SM: Once people get a new job, don’t they cancel their membership?
MC: The base level of membership is free. With a free membership people can do some basic searches on the site, which essentially satisfies their curiosity. If they wanted to get serious, then they pay to see details about the job listing. That is how we ensure that people pay only when they are actively looking for a new job. Our goal is to let casual people browse but allow only serious job seekers be able to submit resumes. People have a natural tendency to want to know what other options they have. During that browsing, they may find something that turns them into a serious job seeker.
SM: If they are only paying for your service during their active job search, how long does it take for people to find a $100,000 job?
MC: Generally speaking, it takes six months or more to find a job. Keep in mind that after they find their job they keep receiving our newsletters, so we keep in touch. We’ll be there to help them again in the future.
SM: Have you expanded the services and types of offerings? What other ways are you growing the business?
MC: While the core of the business started off as subscription access to $100,000-plus listings, we now offer a lot more than that. Today we have over 1,000 articles written by experts in their respective fields. These are educational articles to help job seekers and cover topics such as salary negotiation.
We also have a recruiter database that we offer to employers. We initially offered access to this database free, but employers didn’t take us seriously. Apparently in the corporate world, free is the wrong price. We switched to a paid model in 2007 and have had strong results since then. We have explored a lot of other options as well.
SM: I am assuming you take job postings as well. What do you charge for job listings on your site?
MC: We charge $500–$1,000 for postings.
SM: Who is paying for these posts, companies or recruiters?
MC: Both. We have a good variety of companies and a very strong showing of recruiters.
SM: Do you offer any subscription options for postings?
MC: We do charge $10,000 per seat for unlimited usage. Unlimited usage allows them to have unlimited postings and also gets them access to our databases.
SM: How do you gain new customers? I am trying to understand your marketing strategy. Do you do things like paid search?
MC: In the beginning we were very creative. We did some craigslist listings, but most of our new customers came by word of mouth. Honestly, word of mouth has been incredibly important to us. Today, over 30% of our traffic comes from word of mouth.
We experiment and test a lot in marketing. In 2004, we tested Google and found that it did not work for us while various other forms of online advertising did. In 2005, we did more tests and found that Google did work for us. We are always validating everything we do in marketing. We have tested direct-mail, TV, print ads, and just about everything you can think of over the years. For me it is about testing, testing, and testing and validating the numbers.
SM: The majority of your advertising seems directed at a technical audience, with the exception of TV. That seems to be a broader audience that may not be so technical, although I can’t imagine there are too many $100,000-plus jobs out there in this day and age that are technically illiterate. How has TV advertising worked?
MC: I agree that we need to reach out beyond just the technical users. When I started TheLadders, everything focused on online. I like that because there are a lot of metrics and analysis associated with online advertising. By 2007, we realized that we needed to reach new users, so we launched our first TV campaign in 2008. That was our famous tennis ad. It went very well, so the following year we doubled the amount of money that we spent online and put two TV commercials onto the market. TV advertising fits in well with our growth objectives and allows us to reach a whole new audience.