In 2018, our previous startup, Bluecrew decided to invest $15,000 in billboard marketing to recruit hourly workers. We were really struggling to recruit workers in Reno Nevada against the Tesla gigafactory and Amazon warehouse. Our aim was to catch the attention of people on their way to and from work. In the end, we tested 2 or 3 different billboard designs in different locations. The campaign didn't deliver the results we were hoping for and that spend would have been much better placed on other digital channels. These are the lessons we learned from the billboard recruiting experiment:
People Don't Look for Jobs on Billboards
One of the main reasons for the lack of success with our billboard campaign was that people simply don't look for jobs on billboards. Job seekers tend to rely on job boards, which provide targeted search options, making it easier for them to find relevant job opportunities. In contrast, billboards are passive and don't offer any means for job seekers to engage with the content and explore further.
Attribution Is Hard with Billboards
We included a text code and QR code on the billboard, hoping to track the number of applicants who came through this channel. Unfortunately, we received very few applications this way. This made it difficult for us to determine if the billboard had any impact on our recruitment efforts. For many people, its easier to search the company on google vs going through our text tracing system.
Minimal Increase in Web Traffic
Although we did notice a small bump in Reno web traffic during the campaign, it was hard to attribute this increase to the billboard directly. With no clear indication of the source of this traffic, it's possible that other digital marketing efforts or external factors contributed to this growth.
Difficulty in Remembering Website Details
Another challenge we faced was the fact that people driving by the billboard might not have been able to remember our website address, even if they were interested in the job opportunities we were advertising. This highlights the importance of having a memorable and easy-to-remember name, app, or web address, especially when using a medium like billboards for advertising
Job Seekers Want Job Details
Job seekers tend to want the details of the job before blindly signing up for a new app. With apps like Uber, candidates had an understanding of the role and the amount they could make but with Bluecrew we didn’t make the details clear enough because it varied so much. In hindsight, we should have called out the types of jobs and the wage with the flexibility to incentivize people signing up. Also we probably should have tested the messages on a focus group or hourly workers to see what appealed.
Most importantly, we realized that the placement of our billboard was not ideal. Located in a run down area right next to dispensary billboard, it didn't receive the amount of traffic we were hoping for from everyday commuters . This emphasizes the importance of researching and selecting high-visibility locations for billboard advertising campaigns. The premium billboards on highways are typically much more expensive but might be worth another experiment.
Our $15k billboard marketing experiment in 2018 taught us valuable lessons about recruiting hourly workers. When it comes to job advertising, you really want to capture people with intent so there is no better place than job boards. Most traditional marketing tactics fall flat for recruiting because people only look for jobs every 8 months or so. Billboards for recruiting only get a high ROI if you are getting some form of brand awareness at the same time. We were hoping we would get some clients as well from our billboard but unfortunately we didn't see any traction.