The traditional playbook for running a local job board looks something like this: 1) Get a keyword-rich domain, 2) Sell job posting packages to local employers and 3) Generate job seekers through search marketing, local radio, billboards, TV, partnerships, etc. Then repeat steps two and three over and over.
It worked pretty well until The Great Recession, the commoditization of job postings, and Google’s preference for monolithic brands became a thing. As a result, most are a shadow of their former selves, running Indeed backfill and milking what organic search rankings they have left.
The model may find new life, however, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones or, more specific, they ability to geolocate and target consumers with a laser-like focus.
I recently chatted with WorkHere, an Indianapolis-based startup that has a new take on the old-school local job board model. It launched a year ago and have already raised more than $2 million in private capital. It also has the opportunity to raise $2.9 million in conditional tax credits and training grants from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
On the surface, the business is a mobile-first application where users can open-up, search local opportunities, and follow companies you’d like to work. It has also added a networking component recently where users can follow others.
If you look deeper, however, the business is taking the local job board blueprint and shrinking it. That is, instead of the old method of buying CityNameJobs.com, then spending a lot of money on marketing to that entire metro, WorkHere is able to target its marketing company location by company location.
For example, say Taco Bell on Main and Elm needs a cook. And, like many local employers, it prefers to hire someone within a few miles of work, because going much farther means retention goes south. WorkHere can sign-up this business and micro-target a marketing campaign to a very specific location in order to drive traffic to that employer.
Imagine a prospect, just a mile away, seeing a recruitment ad for a cook at Taco Bell on Instagram or Twitter. That’s what WorkHere does, which keeps acquisition costs down and driven only by the customers they land. It essentially becomes the mobile marketing arm for customers.
“It’s kind of like the Constant Contact ads,” said Rick Wehrle, co-founder and CTO, as well as industry veteran. “You see someone who’s a butcher and emphasizes how their product turns them into a marketer. For the local restaurant, accounting firm or construction company, we want to ‘turn them into recruiters’ with our app.”
So far, it looks like it’s on to something. The organization touts 40,000 app users, as well as 100 paying customers, including FedEx, Goodwill, and McDonald’s. Additionally, it’s growing into nearby metros Cincinnati and Chicago. Headcount is projected to rise north of 20 by the end of the year.
Fast forward five years, the company hopes to raise around $15 million in Series A funding, be in 100 local markets, and employ over 150 people. It also highlights 25 functional claims across four pending patents that it expects to protect its business model.
Growing city-by-city, zip-by-zip, and street-by-street is undoubtedly going to be a challenge and drain on time and money. Threats from players like Facebook or Craigslist shouldn’t be overlooked either. No one has really nailed mobile from an employment perspective. Perhaps taking a cue from days gone by will be the key. Time will tell.