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Partnership Development Resources - Welfare to Work Vouchers

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 -   Building Business Community Interest in a Partnership
 -   Marketing Basics
 -   How Businesses Benefit from a Partnership
 -   Tips on Marketing to Employers
 -   Strategies for Different Labor Markets

Building Business Community Interest in a Partnership

An effective marketing strategy is essential to forming partnerships with members of the business community. Potential business partners must be convinced that a partnership is worth their time and effort and that they will somehow benefit from the partnership.

Building on these basics, a specific marketing strategy should also take into account local labor market conditions, the political environment, and program goals.

Marketing Basics

Marketing to the business community presents a unique challenge to staff of public agencies and nonprofit organizations who may not have experience marketing their services. These basic marketing principles may be helpful in developing a marketing strategy:

Marketing is solving someone else's problem. Good marketing taps into the customer's own motivation, offering a solution to a problem or need. Find out from potential business partners what their needs are and determine how partnering with your agency could address those needs.

Marketing is not one-size-fits-all. Different customers (businesses) will respond to different marketing strategies. Develop a unique angle and strategy for each potential partner.

For example, perhaps your market assessment revealed labor shortages at the large plastics factory nearby. Your marketing strategy to them might be tailored to their need for workers and would differ from your strategy to a small business owner, who might be concerned that he or she may not have the time to partner with your organization.

The price of your product includes both its cost and value. Emphasize both the ways you can reduce employer costs and the value you can add. While the dollar cost of involvement may be minimal, employers face other costs, including time and risk.

An awareness of market response is essential. For example, what is the most common question you are asked about your program? This question tells you what people are looking for - feed that information back into your marketing message.

If businesses consistently express concern about hiring your clients because they may be unreliable, you may want to emphasize the "soft skills" training that clients receive before being hired, or the success that you've had with job coaches. Mention these aspects of your program before potential partners ask about reliability - it demonstrates that your agency is in touch with the business community and can provide workers that are job-ready.

How Businesses Benefit from a Partnership

There are several potential benefits to businesses that hire welfare recipients or otherwise become involved in a partnership around welfare reform. By understanding the needs of local employers, you can tailor your marketing to show how involvement helps meet those needs. Here are some of the ways in which businesses can benefit from a Welfare to Work effort:

  • Filling labor needs. According to the Welfare to Work Partnership, most of the over 3,000 businesses that are interested in hiring welfare recipients say they have done so to fill labor needs.

  • Reducing payroll costs. Subsidies and tax credits can reduce costs for employers, while the Earned Income Credit can increase workers' take-home pay.

  • Reducing hiring costs. Job listing, referral, assessment, and prescreening can save employers time and money in recruiting workers. Unlike staffing agencies, most Welfare to Work programs do not charge a fee for job placement.

  • Ensuring that workers are job ready. Pre-employment activities can reassure employers that new workers have been trained in the basic and soft skills that employers often say are most important.

  • Providing customized or subsidized training. Partnerships provide opportunities for underwriting some of the cost of training new workers or establishing customized training to meet employer needs.

  • Providing support services. Stable childcare, transportation, and medical assistance, as well as post-employment counseling, can increase employee retention, reliability, and productivity.

Marketing to Employers

As you market your program to the business community, consider the following suggestions:

  • Be enthusiastic, but honest. A marketing message should be upbeat and emphasize the ways in which the initiative can benefit business partners, but don't oversell the initiative or set false expectations. Be realistic about what you can and can't offer businesses, such as:

    - number of referrals;
    - skill levels of participants; and
    - post-placement support.

Failure to do so may jeopardize your credibility with the entire business community and hinder your ability to place reliable, job-ready clients. Similarly, be up-front about what you expect from business partners.

  • Respond to what the market wants. Tailor your marketing approach to respond to areas of interest or need identified by the business community in your area. For example, New Jersey's Business Link used surveys to learn about the opinions and needs of the business community. They then used those same points (and the language they were made in) to market their program to the business community. Officials said this approach greatly increased response to the initiative.

  • Emphasize the bottom line. Whatever their other motivations for becoming involved, employers will always be focused on the bottom line. Remember, however, that there are a variety of ways to support the bottom line (see the previous discussion). Remind employers of the costs they already incur for recruiting, training, and staff turnover.

  • Shatter stereotypes. Dispel the myths that the business community may have about welfare recipients. Some programs have been able to market their expertise working with the welfare population as an asset, by pointing out to employers that their low-skilled employees, many of whom may be former welfare recipients, have much in common with the welfare caseload.

  • Practice good customer service. Make your program accessible and friendly to the business community. This involves simple steps like:

    - having a designated contact person for businesses;
    - using professional phone etiquette;
    - maintaining a voice message system; and
    - returning calls promptly.
  •         More high-tech ideas include:

    - having a toll-free number;
    - maintaining an informational and interactive Web site;
    - communicating by e-mail; or
    - having key staff carry beepers.

When problems arise regarding job placement or other issues, accept responsibility and take steps to quickly resolve the problems.

  • Be professional. Staff involved in marketing should dress professionally, and brochures, business cards, and other materials should be brief, clear, and well designed. In Los Angeles County's GAIN program, job development staff changed their business card style from the standard government issue to one they thought would have greater appeal to business people.

Give staff titles that show the project is important and that the business community can understand. For example, New Jersey gave their project's manager the title Director of Private Sector Initiatives.

  • Let partners market for you. Members of the business community are more likely to listen to a message delivered by another business representative. Once you have experienced success with a business partner, ask them to take part in outreach to other businesses. Make use of business associations and industry groups as marketing resources as well.

  • Use the language of the business community. Show from the start that the initiative is in tune with the business community by using business language. For example:

    - In your outreach materials and presentations, use terminology from survey and interview responses to demonstrate that you have heard what employers said and understand their motivations.

    - Avoid government acronyms, abbreviations, and "insider" language.

  • Minimize the administrative burden on businesses as much as possible.

    - Reduce and simplify business paperwork, from forms used in placing job orders to reporting requirements for wage subsidies and post-placement follow-up.

    - Use program staff to complete paperwork for businesses.

    - Allow employers to fax information or submit it by phone.

  • Publicize the initiative and give it a high profile. A high profile can help launch and market a new initiative.

    - In Connecticut, the Department of Social Services conducted a direct-mail campaign to more than 40,000 employers and created radio spots to publicize its program.

You can also use prominent spokespeople to publicize the initiative. They might include:

- the governor or mayor;
- CEOs of large companies;
- local representatives from national companies; or
- community leaders.

New Jersey officials say business executives responded especially strongly to an event at which they were able to meet the governor.

  • Offer quality guarantees. To overcome the concern some employers may have about the quality or reliability of workers coming off welfare, consider offering trial periods, during which employers have limited liability if the placement does not work out. Another approach is to guarantee satisfaction by offering to promptly replace an employee who does not work out.

Strategies for Different Labor Markets

Different labor market conditions require different Welfare to Work approaches. Job search and job placement assistance may be sufficient for many recipients where unemployment is low, but will do little good in areas where few jobs are available. The following points are guidelines for strategies and do not account for the complexity of labor market differences:

  • Low unemployment and lots of entry-level opportunities. Under these circumstances, marketing to employers may be less important than developing systems for identifying job openings and matching welfare recipients to jobs. You may also be able to focus on placing hard-to-employ recipients and creating job ladders for entry-level employees.

  • Low unemployment and few entry-level positions. In this situation, jobs are available, but they require a high degree of skill. The business partnership therefore needs to focus on education and training to prepare individuals for available jobs. Employers in need of trained workers may be interested in providing on-the-job training, developing joint training initiatives, or sharing training costs.

  • High unemployment and few job openings. In areas with a labor surplus, employers have less reason to become involved in Welfare to Work efforts. Programs need to identify ways to benefit employers - for example, by reducing turnover or cutting costs. Wage subsidies may be more attractive to employers under these conditions. In addition, emphasis should be placed on:

    - creating jobs;
    - identifying growth markets; and
    - developing transportation initiatives to get recipients to where there are jobs.
Content current as of 5 October 2001   Follow this link to go  Back to top   
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