuts.

I’ve also seen applications convert a 0.25% where people have had the 10 minute application process and they want to know your social security number and maybe your first born child without even really giving you information about the job. So, when you think about how astonishing that range is, it gives you a real idea around, “Okay, well, if I can just put something in place where I can go, okay, we would like the candidate to give us a resume and answer 10 questions, but what does the conversion look like there versus five questions, versus just give me an email address.” That’s not a huge sliding scale of different variances, but as long as you’re tracking that you can find the optimum point in which you can convert as much traffic as possible whilst also getting the information that you need.

And that’s going to vary a lot with different people. If you’re recruiting travel nurses where people will pay $500 an application in some scenarios, you might literally be happy just to get a phone number and email address and then have someone chase them down. Whereas if you’re recruiting light industrial professionals, you might just turn around and go, “I don’t want the application if they’re not going to start registering themselves, because I just don’t have enough time to go through and type this information up and ring up every potential candidate. And it’s costing me 10 cents notification on Indeed.”

So it really just depends on the scenario like that. The same concept with Hotjar, just very quickly. Heat maps are great, being able to understand, watch videos, but it could be as simple as, what information you’re presenting on the fold. There’s a couple of pages on our website that is the third section. So you have to scroll through an entire, if people know where the fold  is, when you’re looking at website, what’s beneath your line of vision. And it’s on the third section of vision and we’re looking at these pages and realizing 85% of people don’t make it there, in that scenario. So, there can be some really simple insights that you can get from these pieces of technology, as well as the sort of more advanced stuff that’s out there.

Folwell: And just to your point on the form fields, I feel like that’s one that I’ve run into this so many times with staffing firms where it’s like, “Hey, we want all this information.” It’s like, “Great, but you’re reducing your conversion rate so significantly.” I don’t know if the stats still holds, I think I saw it two years ago, but it was that, after three questions in a form, every additional field drops your conversion rate by 20%.

So, it’s one thing where you get to a spot where it’s like asking 15 things, not a whole lot of people are going to go through it. And a lot of firms, I don’t think are thinking about that. So, that’s great insights there.

So, jumping a little bit. When it comes to the digital transformation, what does the digital transformation mean to you? How would you define that?

Copeland: So, I think it’s a difficult question because it’s going to mean different things to different people. If we’ve got a five user firm that’s got a one page website on Wix, is there a transformation for them?

Just think about, high-level, philosophically almost, just think about what you’ve gone through in the 5 five, 10 years. When I moved to California, Lyft and Uber didn’t exist. I remember thinking why do we need an app to order pizza? It takes me two minutes to ring up and order pizza. And now I would never, ever dream of calling a taxi. And, especially with the funny accent, won’t ever ring up and order pizza either. So I think there’s a big issue in our industry where for 10 years people have been saying, “Oh, job boards are going to die. And this is going to change. And we’re moving to the gig economy,” and all these little soundbites and, “everything is going to be mobile app driven.” A lot of companies fall into the trap of going, “People say that and it hasn’t happened yet. So it’s not happening. It’s not going to come.”

Well, actually, a lot of these things do happen, but they just take longer than people expect. Their 10-year journeys, people were saying 10 years ago, “Job boards are going to die.” This is the first year where we’re seeing someone like Nuevo or talent.com has done rebranding to, are now eclipsing, I think, Monster, CareerBuilder and Dice combined for traffic in the U.S. as an aggregator. We are seeing that traditional job board model that doesn’t drive traffic, it doesn’t aggregate, but instead is that paper post die out to a point. As a result, the resume database has become less effective. Ten years ago, there was only so much you could do with a mobile app. Now, we’re really seeing people live and breathe those experiences. Not to apply for jobs, but once they start to onboard and they start to work with an organization to upload their time sheets and everything else.

So digital transformation means different things to different people, but it’s just important to make sure that as a staffing organization, you have a true web-based front end to your business, whether that’s more mobile app driven, whether website driven, a methodology for people to do easily what you want them to do and automation tools and processes that relate to that, to take the heavy lifting away from both the candidate and from your team. Because if you don’t have that, then you’re not going to have good conversion. Candidates are not going to do what’s not easy for them in 2020. And your team are going to be bogged down in admin and they’re not going to be as efficient. It was coming anyway, but with COVID it’s moving an awful lot quicker now.

Folwell: It sure accelerated this year. I’ve never imagined with all conferences, digital, everything being digital. When I book my hair appointments now to get a haircut, you have to call. You have to do it online. I don’t think they have a number anymore. They’ve gotten rid of the person, which is wild. So it definitely has accelerated this year and also I think will continue to move forward. I always laugh. One anecdote that I heard, it was a staffing tech a couple of years ago. Everybody was talking about AI. They had somebody presenting about AI. And one of the guys that was at the booth next to me, he’s like, “I know this is coming,” and it sure is. But he’s like, “I think we’ve got a little bit of time. My neighbor has an Alexa and all I can do every day when I’m sitting out by my pool is I can see him just screaming at it, going, ‘Alexa, turn the damn lights off!'”

And he’s like, “If we haven’t figured that out, we might have a little bit of time left.” So while I do think there’s a ton of urgency, I always think AI’s still got a ways to go. But a lot of these basic things I think you need to have in place now.

Copeland: It’s very true. I get asked all the time when we’re doing a technology consulting piece, which of these five AI search tools should I be implementing? I’m like, “To be honest with you, none of them.” My best guess on that market is none of them are going to eclipse something like LinkedIn for now. When they do, you’re going to bet, there’s 10 different horses to bet on. They’re all very well-funded. You have to pay a lot of money up front. They say it takes years to get the effectiveness of it. So you’re taking that big risk. And if you happen to back the right horse, by the time one of them wins out, everyone’s going to be on top of it within a year or so anyway.

So I think it’s going to happen. I think the people that are losing sleep overnight. Just realize that there’s a lot of competition going on right now. In five years, in three years, however long it is, one of them is going to become the new big industry supplier and the cost of it will go down and everyone will end up joining, jumping on that ship. So don’t panic.

Folwell: Absolutely. In line with what we’ve been talking about with the digital transformation, do you have any examples or stories of agencies you’ve worked with, or even some that you’ve come across, that are really nailing it in terms of their digital footprint and their digital presence?

Copeland: Yeah, absolutely. You were talking about people starting to wake up to the idea of marketing and putting marketing individuals in place. There’s an organization we started working with a couple of years ago. I think we met them at a Talk N Tech. The scope of the project started with we want to completely rip out and implement a new ATS. We want a tech stack to run the ATS, and we want to overhaul all of our marketing solutions to make sure they talk to each other. They ended up blowing the bullhorn mainly because of the marketplace. We helped them select Herefish as a supplier and sublet Great Recruiters and some other elements of the stack. But what’s happened with that organization is they kept it simple. They see themselves as actually pretty early on in their digital transformation, even though they’ve built a completely new website, they’ve implemented a completely new ATS system. I think they have eight or nine marketplace partners.

But what’s happened with implementing a marketing professional and putting those systems in place, they’ve seen a 250% increase in traffic to their website within the first six months, which is great in terms of moving away from continuously paying Indeed for say, applications or continuously having go out to work clients cold. But more so than that, despite the increase in 250% on traffic, they’ve seen a 700% increase in the number of qualified leads that are coming through, because they have re-engagement tools, because they have better conversion, because they have the right methodology in place. This is just one example of someone taking the time to say, “Okay, we’re going to start from scratch. We’re going to get rid of everything we’ve got in place. We’re going to figure out how to do this right.”

And now having a website and having a tech stack around website, and we can’t take credit for anywhere near of all of this. There’s a lot of other technology and elements in place and a lot of skill that’s been implemented by their marketing team. But they’re now seeing their website being one of the top revenue producers, not just in terms of candidates, but in terms of client needs. I think they were saying yesterday, there’s almost 20 leads that are coming through their website now a month. And it’s not just their website. It’s also from the connected social and the connected email and the outbound efforts. It’s not one source, because people don’t buy from one source anymore. But it’s taking something that before was just a business card and now having it as this main hub of their tools to drive inbound client conversations.

Folwell: With that, I think one of the reasons, and this is my own personal take on this, but I think a lot of agencies miss the boat on the digital side of things right now because they’re not measuring what they should be. It’s my own opinion on that. But I’m just curious to know what you think should be measured on a monthly basis. Should they have a reporting dashboard or what metrics would you suggest for agencies to keep an eye on?

Copeland: I think the biggest one and the obvious one is the ROI. You want to make sure that if you’re getting any client web leads, they’re going in, the source is pulling through, any candidate web leads are coming in and the source is pulling through and you’re running that report to establish how much money you’re making. But then I think there’s a lot of early positive signs that you can see within that funnel. So looking at leads that are coming through, have they been changed as a qualified lead? Is it not a qualified lead? Did we have a conversation? Did we not have a conversation? Did we get a job order?

When you’re talking about low volumes, if I’m talking to someone who’s never had a sales lead through their website, or have had a couple, but it’s people they already knew, you don’t have the metrics in place to turn around and go, “Well, am I having success, because have I made a placement or have I got a key client?” You’re going to need to start to understand what’s the volume of leads that are coming through and are those qualified? Are those leading to conversations? Exactly the same on the candidate front. Understanding each step of that. Are we actually getting submissions out of this? That can be a really big piece. Or are we booking qualified interviews? So just taking a step or two back from.

The other one that’s important is just looking at traffic. Because if you get traffic and you get the right kind of traffic, you can do more your end to convert that. It is an important piece to understand, okay, well, if people are sending me leads to my website and then my website is not converting them, is that me issue or is that a them issue? It’s never quite that black and white, because obviously you get different levels of quality of traffic. But by the same token, you do need to be able to understand that. If I’m running a billboard over a freeway and I run someone’s advertisement, my new requirement is to put that billboard up. If the billboard is absolutely awful and no one rings up. That’s not because I haven’t done my job. It’s because their advertisement was poor. So it’s exactly the same concept with someone’s website, their marketing stack as well.

Folwell: I couldn’t agree more. Historically, we’ve worked with a lot of different companies that always say, “The two things that I would start tracking, like I know the first step is traffic and form submissions by month.” It’s starting to pay attention to that and looking at what you’re doing at different stages. You talked a lot there about the traffic. Actually, your example where you said that you saw a 250% increase in traffic for clients, are you able to share what you think was the key driver in building that traffic out?

Copeland: The trouble with it is it really is a game of inches. That’s my match that I always say. The first thing that they did was, they moved onto the latest version of WordPress. So we got them WordPress. Several of our competitors got them WordPress. And a few of our competitors have their own CMS. The entire market is shifting to, if you are a software technology provider, build tech for staffing, let the number one CMS in the world do the being good at a website part. Just moving to WordPress, moving onto the latest version of WordPress, Google loves that. We often see just big general spikes in traffic purely because you’re essentially up, by having a faster car because you bought the latest model.

The other element was just having some strategy around their SEO, running the research, understanding what terms were achievable for them based on the amount of traffic they have right now in their current positioning, building out the landing pages, making sure that the jobs were indexing and tracing a decent volume of blog content. I think those were the pieces along with the obvious one, which is pushing out toward the free aggregators that saw the big increase in traffic. In terms of the conversion of that traffic, it was implementing quick apply, better calls to action, easier to implement forms, simple things like job alert and resume submission button, having email automation on the side, pushing the social, all that kind of stuff is the piece that takes that traffic and just does a better job of letting it engage and letting it begin to convert.

Folwell: It’s funny, all of that advice is sound advice. I second everything you just said, so I’m laughing.  Everybody always wants to know what the silver bullet is. And the silver bullet is, there isn’t one. There are a lot of things that you need to do to move the needle. They’re all requirements. There’s a lot of things that you need to have in place to make sure you’re moving in the right direction. So jumping out of the digital transformation, and more a little bit about you. You and/or your business, I’ve got a few questions here, what is one of the best or most worthwhile investments that you’ve ever made?

Copeland: I think probably professionally, I know I sound so cheesy, but the investment in company culture. At Broadbean, we saw a giant almost like movement in many ways. It’s something that I’m trying to replicate with Staffing Future and so I’m going to hate myself for saying movement. That sounds so ridiculous. What I mean, people were just very excited about the company and people were excited about going to work there. They’re excited about socializing with the individuals that work there. It was this positive momentum where people really enjoyed their job. They really enjoyed what they were doing. Their customers liked them because they were happy. They wanted to do a good job for their customers because they were proud of the organization that they worked for. As a result, they did do a good job. Their customers really liked them.

Their customers said, “Wow, you guys are great!” And they became more proud of the organization they worked for. What we saw was really good staff retention and really saw a happy, positive work environment, good client retention. You look at that and you’re like, “Well, everybody won.” It didn’t take a lot of time and effort to do it. It was more just like caring about the people, caring about the individual and prioritizing them. I think that was something that I’ve now tried to follow through in my career with Staffing Future. Because if you have good people and they stick around, it’s usually beneficial to your business. We haven’t ever been having one leave in terms of our staff. And with the growth that we’re seeing, I don’t know what we would do if the key people left quickly. It’s so hard to take the time to replace them and everything, which anyone in recruitment knows. I think that’s probably a key piece.

Folwell: That’s great. Yeah, culture’s such a critical part of every business. That’s some good insights there. Couple of questions left, and then we’ll round this out. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Copeland: Ooh, okay. I’m going to do personally and professionally on this one. Most of it is just probably moving away from being so cynical, being more open-minded to things. I’ve always been quite open-minded as an individual, and I’m quite creative, but there’s things that take a while for me to believe in them. I was one of these people that was like chat bot, nah. That’s never going to work. Changing my mindset professionally to really be more considerate about the future.

Now, I’ve kind of gone the other way where we’re called Staffing Future, and we try and lean into this change and lean into these things, but it’s easy to get bogged down in you’re making money in the here and now, so we shouldn’t ever embrace change. We shouldn’t ever really investigate the opportunity in some of the emerging technology and things that are out there. I think that’s a really good piece.

Then, personally, for me, I think sort of really leaning into being active and getting out of the house a lot more and learning new things and finding enthusiasm for adventure has been a big sort of personal development for me in the last five years. I used to be quite happy just to go to the pub on a Friday night and then sit and eat pizza watching sports all day on Saturday. There’s a time and a place for that.

Folwell: That’s great. I actually was just having a conversation yesterday about keeping an open mind about things and how many things in my life 10 years ago… Specifically, I was snowshoeing with somebody. Ten years ago, if somebody asked me if I would snowshoe, I would have said absolutely not. Sounds terrible. I don’t want to be in the winter and the cold walking around. That sounds awful. And now, it’s something that I absolutely adore. I was thinking a new approach that I’m trying to put in place is that if there’s something that somebody wants to do, even if I don’t think I’m going to like it, I’m like wait, a second. There’s enough people out there that like this, there’s probably a reason why. I should try to focus on how can I understand why do they like it and just give it a shot.

There’s been definitely a lot of things that, similar to your chat bot comments, where it’s like you go into it with just thinking yeah, no way, and then a few years later, here it is.

Copeland: Yeah, absolutely.

Folwell: Two questions left. What are the bad recommendations that you hear in marketing or in your area of expertise?

Copeland: I think probably bad recommendation is when people want to throw money at stuff, particularly paid traffic. I hear all the time, “oh, I’m chatting with this marketing firm, and they say, cool, they can run Google ads for me. They can run Facebook for me. They can get results.” I go you’re a three user, and your website’s still on Wix, and you haven’t touched your LinkedIn profile.

What are we doing? We’re going to drive traffic to something that is not impressive. That’s not because your business isn’t impressive. It’s just because you haven’t taken the time to consider what these people are going to see when you’re driving them to this.

I think that’s kind of one big thing. Then, the other thing is we joke about the silver bullet. But I think the silver bullet with this is really believing in it and therefore giving it the time that it needs and the attention. That’s where I get concerns about quick wins. Right? There’s so many quick wins that you couldn’t to the table as a marketing firm or as a website development firm. There’s all sorts of low hanging fruit, and obviously that’s the place to start, but you still have to kind of do the whole thing, and it does sort of take time.

You see a lot of people that will run these Facebook campaigns, like oh, yeah, let me give you the strategies to automate LinkedIn and blow up your marketing experience, and that’s one piece. Yeah, you might get some quick wins from it, but if you’re driving conversations on LinkedIn, someone’s looking at your LinkedIn profile, there’s nothing decent on there, they’re looking at your website, there’s nothing decent on there, it’s still not going to be effective.

I think anyone that’s suggesting throwing money at the problem, especially in terms of paid traffic, and anyone who’s suggesting that one channel will solve everything and you don’t need to take the time to touch other elements, those are areas to fall down to me.

Folwell: I completely agree, and also I think your expertise is so badly needed in the industry. My experience with marketers, I always thought about my job was anybody can go look at a list of what should I do for my website. You get a list of 150 different things that you should put in place, but I think where your expertise comes in, and as you’ve talked about it a little bit today, it’s like when to do what and how much effort to put into the different things, and knowing that based off of what the business needs are and where the business is at is something that I think you bring to the table.

It’s a critical component.  I’ve watched a lot of people go down the paid traffic route, and paid traffic can be good when done correctly, but it is just one of many things to kind of test out there.

Copeland: Yeah, absolutely. I think the big learning we’ve had in the business doing this with our clients is that you have to climb every rung on the ladder, so acknowledge where you’re at. If you’re a three right now, and you want to get to a nine, that’s great, but you’ve got to climb that ladder. You can climb it quickly, you can climb it slowly. You can invest a lot of money in it, you can invest less money in it and take the quick wins and let each stage have its own value, but don’t think you can just skip four, five, and six and go straight to seven, because you’re just going to fall off the ladder.

That’s kind of what we’ve experienced as well. In the early days, I would sit down with people, and I’d go, “You’re doing literally everything wrong, so imagine if you were doing everything right, this is the dream.” It’s a real journey to get there, and it’s a buy-in for that journey and taking those quick wins at each step and reevaluating and being dynamic that’s going to see success, and getting buy-in from everyone versus just sort of going in and going, “Oh, look. We can have this amazing tech, stack, and workflow,” and then three months later, people are like the users don’t like change. A little bit of money’s been spent. Nothing’s been properly implemented. You tried to do everything at once, and the immediate, knee jerk reaction is, “Oh, it doesn’t work.”

Folwell: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s fantastic. We’re down to the last question. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Copeland: You know what my absurd habit that I absolutely love that 90% of the time works really well for me is I play out eventualities in my head when I can’t sleep, and I play out conversations in the car, and I counter my own arguments, and I have different debates. Then, because I’m a fairly positive person, I think it sets me up fairly well for talking to lots of different people and thinking about different sides of the argument and also having rebuttals and having thought about something.

The negative side of it is sometimes you can sit there daydreaming all day long or staying awake at night or, certainly, if you’re mad, you can end up standing on your own soapbox preaching to yourself about how right you are, and that can not be conducive for a sensible conversation afterwards.

I absolutely love when I’ve got a pitch or a challenge or a conversation or a tough conversation or something I’m excited about, running that conversation and the back and forth through my head. I don’t know why I do, but I do.

Folwell: I’m right there with you. Sometimes I call that, I would just label that as my personal anxiety, but I’m right there with you. 

Copeland: Depends what mood you’re in.

Folwell: That’s fantastic. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our audience before we jump off?

Copeland: Final thought, like Jerry Springer, or whatever, but I just think if anyone’s wondering kind of what to do, just start somewhere. Start somewhere. Start small. Have some conversations. Just try not to stand still with this stuff. Try and find the time to work on your business, not just working in it, and realize that it’s a game of inches. It takes time. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll make some progress.

You don’t need to blow everything up. You don’t need to allocate huge budgets for it, but if you can just allocate 10% of your time towards digital transformation, understanding some automation, some of the technology that’s out there, then you can sort of slowly iterate in the right direction, and then you don’t have any fears of being left behind.

If you don’t want to do that, if you just want to stay exactly as you are, that doesn’t mean that there’s this doom prophecy of you’re going to be left behind overnight, but it does mean everything’s going to be harder for you. It’s going to take longer for you, and it’s also going to be very, very hard for you to grow and you to scale.

If that’s what people in the lifestyle business, completely understand that, but if what you’re looking to do is grow a business, it needs technology, it needs process, it needs marketing, it needs brand, otherwise, all you’re doing is just training individuals. It’s a sort of deck of cards. No one wants to buy it. It’s very, very hard to get past those five, 10 people because a few key people leave, and it all kind of falls down.

I think that’s the challenge that a lot of people are having in our market right now is understanding how do I grow a business without the fluctuation of the economy, without it just being two, three key people, and that’s process, technology, marketing, brand.

Folwell: I think that’s a great closing comment, and I’ll also add if any of you that are listening today are looking to figure out your tech stack, your tech strategy, your digital marketing, wanting to get ahead on the digital transformation I’m looking at your site on StaffingFuture.com, and it looks like you’re offering free tech reviews on the home page. If you’re listening to this and want to get some advice, I’m sure you guys are willing to offer some initial free consulting to help guide people as well.

Copeland: Absolutely. Thank you.

Folwell: Thanks again for joining today, Jack. Really enjoyed it. I hope you have a wonderful day.

Copeland: You too, guys. Thank you so much for having me on.