In my experience working with different IT staffing companies over the years, I’ve noticed an almost universal theme: they tend to rely on the same pitch. To be clear, I’m not saying IT staffing firms have nothing unique to offer. It’s just that finding ways to communicate a compelling UVP seems to be extra challenging in this industry.
But difficult isn’t the same as impossible. We’ve actually partnered with a couple of staffing companies that were able to genuinely set themselves apart from their competitors. We’ve also helped other IT staffing firms position their offer with unique selling points as part of preparing their Callbox marketing campaigns.
That’s what I’ll talk about in this short blog post. We’ll explore the main reasons why IT staffing firms encounter enormous challenges when differentiating themselves. We’ll also learn some proven ways staffing firms can adapt to help them stand out in a sea of sameness.
Why Differentiation is Harder for IT Staffing Services
It’s easy to blame the continued commoditization of IT outsourcing for the seeming sameness we’re seeing across the IT staffing industry. After all, if you try to flip through different vendor websites, you’ll right away notice that almost all their UVPs boil down to “faster, better, cheaper”—which defeats the point of having a “unique” value proposition in the first place.
But it isn’t entirely the fault of staffing companies themselves. The way that their target customers view the value of IT staffing services also makes carving out a unique market position very difficult.
Most IT managers only typically consider staffing issues as an afterthought, which means they tend to have a very narrow idea in mind for what constitutes value. Oftentimes, the (sole) objective is to minimize cost and nothing else.
In cases where staffing considerations do enter the picture, it’s actually not service quality that matters the most to a potential buyer, but more immediate factors like RFP processes, transition phases, time to ROI, lack of internal expertise, ability to meet deadlines, and risk of project failures—which are selling points familiar to practically all IT staffing vendors.
How IT Staffing Firms Can Set Themselves Apart
Again, it’s not easy but it’s not impossible either. IT staffing firms need to get out of IT outsourcing’s race to the bottom. The only way to do that is to set your offer or solutions apart from the competition. Here’s how successful IT staffing firms make this happen:
1. Emphasize where you specialize
Although it’s hard to pin an exact number on this, the majority of IT staffing firms tend to offer generic, undifferentiated services designed to fill any technical need. While this strategy broadens your pool of potential customers, it’s not going to help you stand out from the rest.
As discussed here, focusing on a specialized market does not mean you’ll limit your market reach, thus, minimizing your sales opportunities.
A smarter approach is to choose a specific IT area where you can carve out a position as a unique provider based on your expertise and your ability to tap into the right talent. This can be done in one of several ways:
- Functional: Software development, networking, security, infrastructure, etc.
- Vertical: Healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, public sector, military/defense, etc.
- Technographic: Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, AWS, etc.
- Firmographic: Startups, enterprise, SMEs, etc.
2. Place staffing in a project context
In many cases, IT staffing companies gain the most success from being able to position their services in the bigger context of a project or deliverable. Highlighting how (and how well) your solutions fit into the greater scheme of things is a good way to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Going back to our case study – multi-channel lead generation for a staffing firm
By bringing attention to the client’s end-to-end staffing solutions, Callbox was able to acquire new sales opportunities (through qualified appointments) for the client albeit the oversaturated staffing services market.
Another way to align staffing solutions with specific IT outcomes is for your firm to perform the whole project itself. In this arrangement, you’re not only providing the needed talent but managing the project and delivering the end-product as well.
Of course, this greatly expands your responsibilities and risks (making it not suitable for some staffing firms), but the rewards in terms of improved differentiation can be worth it.
3. Focus on delivering experiences
Closely related to the previous point, staffing services need to be positioned as ongoing engagements instead of ad hoc or stop-gap solutions. Doing so lets you signal your willingness to enter into longer-term commitments, not just aim for a quick sale.
Packaging your IT staffing services as best-in-class experiences also puts you in a better position to attract higher-caliber talent since, aside from compensation, skilled IT professionals also tend to gravitate toward companies that offer rewarding work opportunities.
It goes without saying that your staffing firm’s success depends on the quality of talent you can access and provide to customers. So, attracting the right people through delivering excellent customer experiences is a win-win strategy.
While there’s little your IT staffing firm can do about the market forces behind the continued commoditization of IT outsourcing, there’s a lot you can do about setting your services apart from the competition.