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Just wanted to let you know that our family business Employee Experience Agency Emine was recently recognized as one of the Top 10 Employer Branding Agencies in Europe by HR Tech Outlook.

The Editor-in-Chief Hanna Wilson says:

With powerful communication strategies being combined with immersive storytelling and persuasive marketing, Emine is changing the game of employer branding for years to come.”

“Emine: Building a magnetic employer brand” >>

My path into developing Emine as one of the Top 10 Employer Branding Agencies in Europe

We founded Emine back in November, 2012 with my husband.

For many years, Emine was more of a sidekick project for me. I was heavily involved with my first company, a startup called Heebo. That one no longer exists.

Heebo was founded just by me in February 16th, 2010. We developed our own software for recruiting.

I had no software development knowledge, experience nor skills when I started that business. Call that drive to solve existing pain points on the market!

What I did have was:

  • 10 years of in house HR & recruiting experience from fast growing companies.
  • Solid evidence how hiring for culture helps differentiate your position as an employer.
  • A marketing communications’ degree.
  • And an 11 month-old baby on my other arm.

I founded Heebo to solve this pain I had experienced first hand as an in house HR. In my previous workplace, we had been competing for the same top talent as the most attractive consulting businesses at the time. And we were hiring a lot to meet with our growth and scaling objectives.

By the end of my first year as an entrepreneur, I had two business angels on board. By the end of the following year, I had a first employee on board. And by the end of the year after that, my husband was also on board, and we founded Emine.

And if that wasn’t enough, over the course of those next few years:

  • I hired more employees for both companies,
  • added another investor to Heebo,
  • my husband and I tried desperately, but unsuccessfully for another baby,
  • we built a house for our family,
  • and I burned myself out in the process.
Working mom entrepreneur at the Emine and Heebo office.
Working mom-entrepreneur life

To save myself, I had to quit Heebo at the beginning of 2016. We just were way too early on the market trying to develop this software for matching talents with hiring companies. I could not find a way to commercialize it successfully at the time. It was an expensive journey, but as much as it took, I still feel, it also gave us a lot.

Pulling myself back up and figuring out something special about marketing in the process

After a super difficult year 2016 from all accounts, I decided to pull myself back up. I decided to mark January 2017 as a new beginning for myself.

With Heebo sadly buried, I focused all my energy into Emine for the first time. I decided to start by streamlining what this company shall represent and be for our customers and for our employees.

For a few years, we were the only ones in Finland offering content creation and social media marketing for recruiting. But the recruitment marketing field was starting to standardize itself. It was time to cut the dependency-cord on that and come up with a concept.

The idea of content based recruitment marketing goes back to Heebo and year 2011.

At Heebo, during those first years of developing the software, we also sold recruitment services. This was a decision I made to gain first hand experience on the grass root level about the software and the concept. And we needed the money.

My only employee at the time, Janica, was a huge lifestyle blog -consumer. She introduced me to this new world of blogging.

Together with Janica, we decided to try out if blogging could work in recruiting as well. Heebo was about hiring for potential and culture-fit. Blogging was an incredible way to introduce the company culture of the employing company to their prospective applicants.

It’s hard to believe now, but back then most companies in Finland didn’t have their own blog. We started a blog on Blogger and named it Behind the Job Scenes.

We would create blog content about our customer company, publish it the content on the Behind the Job Scenes -blog and connect it with the job post we also wrote. Then target market these together on socials. This worked like magic!

And soon we started to offer this for Emine-customers as well. Emine never offered recruitment services. Our customers at Emine-side didn’t want to buy recruitment services, but were keen on trying the content marketing services.

At Heebo, our software development went forward and we started to wean off from offering recruitment services.

Over the next couple of years we made some huge winnings in the content based recruitment marketing at Emine.

But then recruitment marketing started to turn into a routine task for many companies. Some of our customers decided to do it by themselves. And we also saw competition for the same service entering the market place.

It was time to decrease the dependence on that service and invent other sources of income. I chose employer branding.

When Emine was totally unknown

The Finnish market knew me and knew Heebo. But Emine was totally unknown. In the beginning of 2017, I understood I needed to brand Emine. This business could not be just about me.

Back in 2015 I had hired a content marketer for Emine with the title of “Storyfier”.

She and I had bootstrapped a “storytelling lab”. We had come up with a pilot concept to replace one-off recruitment campaigns with regular recruitment marketing & employer branding activities. Social media was becoming mainstream and offered so many excellent opportunities to do regular marketing for talent audiences.

We sold the pilot concept for a few tech companies end of 2015 and launched the pilot projects in the spring of 2016. Based on feedback as well as data to back up we knew this could become something.

But because of what took place at Heebo at the same time, I didn’t have much energy to push this pilot concept any further, despite the promising results.

Discovering StoryBrand

Woods was my medicine. During the summer of 2016, I spent a lot of time in the nearby forests trying to sort myself out. I didn’t want anyone to know how deep in the muds I was. I put up a brave front and pretended everything was ok.

At that time, I discovered the StoryBrand -podcast. Donald Miller made so much sense! He validated and clarified a lot of the thoughts I had about storytelling. He just made it so much more simple and easier to understand. I was sold, and so was his first online course.

Donald Miller from StoryBrand signing his book for me

By end of 2016, all the bureaucracy of liquidating the Heebo-business was done and dealt with. I was finally ready to bury that part of my entrepreneur-life behind. I decided pull myself up to make 2017 start of a new phase.

Rebranding Emine and figuring out something special in the process

I entered 2017 with a decision to try out the StoryBrand formula on Emine. I made the recommended changes to our positioning, our general messaging and our marketing and website. It didn’t take long to see the impact!

What really struck me was how marketing should be about your customers, not about you. Until that, like most companies, we also had been talking about ourselves, our products and our services. With as complicated words as possible, as if that would make us appear more attractive!

Emine Modern employer branding: Talent is the Hero.

StoryBrand thought me about the importance of role reversal to really impact and influence. And took that learning with me to the new employer branding concept I was about to start formulating for Emine customers.

I chose a different strategy

I am a developer by heart. And I am also a life long learner.

I probably spend around 15-20 hours a week – on a top of work – for learning and developing my own skills. I listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts. I google a lot of articles and other inspirational content. And experiment, innovate and develop ideas into concepts, content, podcast-episodes and so on for our business.

Susanna Rantanen of Emine on studying and develoiping the modern employer branding method

In addition to my nearly 20 years of work experience in strategic HR marketing and growth companies, my real competitive advantage is the ability to comprehend and learn fast.

When I put in regularly that many hours to develop and improve my skills, it turns into a lot of value for Emine customers and employees.

Emine’s business has a core value of adopting a role of a visionary on the market. Since the beginning, we have always given a lot for free education for our audiences. We praise ourselves also for setting an example how to practice what we preach.

Because of this, our customers have the benefit of having always the latest information and tactics available. And we use Emine marketing to test new ideas out before introducing them to our customers.

I invest a lot of my time in further developing our concepts and methods. What they were a year ago, is history. We continuously improve and optimize our methods with data as our servant. This is another example to our customers: modern employer branding is a long game. You must adapt to the rapidly changing world and make sure your audiences keeps following you.

We also play the long game as a business. I chose this strategy because motivates and drives me as an entrepreneur to put in the long hours.

Sometimes some people have hard times understanding it. But I don’t really care. What matters is that my husband and I can stand behind it and our employees and customers benefit from it.

We understand, this is a buyout from selling the same old thing and growing faster. But my gut tells me I am right. And since it’s our business, we can do what the heck we want, right?

Getting started with our own modern employer branding -method

The StoryBrand formula acted as an inspiration for me to dig out the pilot concept from 2015-2016 and continue formulating that one into a proper modern employer branding methodology.

I add the word “modern” into it because the our services and concepts are not ideal for all companies – yet. We learned that after having worked with tech employers for such a long time. When we first started to approach companies from the more conventional industries, the difference in the ability to adapt was huge.

Some organizations and people are more ready than others. And even if an individual would be ready, often times their employers were not. We learned to segment and target our efforts and Emine was bound to become an agency servicing the niche. But we love that!

In the spring of 2017, I started to conceptualize this modern employer branding method. I soon named it “Vaikuttava Työnantajabrändi” in Finnish.

“Vaikuttava” translates into English as influential, impressive and effective. This word was chosen because this method uses techniques, including storytelling, that impact and influence the audience minds and actions.

In English we translated the name into Eminent Employer Branding Method. Eminent comes from our company name, which doesn’t translate that well into Finnish, but works well in English.

And by the way, to us, eminent was always about earning the position of eminence in the eyes of your audience. Not assuming or stating you are awesome just because you believe in it yourself. That’s also what our method is all about!

Starting our Finnish podcast was an example of executing a brand strategy based on our new method

I literally started drafting, conceptualizing and testing ideas using Emine’s own brand-to-be as my testing ground.

By spring 2017, I had enough information to formulate a concept. Now I just needed to get an audience for the concept.

In 2017 in Finland, the larger masses were into using social media in recruiting or working for their company cultures.

We worked mainly with tech employers. They were far ahead on the employer branding scene with inspirational examples from the international startup scene. It was pretty easy to start testing elements of the new concept with our existing tech customers.

I had attended the Social Media Marketing World 2017 in San Diego. Everybody there talked about podcasting.

I started to think our own podcast could be an excellent tactic to execute our own brand strategy based on my new method.

So I decided to start a weekly Finnish podcast, “Vaikuttava Työnantajabrändi -podcast” in June, 2017.

Emine Vaikuttava Työnantajabrändi podcast on Soundcloud

By end of the 2017, the name of our new employer branding method was on the lips of a much larger audience we’d ever had.

It didn’t take long for our podcast to become a key crusader for “Vaikuttava Työnantajabrändi”, this modern employer branding method.

Some of the outcomes and value our podcast keeps delivering to us are:

#1 We have earned an eager audience who publicly call themselves as our fans.

This outcome certainly earns the number one spot on this list. We appreciate it so very much! If you knew anything about the typical Finnish personality, you’d know we are not a nation where one likes to express affection publicly. And in this country, we rather eat paper than applaud a neighbor for their good fortunes.

I’m forever grateful for our fan audience, because they really believe in us. They root for us, they speak on behalf of us. Some of them want to buy from us. And some of them want to work for us.

#2 We have a regular stream of inbound leads.

And not just leads for open vacancies but for sales as well. We have been hiring from our talent pool for a couple off years now. So we no longer have direct hiring costs.

#3 The recruits from the talent pool are faster productive and in billable work.

They have been studying our content, ideas and thoughts for years. Our content marketing has worked like a pre on-boarding. By the time the new comers actually start working for us, they are well ahead. We have been able to cut the time of on-boarding by half!

#4 Talents and customers coming from the fan base are highly committed into what we do

The decisions have been made in advance. People are faster on board to build value for themselves with our assistance and guidance.

#5 Customers listen to our podcast

Probably 9/10 people in the sales meetings listen to our podcast and loves what we represent. This means even cold sales turns warm during the first meeting.

#6 We find commitment to weekly brand marketing routines results in more value with less work.

Years ago, we of course had to put much more work into Emine’s marketing. But over the years, data shows that we now get more value with less input. As long as we stick to consistency and weekly presence.

It’s like wine. It becomes better as time goes by! Unfortunately, it seems most companies never get to experience this. Because they are so adamant in the short game. The short game costs much more money than the long game.

Bootstrapping the demand on your market is damn hard work!

Just like with Heebo, we were also very early on the market with Emine.

The challenge still is that talent marketing is seen as short term campaigns to get applicants into recruitment processes. But I call this just recruitment marketing. It has little to do with what you could do for employer branding.

We have put in many hours of work to build up the demand by educating and inspiring the market. I can see the fruits of this labor becoming readier and readier.

Sometimes people still question our business and point their fingers on how small we still are. But we don’t care. We believe in this passionately.

It is evident, we have proved to having very specific talent in this because we are still the only one who pays all their bills just with this.

This is not a side hustle for us to sell more of our core business of something else. This is our core business.

We also have pretty long standing customer relations and a high NPS score (+75).

To have been recognized on this list of Top 10 European Employer Branding Agencies is something very remarkable for us.

Emine - HR Tech Top 10 Employer Branding Agencies in Europe logo 300px

It means so much to have this international validation on something we have worked so hard here in Finland. We are still a small company. It’s pretty tough to build a new industry and awake the demand in such a small market such as Finland.

But we are now looking forward to expanding our method outside Finland, step by step. And guess what, we are using this method to build the brand and demand internationally. Just like we used it to building our brand successfully in Finland.

This blog and the English version of our successful podcast are the first concrete examples of it.

I guess as an entrepreneur, I want to tell you one thing:

If you really believe in something, follow your calling. Don’t ever care about other people who try to make you feel small if you choose to do things differently. That speaks more about them than about you. Focus on your own thing and focus on the people who help you to make it real. That’s all that matters.

My former employer, Olli Muurainen from Management Events used to tell me: “No critic was ever honored with a statue.”

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