How to Use Marketing Tactics to Recruit Effectively with Brendan Hurley

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Hello everybody, welcome to another episode of Three-Minute Marketing, where we speak with some of the world’s leading growth marketers and condense their wisdom into three-minute golden nuggets.

Today we’re talking to Brendan Hurley, Chief of Collaboration, Communication & Marketing at Goodwill of Greater Washington. We discuss a topic that is particularly challenging for marketers and businesses these days: recruiting. Brendan has been having success lately in this critical area for his organization.

My question for Brendan is, “What are you doing for recruiting that’s working right now? And what breakthroughs have you had?”

Show Notes:

  • When looking for great hires, start with your owned audiences & email list, especially the people who already buy from and/or have affinity to your brand.
  • Start by featuring career opportunities in your regular email newsletter. Roll it out as its own email communication segment once you see success.
  • Tap into the emotional appeals of your position and make the challenge of each role relatable to the audience.
  • Consider offering cash incentives for referrals, both internal and external to your organization.


– [Chris] Welcome to another episode of Three Minute Marketing. I’m your main man, Chris Mechanic co-founder here at WebMechanix and veteran performance marketer. Three minute marketing is all about talking with some of the leading growth marketing experts and then chunking it down for you into bite-sized easily digestible and crunchy pieces, as our producers like to say. Super excited for the show today, we’ve got Brendan Hurley which is the chief marketing and communications officer at the Goodwill of Greater Washington, D.C. A very impressive individual background at iHeartMedia. I know you’re a iHeartMedia alumn. And you were running some of the largest stations over there winning awards left and right. You’ve been published I know in the Washington Post, the New York Times and some other really reputable things. For innovation specifically I know you’ve been awarded. And then of course you’ve moved over to the non-profit sector, but super excited to have you here today. Welcome.

– [Brendan] Thank you, glad to be here. I appreciate the invitation.

– [Chris] Absolutely. So we were talking pre-show and we came up with a really good topic that I know a lot of brands are struggling with. It’s not exactly what you would think of in terms of growth-marketing, where you would think, you know e-commerce sales or lead generation or customer acquisition. But it does have a lot of similarities and I know a lot of brands are struggling to recruit right now. There’s a lot of, you know, economic dynamics that contribute to that and we could talk about that. But I know, Brendan, you guys are doing some really impressive things in terms of recruiting for Goodwill of Greater Washington, D.C. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing, what you’re learning, any breakthroughs that you’ve had thus far, and your time starts now.

– [Brendan] Sure, well, while we share a lot of those other challenges that you identified as well, lead generation, demand generation, focusing on retail, e-commerce, our job training programs. We’re busy recruiting for our adult public charter high school. Getting students in for our job training programs. Getting people to train them to re-enter the workforce. The biggest challenge that we have had, and we have really had to make up a pretty heavy shift from a marketing standpoint, is into the recruitment marketing side, specifically for our retail operations. Like many other retailers and businesses that are struggling right now to rebuild their workforce as they come out of the pandemic, when we closed down our stores in March of last year and just started to reopen in June of last year. We struggled to get people to return to work, for a variety of reasons. One, the stimulus packages are to some degree hurting us because people are comfortable staying at home and living off of the money the government is providing them. And there were other people who simply aren’t prepared to come back to work yet, because of health and safety and which is fully justified. So it’s caused some real challenges for us. But we are taking a very aggressive, and I hope an innovative approach to trying to reach potential new team members with a real focus on digital marketing. We’re doing a lot of mobile display. We’re doing a lot of paid search. But where we have found, oddly enough, the strongest return on investment right now isn’t really costing us as much money at all and that is our own retail loyalty club. We have been recruiting from people who are already Goodwill Store shoppers and they have an affinity for Goodwill. They understand Goodwill, they know our mission and so the opportunity to come and work at a Goodwill Store becomes very appealing to them. Imagine if your favorite retail store, suddenly knocking your door if you were looking for and said, “Hey why don’t you come and work for us?”

– [Chris] That’s brilliant. I love that. That’s so scrappy recruiting from your own audiences. So how did, how did you operationalize that?

– [Brendan] You know, we sent out a series of emails every month to our loyalty club. And as a new feature, typically those newsletters were focused around shopper benefits and information about what’s going on at the, at our Goodwill. But we started to add a new feature that highlights open jobs at Goodwill. And they could be retail jobs, or they can be administrative jobs, wherever our human resource department or our people and culture department wants to focus their efforts and where there’s the greatest need. And what we’ve seen is that a lot of people who have this affinity for Goodwill are applying for those jobs. And so it makes it easier for us, from a hiring perspective. It doesn’t cost us anything. These are people that already understand the organization and its mission and they understand our retail or administrative operations. So it’s paying off and we’re going to continue to focus on that population as a referral source.

– [Chris] I love that. Time is up, but I do have some other questions. If you can stay, we’ll include some show notes and, you know, a link to some, some additional footage if Brandon’s able to say, but you may have to jump. Either way that’s awesome, I loved it. Scrappy owned-audience strategy. Everybody’s got an email list, right? I think that’s brilliant, just recruit from your email list. That’s well done, Brendan. Thank you.

– [Brendan] Thank you, happy to be here.

– [Chris] Hey, real quick, do you want to say anything? Can folks, if they want more information about you or Goodwill greater D.C.?

– [Brendan] If anyone wants to know more about Goodwill of greater Washington or our job training programs, or our business operations, or our adult charter high school, they can visit D.C. Goodwill dot org, and everything they need to know is right there.

– [Chris] Awesome, thank you. Check it out, guys. Brendan, sign up for his email list and see how they’re doing their recruitment. Sounds like it it’s going well. But I do actually think that that’s brilliant to use that owned-audience, email lists like that. And I’m wondering like, so it sounds like you’ve started doing this, seen some early successes. Are you planning any iterations? Or are you going to like be changing the approach right now? It’s like a feature within a newsletter.

– [Brendan] Yeah, so we’re going to be taking a more aggressive approach now. It started out as a feature within the newsletter and now we’re going to be sending out dedicated emails that are completely focused on recruitment efforts.

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Brendan] You know, we’ve got a loyalty club of 125,000 shoppers. So, you know, within our region that’s a fairly large number of, you know, a fairly large pool of applicants. And we were surprised, I have to admit. You know when we first went into this, my philosophy was with the newsletters that were going out to our loyalty club. It really needed to be completely focused on the customer benefit. That’s why they joined the newsletter, right? They subscribed to it. It’s why they joined the loyalty club. They wanted something out of it. It had to be a transactional relationship. But the pandemic, of course you know, changed us, changed our way of thinking. And so we had to look at the assets that were available to us and, and rethink how we were going to tap into the populations that we already had a relationship with. And so it forced us to use that population as a referral source. And I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the strong response that we got. Even from the very first communication that we distributed around recruitment efforts. And it’s not only for our business operations, but also for our job training programs. Which if you think about it, makes a lot of sense. Many people who are shopping at Goodwill are people that are shopping because they like to, they want to. They are thrift shoppers. They’re vintage shoppers. They’re, you know, they love the thrill of the hunt. But there were many people who were shopping in our stores, who have to, they’re looking to save every dollar. And so recruiting from that population for our job training programs and for jobs, makes logical sense when you think about it, because many of these people lost their jobs during the pandemic. And they need access to jobs or job training so that they can re-enter the workforce, and support themselves and their family. So, when you think about it logically, it shouldn’t be very surprising. But it wasn’t a natural thought up front because of how we typically think about, you know, communicating with the loyalty club.

– [Chris] So I was telling you about this large home service brand that approached us for help with recruiting. One thought that came to mind for them. We’re not actually doing it yet, because we’re just kind of like creating a playbook. But they’re going to do a similar thing amongst their current employees. So they have, you know, thousands probably of employees multiple thousands. And they did a similar thing. Included it within a feature of a newsletter and got, you know, some number of referrals. I think it was in the dozen, you know, couple dozen referrals, which they were really encouraged by. But one of the things that we’re recommending to them is, hey, you know, make it more specific, like give it its own little forum, you know? So it’s not a feature of a newsletter, but rather something else. And then to, charge it emotionally kind of know, like, I don’t want to say the name, but it’s like X-Y-Z company, like we need your help right now, team, you know, like get a little emotional about it. And I think that would really apply in your guys’ world being a mission and a cause-driven organization, you know? So, that’s a couple of thoughts for you. You might do that amongst existing, and they’re of course asking for referrals, not for direct applications.

– [Brendan] Yeah, essentially, but you’re absolutely right. Tapping into those heartstrings, I think can really make a difference. When we first closed down our stores, again looking at the loyalty club through a different lens. One of the things we did was go back to them and ask them if they would make financial donations. Because our income stream had dried up, right? And we wanted to try to find a way to supplement the health insurance of the 600 furloughed associates that we had. And so we asked our loyalty club if they’d be willing to make a cash donation. And I was pleasantly surprised that the volume of members who willingly gave to us. And some in very large sums. It was very humbling, to say the least, and that goes back to your point. Which is tapping into that emotion and making the challenge relatable can really have an impact.

– [Chris] Yeah. And then are you doing any any incentivizing? Or either applicants or referrals?

– [Brendan] Not yet, We haven’t yet. Although that could definitely be on the horizon. We’re doing internal incentives, right? Cash incentives for referrals for our associates. But doing one externally is something that I hadn’t really thought about. That’s an excellent idea. Maybe we should look into that.

– [Chris] Do you guys have your own currency? Do you have like Goodwill bucks that you give away, that’s like kind of equivalent to cash?

– [Brendan] No, we have a voucher program, but most of those go to other nonprofits who are in need of clothing and shoes for the populations that they serve. We’re actually in the process of making some changes to our loyalty program. Which I think will make it far more valuable to our loyal customers. I’m glad that we’re making these changes, because I think we need to. We do have a point system. Where shoppers, the more frequently they shop, the more points they earn. And then they can get a discount at the end of the month and that resets and. But the new reward, which I can’t really talk about yet, cause we haven’t relaunched it. But it’s going to be, going to provide a substantial discount, a substantial discount on select merchandise for people who are members of the club. I think it will be a real incentive for more people to join. So I’m excited about that.

– [Chris] Yeah, yeah that’s interesting. There’s this consultant that I followed named Jay Abraham. He’s all about like non-unconventional growth techniques and ways to use good leverage basically to grow, not toxic leverage. Well, one of the things talks about is, hey create your own currency, right? Cause suppose that I needed $5,000 worth of computer equipment, right? And say that I don’t want to spend 5,000 bucks. I could go up to computer equipment suppliers and say, “hey we’re really good at marketing, right? We’ll provide, you know, marketing services for you guys in exchange for, or we’ll give you this currency, you know, we’ll give you 5,000 bucks of marketing currency that you can use at anytime over the next year. You give us 5,000 bucks worth of computers right now, right?

– [Brendan] A barter, yeah.

– [Chris] And so sometimes what happens is either A, they won’t come and reclaim it, right? Which is, I mean, unfortunate, but it’s ethical and it happens. Or B, they will come and claim it, and that $5,000 little project might spin into something more, you know. They may become an ongoing client for us, which is great, right? Worse comes to worse, they use it and we, you know, perform some services in exchange for computers, and that’s fine too. So I couldn’t help but to think about something like that for you guys. Like you may be able to incentivize without it actually costing you that much.

– [Brendan] Yeah, that’s a really interesting idea. I have to figure out what the benefit would be to the other party, not everybody’s in the market for donated clothing, and shoes and housewares. But, in your mind, where would you see the value being to the other party?

– [Chris] Like, free merchandise, you know. Like say that every 10 points is worth a dollar.

– [Brendan] Oh, you’re talking to me individually. Okay, I’m sorry, I thought. I was thinking corporate, some kind of corporate partners, yeah.

– [Chris] Or, in like a heavy heartstring place where like the mission and the cause is really important, it might even just be public recognition, like in some sort of gamification type of a way. You know, like the way that you treat your largest donors for instance. Like you might put their name on a plaque in some of those stores, or what have you. I’m just kind of free-styling here, you know. I know that this is a lot easier said than done, but.

– [Brendan] No, but I liked the idea. I mean, you know, again you’re dealing with retail shoppers, right? The more transactional you can make it, you know, with a mutual benefit, the more likely they’re going to participate. So your mind is in the right place, right? And I’m always open and looking for those types of ways that we can do it, you know. One of the challenges that we face in our Goodwill is that our retail leadership team, while a very bright group of people, their approach to things differs from mine a little bit, in that they start from this space of everything is already discounted, cause it’s donated and it’s already cheap. So why should we discount it further, right? These people are going to shop in the store whether we discount it or not, so I discount it. That’s kind of what their mindset tends to be sometimes. Whereas mine is thinking more in terms of the customer experience, right? So if you continue to reward them, then you’re going to more frequent shoppers, right? And that’s what we want.

– [Chris] Okay.

– [Brendan] So the average transaction might be a little lower if you give them some sort of a discount, but the frequency of transactions will be higher. So your net is going to be higher, right? That’s the approach that I tend to take. And so we’re in the process right now of trying to find the right balance there and make sure that everybody’s happy.

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Brendan] But what I’m starting to see is with the new retail leadership we just hired a new VP of retail operations, and I think that we we tend to be a little bit more on the same page there, so I’m encouraged by that.

– [Chris] Yeah, there was another fascinating thing from Jay Abraham that I heard the first time actually the same dude, which was, he at one time worked with a firm that split-tested. Like did multi-variant split-testing in retail environments. So for instance like, they would test 10 different things to say to the customer right when they walked in the door. And so they tested a bunch of stuff and they said that you know. Hey, how can I help you? Hey, are you looking for anything today? Or whatever, but the one that performed best was, which ad brought you into the store today? This was apparently like, you know deals-based kind of retailer. And then in that one moment, they understood exactly what the customer was interested in. And it’s kind of like a non-threatening question. It’s not like, hey, you want to buy something? It’s kind of just curious.

– [Chris] Mm-hmm. It’s good news that the new V-P sounds like he’s more on that.

– [Brendan] Yeah, yeah, I like that approach.. I’m a big believer in research, market research too. I wish that we had more money for it, because I find it tremendously valuable in helping in the decision making process.

– [Chris] Say, thank you so much Brandon. It’s been a pleasure meeting you.

– [Brendan] My pleasure, a pleasure meeting you. Take care now.

Brendan Hurley

Brendan HurleyChief of Collaboration, Communication & Marketing at Goodwill of Greater Washington

Chris Mechanic

Chris MechanicCEO & Co-Founder

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