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Email Marketing For Executive Search Firms & Executive Recruiters

eBook: Social Media Marketing

Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing and has been around much longer than social media, blogs, websites, Google, SEO, etc. While email has been around since the 1970’s, it was not widely adopted for corporate and commercial use until the dot com boom of the mid 1990’s when software providers launched more streamlined tools and products for reading and organizing emails. 


Today email has become one of the most widely used forms of communication due to its simplicity and effortless ease of use. As a result, individuals are constantly inundated with emails for professional, personal and promotional purposes. Thus, it is critical to have an effective email marketing strategy and email campaigns that do not get lost in a recipient’s inbox, spam folder or worse instantly deleted. 


Email marketing is a fundamental piece to any lead generation strategy and is necessary to support other aspects of your marketing strategy such as content, social media and branding. Email is a direct line of communication to prospects, clients and candidates and must be treated with respect. Email marketing is an outbound marketing effort since you are sending and pushing information and content directly out to your audiences, provoking them to take action. Before we dive into email marketing campaigns and strategies for executive search firms and executive recruiters, there are some basic fundamental concepts we will need to cover.


Limit Outreach and Length


As an executive search consultant or an executive recruiter you have a set cadence for outreach and the total number of times you will email or call a candidate or prospect before moving on. When building an email nurture campaign it is important to keep this in mind as well and limit the number of emails you send to prospects. A best marketing practice for email nurture campaigns is to limit sending one marketing email per week to your target audiences for a total of 4 per month. Since you are limited to one “inbox exposure” to your prospects every week, your emails must be both concise and consistent in terms of delivery and content.


Hypothetically, emails allow for as much or as little information to be included as the sender sees fit. In reality - no one takes pleasure in receiving an email that is several paragraphs or pages long and filled with erroneous content. When in doubt about email marketing - keep your message short and simple. Identify one key topic, value add, service or announcement to focus on and stick to that single topic in every aspect (subject, preview, body, Call-To-Action (CTA) buttons, etc.) when drafting your email. Trying to discuss or include multiple ideas or concepts within one marketing email will overwhelm, confuse and frustrate recipients and audiences.  


Just as we discuss in our content marketing eBook, your prospects, clients and candidates have very limited time, so delivering content (including emails) must be succinct and short in order to drive actionable results. Eliminate the use of flowery and extravagant words you’ve discovered from that Merriam-Webster Word-A-Day calendar on your desk, reduce the number of grammatical articles and particles (the, a, an, than, some, etc.) and don’t use 5 words when 2 is sufficient to communicate your point. Time is precious - especially when it comes to reading emails - respect your own time dedicated to drafting a marketing email and respect your prospects’ time who will be receiving and reading your marketing email. Be sincere, genuine and to the point in your email marketing campaigns.


Set A Strategy

Just like every other aspect of your marketing and your business has a strategy, so must your email marketing campaigns. The reason why email marketing and campaigns fail is often due to a lack of strategy behind purpose, content and consistency. When you are considering launching an email marketing campaign there must be a planned out strategy that will include:


  • The total number of emails that will be a part of your campaign

  • What the content will be exactly for each email

  • The purpose or goal for sending each email


Oftentimes when an email marketing strategy falls apart for a search firm or an executive recruiter, one of the three above considerations haven’t been properly evaluated or implemented. For example, Partner A at AB Search Firm drafts the first marketing email and sends it to prospects and clients as a one-off. Then Partner A sets a calendar reminder to draft and send a second email a week later. As the week continues, new searches or priorities then take precedence over writing and sending that second marketing email. Partner A then altogether abandons or hastily composes the second marketing email without much thought. 


This is not a strategy and does not yield results for email marketing to win more search work or search fees. Just as we discussed in our Social Media Marketing eBook, the best way to set up an email marketing campaign is to set some time aside to carefully write, build and schedule the entire email marketing campaign all at once. Taking this holistic approach allows for you to assess the overall progression and cadence of your email marketing campaign and analyze and spread out any specific themes or content within your marketing emails that you plan to focus on or promote. 


Prior to launching an email marketing campaign for your executive search firm or executive search services, an effective email marketing strategy will include: 


  • A series of 6-12 complete and carefully planned emails written in advance

  • Testing email delivery for performance and personalization

  • Setting up, targeting and excluding the right audiences

  • Scheduling your campaign to run on a specific timeline or trigger based upon action


Automated vs. Regular Email Campaigns


There are two types of fundamental email campaigns - automated and regular email campaigns. Technology platforms such as MailChimp, Email Octopus and HubSpot have made it incredibly easy to create, test, schedule and analyze performance for both types. While the majority of email marketing campaigns are built upon and structured around automated email campaigns, we will use a combination of the two which we will discuss later within this eBook. 


Automated email marketing campaigns are exactly as they sound, they are a series of marketing emails set up and scheduled to send automatically in succession and are triggered to send based upon timing conditions or actions taken by recipients (conditions that are set by you). We will discuss these triggers in further depth later within this eBook.


Unlike automated email campaigns, regular email campaigns are emails that are manually scheduled or sent and are typically “one-off” emails. Regular email marketing campaigns will make up a smaller portion of your email marketing strategy and can be sprinkled throughout an automated email campaign as needed. For example, regular email campaigns are ideal for one-off sends that pertain to more topical events or messaging such as: 


  • Recently completed searches as placements are made and searches closed.

  • New thought leadership or content is published 

  • Holiday eCards and seasonal messages

  • Account-based marketing


Flexibility is Key


As we have already discussed, an email marketing strategy can only be launched once all emails have been completely written, tested and scheduled using automated email campaigns. That being said, sometimes there are more urgent or topical emails that need to be sent with priority as an automated email campaign is currently running its course. Many email marketing platforms allow you to pause an automated email marketing campaign and stop from sending future scheduled marketing emails to your audiences. This is where you can leverage regular email campaigns to insert or substitute a marketing email in your automated campaign to share a timely announcement or content as needed. After supplementing that week’s email within your automated campaign with a regular email campaign, you can resume the automated email marketing campaign to continue sending and send the next marketing email where the campaign left off within its workflow. 


Audiences and Segmentation


When it comes to email marketing, knowing your audience and sending them relevant emails and content is key. In the past, we have all received promotional or marketing emails from vendors and providers that have little to no relevance to you, your business or your services. This is frustrating for recipients and can damage your email domain sending reputation which means your emails are more likely to get sent to spam folders. This can also result in a larger number of unsubscribes that will impact the total number of recipients you can send email marketing campaigns to, reducing your reach.


Based upon the very nature and process of executive search, executive search firms and executive recruiters have access to and collect thousands of email addresses for candidates, clients and prospects. These will serve as your three primary target audiences for building email nurture campaigns. Be smart and diligent about who you are adding to your audiences through your list building efforts and remain mindful of the key themes and content that will be relevant to these specific target audiences. For example sending a marketing email offering executive or career coaching services may be more relevant to candidate audiences, but not suitable for existing and current client audiences. Knowing your audiences and tailoring your email marketing content to each group is critical to build a successful email marketing campaign.


Candidate Audiences


This audience is the foundation of your executive search firm and your network for sourcing other candidates, leads, referrals and so much more. Since this audience is your largest audience you can reach for email marketing efforts, they can also be tapped for global surveys and to glean deeper market research insights, which we will cover in further depth in our content marketing eBook. It is critical to keep candidates engaged and provide a positive candidate experience especially when it comes to working with high priority candidates on current and future searches. Below is a list of example themes and ideas for email campaigns suitable to target candidate audiences with:


  • Executive Search Services.
    Sometimes candidates can become future clients or refer searches, it is important to remind this audience that while you can help them transition within their own individual careers you can also help build the executive team around them.

  • Candidate Engagement.
    Keep high priority candidates engaged with newsletters, announcements, training or videos.

  • Surveys & Enhanced Market Research.
    Candidates are your largest captive audience, and tapping into this demographic for compensation trends and leadership insights can be incredibly valuable for publishing strong, compelling and impactful content and positioning you as an expert in your specialty. 

  • Partners.
    If you or your executive search firm partners with any outside or third party organizations to provide executive coaching, resume writing or leadership development to candidates, this is also suitable to promote and share these capabilities with your candidate audiences. 

  • Update Profile / Data Requests.
    In today’s information age, the majority of  candidate data found within your executive search software is outdated as soon as it is entered. Keep candidates engaged and your data up to date by requesting candidates to confirm information or update details or get in touch with your research team. 

  • Candidate Screening Automation.
    Set up an automated email campaign to survey or pre-screen newly imported candidates or automate the management process for receiving unsolicited resumes / CVs.  

  • Career Advice Tips.
    If your executive search firm offers career, interviewing or networking advice, you can include this content within your email marketing campaigns to candidates. 

  • Promote Following on Social Media.
    As we discussed in our other eBook on Social Media, cross promoting your executive search firm or your executive recruiter presence on social media to candidates can increase your follower-base and expand your reach and exposure across social networks. 

  • Assessments, Succession Planning or Leadership Coaching.
    If your executive search firm or you offer additional services such as executive or board level assessments, succession planning or leadership consulting, these are a simple way to generate revenue from your candidate audiences and convert some as clients. In some cases, these additional services can open the door for deeper engagement and partnership and may result in more search fees. 


Current And Past Clients Audiences


The second audience that executive search firms and executive recruiters can nurture and target with email marketing campaigns are the existing and past clients that they are currently working with or have partnered with in the past. This audience will be much smaller than that of the candidate audience but can generate a great deal of leads and new search fees through referrals and by leveraging past relationships.


Since you are currently working or have worked on an executive placement with these audience members in the past, the key marketing themes for this audience should focus on any additional or complementary services that you offer in addition to executive search including:


  • Board Level Assessments and Placements

  • Succession Planning

  • Talent Mapping

  • Leadership Coaching & Development

  • Executive and C-Suite Assessments 

  • Interim Executive Placements

  • Compensation Reports

  • Market Research Data


It is important to remember that past clients are a part of your overall comprehensive client base and audience. While you may not have had a new search with a past client in a few months or years, remaining top of mind with this audience may win new search fees and new search work further down the line. Past and current client audiences are also ideal for targeting with account-based marketing campaigns, which we will discuss later within this eBook. Creating these account-based marketing email campaigns are simple, can be automated and driven by your own search firm’s candidate and industry data.


Prospects And New Client Audiences


Of course the end goal of every marketing strategy is to win new work with prospective clients. When devising an email marketing campaign for prospective clients, it is important to keep in mind the concepts we discussed in our social media marketing eBook on finding a balance between promotional content and thought leadership. For email marketing campaigns this balance is rooted within the email content itself and the timing for when your automated email campaigns are triggered. This balance can be struck by alternating between thought leadership content and promotional messages in your email campaigns, resulting in 2 promotional emails per month. Promotional emails are a hard push of your executive search services to audiences. If content and thought leadership is not a part of your marketing strategy, space out promotional emails to be sent every two weeks rather than 4 weeks in a row. If you recall from our social media marketing eBook:

“pitch posts should be limited to around two days a month for a ratio of 1 pitch post per every 15 thought leadership posts.”


While social media posts are considerably more frequent than email marketing campaigns the same cadence and approach should be applied to your email marketing campaigns for promotional emails - twice a month. In addition to promoting your executive search and supporting services to prospects, below is a list of some alternative themes and messages to mix in with promotional emails emails for your email marketing campaign to prospects:

  • The value of working with an executive search firm

  • Newly published thought leadership or content

  • Recent and new placement announcements

  • Newly opened searches or placement announcements

  • Diversity and inclusion efforts, statistics or insights 

  • Candidate and talent pool statistics and access

  • Days to placement or any candidate retention metrics you track


As we can see there is a great deal of overlap between these three audiences (candidates, clients and prospects) when it comes to content for marketing emails - most of which can be repurposed across these three audiences. The final consideration that must be made when targeting these audiences with email marketing campaigns is to assure that you are not over-communicating, sending too many emails, or sending duplicate emails to recipients.




Just as you would leverage exclusion tactics when researching candidates for a long list when kicking off an executive search or a new placement, exclusions are just as important when it comes to your email marketing campaigns and strategy. Chances are there may be a small group of recipients that fall into more than one of your three audiences (candidates, clients and prospects).


With that in mind, and as you are aware, it is critical to deliver a high-touch experience to all of these recipients regardless of their segment even when it comes to email marketing campaigns. If overlooked, a current client or prospect you are actively pursuing to win a new search, may accidentally receive two of the same email in the same day depending upon when your campaigns are set to trigger or how a recipient has been flagged within your business development or research process. The key to prevent this from happening and maintaining your high-touch approach (even within email marketing campaigns) is audience exclusions. 


Many email marketing platforms and tools allow for you to create lists for each distinct audience or tag a contact based upon which email marketing campaigns they should receive. Through these list segments and tagging properties, you can exclude certain audiences from email marketing sends to prevent them and their inbox from being overloaded by you. This is a relatively simple process and does not require manually cross checking each individual contact across each audience list. The concept of excluding recipients from email marketing campaigns sends is simple, especially if you already have three distinct audience lists set up. Chances are current and past client audiences will be mutually exclusive of your prospects audience lists and vice versa. The tricky part is filtering out these two smaller audiences from the larger candidate audience. 


When setting up your email marketing campaigns for your candidate audience, be sure to add your current / past client and prospect audience lists as exclusion lists from the candidate nurture campaign. This will signal to your email service provider or platform  to send your candidate email marketing campaign to all recipients on your candidate audience list EXCEPT for any mutual contacts that also appear on your current or past client and prospective client audience lists. This exclusion rule will prevent any individuals on your client or prospects audience lists from receiving emails for your candidate email nurture campaign, prioritizing your email marketing campaigns that are built for business development for these two smaller audiences. 


While excluding audiences will decrease the total number of recipients for your candidate email campaigns and audience, it is a more impactful and effective lead generation strategy since you are smartly targeting clients and prospects with campaigns designed to win more search work and search fees.


Using Gated Content In Email Marketing Campaigns


As we discussed, much of the content you create for one campaign and target audience for an email marketing campaign can be repurposed and applied to other audiences. When it comes to content for your email marketing campaigns, almost all of the content you create should trigger or prompt some sort of action by the recipient, whether that is visiting a landing page on your website or updating candidate details. 


Within our content marketing eBook, we discuss a lot of different types of content you can create and share with your audiences through email marketing, social media and other digital channels. This includes the distinction and benefits between using gated versus free content. Gated content is the simple concept that a visitor needs to provide some sort of contact information, such as an email address, name or phone number, in order to access or download a piece of content. While gated content is primarily used as a lead generation tool to collect email addresses that you will ADD to your email nurture campaigns and audience lists, gated content can also be strategically used in your email marketing campaigns for some of your audiences.


Your research team has already done the heavy lifting and spent the time and resources to find email addresses for prospects and added them to your prospects audience lists. Therefore the goal of using gated content in email marketing campaigns shouldn’t be for obtaining email address or contact details, but rather to measure engagement. 


By including and sending gated content within your email marketing campaigns to your prospective audience lists, you can visualize which prospects are engaging with and have accessed or downloaded your content. For example, you are pitching a search for AB Company and their Head of Talent (Simone) is already within your prospect audience list for an email nurture campaign. You decide to include gated content within your prospects email nurture campaign as one of your emails. As a part of this audience, Simone receives the marketing email promoting the gated content, clicks your Call-To-Action and enters her email address to access the content.


This now provides you with two insights about your prospect, Simone. She is engaging with your content and can be targeted for deeper business development and added to a hot or high priority segment of your prospect audience for outreach. We will discuss leveraging these hot and high priority lists of prospects later within this eBook. 


Now that we have covered the basic elements of email marketing and email campaigns it is time to explore how to build an email and all of the necessary components that are often overlooked when creating an effective and impactful email marketing strategy and campaign.

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