Attracting and retaining the best-possible people is vital to the long-term prosperity of any business.

The big blue-chip boys recognise this and that's why they've got well-established processes to make sure they've got regular intakes of fresh talent via their graduate training and development schemes. But what about the SMEs?

How can they compete and develop a successful long-term recruitment and retention strategy? Well, contrary to popular wisdom it's not all about money! Of course, financial incentives are important. But for the vast majority of roles there is a generally accepted range of salaries and benefits, and in day-to-day practical terms that's what most people aspire to. So what can you do to make your business stand out?

Well before you can start to recruit successfully you really do need to know what you have to offer. Marketing used to be something that people associated mainly with consumer brands and big ad budgets not something that was applicable to the own-label or commodity markets. But recently things have started to change.

More and more companies are now seeing how they can use marketing techniques and data analysis to add value to their relationships with customers. That's certainly progress, but how many businesses stretch this even further and think about recruitment as a marketing function you can use to help build your employer brand?

Half the battle for anyone looking to attract the best candidates is getting them interested in your business in the first place. But do you actually know how are you perceived by people in your markets? What makes you stand out among your peers?

How you communicate your story to the outside world is important. Nowadays an up-to-date and professional website is the minimum requirement as it's going to be the first port of call for anyone seeking basic information. Beyond that it's well to remember that people like to be involved or associated with innovative and progressive companies, so if you are working on some new initiative that's newsworthy you need to make sure you've got an effective PR strategy in place that ensures everyone, including prospective new employees, knows about it.

At the same time as you develop an external profile, don't forget you've got an internal image to manage, too. That's where an effective retention policy that encourages personal and professional development can be a key factor, as there's no better advocate for any business than the people already working there.

Ask any recruiter who the best companies are in their sectors, and the odds are that they'd say the ones that they never get any candidates from!

Guy Moreton is director of recruitment practitioner MorePeople.