[Episode Thirty-Three of ‘The Employee Advocacy and Influence Podcast] 🎧
In this episode of the podcast, Bradley and Lewis discuss tips to get sign-off from your CFO to launch an employee advocacy program. They touch on statistics that highlight the impact that employee advocacy has and how an employee advocacy tool can save your company money. All valuable information to take to your CFO!
Organizations all over the world in every sector are driving strategic competitive advantage by scaling the impact of their employees’ voices… and now YOU can too! As we delve beyond the why and get straight to the how so that you can put employee-driven growth at the heart of your organization.
Welcome to the new and improved version of The Employee Advocacy and Influence Podcast. In this new format, CEO Bradley Keenan is joined by DSMN8’s very own Lewis Gray (Senior Marketing Manager) as a co-host.
LG: I’ll take that. Yeah, so today we’re going to be talking about the…
BK: Hold on, hold on. You’re jumping straight into the topic, Lewis. I’ve got something I want to talk to you about live on the pod.
LG: Oh, go on then, live. Let’s have it.
BK: So obviously, previously, I was doing the podcast by myself.
LG: Is this technically a recorded conversation? Is this like a disciplinary live on the podcast?
BK: Yeah, well, it’s not, it’s just something I want to air, and I thought it’d be better to do it on the podcast. So obviously, I used to do the podcast by myself, and the thumbnail on Spotify was just me.
And I noticed that you’ve now been put on the thumbnail as well. So you’re now permanent. I take that as you’re permanently on the podcast now.
LG: Oh yeah, I just, I assume that was the case anyway, but it probably doesn’t help my case.
BK: But what I liked about it was that because my picture was where my picture is me on top of where the balcony of the office is. And you’ve kind of also you’re looking the other way. So it looks like we’re together. And it’s also the correct height between me and you. So there’s like a slight difference in height.
And I wondered, over time, if you’re slightly going to make yourself bigger and me smaller until I faded out and you’ve become, you’ve become the icon and the star of the employee advocacy podcast.
LG: OK, absolutely not my intention, but I’m also so glad that you noticed that because that was in the back of my mind.
LG: As I was adjusting the sizes. I was like, if I make me either the same height, Brad’s like for anybody listening, Brad’s like a, what are you like six-two?
BK: Just under six-two, actually. I don’t want to claim six-two when I’m not.
LG: Let’s say two inches taller. But yeah, I just, I knew I wouldn’t hear the end of it with the podcast cover. I was just kind of adjusting the image sizes. I was like. I’ll just make him slightly taller. I don’t want to look short but at the same time, it’s just not worth the aggro.
BK: No, I liked it. I liked it. It was just like a subtle way of saying. I’m here to stay. I’m not going anywhere.
BK: So I think it might’ve come from me accidentally giving you promotions on previous podcasts. But anyway,
LG: That’s gone straight to my head.
BK: We digress. So what are we speaking about today, Lewis?
LG: Today, we’re going to be talking about selling employee advocacy to your CFO. So how to pitch it to your CFO to ultimately get sign-off.
And we’ll be talking about the business case for employee advocacy as well. So yeah, let’s get into it.
The Business Case for Employee Advocacy
BK: OK. So let’s start. I think it’s probably a good idea to start with the, I guess, the business case before we actually talk about the how to sell employee advocacy into the CFO.
So, before the podcast, I looked at our own data. Obviously, we have data for all of our clients, but we’re a, you know, small-medium business. So we’re not on the scale that our clients are, but even at our size, the ROI is completely, I mean, it can’t be denied.
So if we buy ad space with LinkedIn, which we do sometimes, but not as frequently as others would, essentially, what we pay is about $10 per click. And that is not cheap, especially when converting people is becoming harder to do.
So the business case for us is: if I buy ad space from LinkedIn, it costs me $10. Through our employee advocacy program, if I look at the last six months, using the content we’ve produced, distributed by our employees has cost us about 60 cents per click.
And that is what I would consider to be not at scale. So anything sub $1 is, I mean, where else are you gonna get cost-per-click rates of that? Unless you get in a time machine and go back to 1998.
So the business case is really clear of why you would do it, and the benefits and all those things, but mostly the ROI is really clear.
But that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of how do you go about selling it into a CFO. And I think for me, being in sales for a long time, the CFO has always been treated as this kind of they’re kind of like you know bogeyman-type individual where they’re kind of in the back office, you never get to speak to them, but ultimately they sign it off.
And to be honest, I think that was kind of a negotiation tactic for years because, ultimately, people owned their own budgets. But in the economy, as it is at the moment, the CFO has kind of become centre of any buy and decision. They can kibosh and stop any deal from happening if they don’t think that there’s tangible value to the company.
And even if there is value, they’re always going to be comparing that value to other things. So if I took that dollar and I gave it to hire a new salesperson, am I going to get a better ROI than if I launch an employee advocacy program?
LG: Is it, in your experience, Brad, is it always the CFO now? Because, oh, actually, I’ll let you answer before I go off on a tangent.
BK: I think before it was like, yes, the CFO would ultimately manage the budgets when it come to, I guess, attributing money and revenue where things go, but the department heads, the chief executive, the CMO, for instance, would manage their own budget and would have, you know, responsibility for doing that. But now I do think that.
A CFO could essentially stop a deal from happening, even if somebody else in the C-suite wanted it to happen. So when you are selling things, you kind of have to frame everything around the value, but the value has to be tied to the actual tangible ROI.
And when you work in marketing, that does become difficult to do. And especially if you work in talent and employer branding, especially, it can be so easy to start talking about, you know, I’ll call them fluffy. Things I don’t think they are, but other people would, right?
So employee wellbeing, super important, but to a CFO, do they really deep down believe that that is not a fluffy thing to measure? You know, I suspect they, they probably, they probably think it is a fluffy thing to me.
LG: Yeah, it’s interesting because I was speaking to the sales guys here at DSMN8 about this recently.
I was kind of surprised cause I thought in my mind it was, you know, if, if you want to get something signed off, if you’re working in marketing, for example, you’ll go to your CMO who has been allocated budget. But they were saying to me, it’s kind of gone almost a hundred, not a hundred percent CFO, but the CFO always seems to be involved now.
So even where before, you might have just gone to your CMO to get signed off and to get allocated some of the budget. That’s already been allocated to the marketing department because of the current state of the economy.
Like in the economic climate that we’re in, the CMO is kind of looking at everything under a microscope, going through everything with a fine tooth comb. And, you know, like you said, they’re not focused on, I don’t want to say fluffy either because I absolutely don’t believe it. So I’ll say like soft metrics, but I’m not even sure if that’s the right phrase. But, that, that.
BK: Well, I think what happened previously is people would have discretionary funds in their own budget. So if I’m a CMO and I’m putting my plan together, I might say, actually, this year I’m going to spend half a million dollars on search, and I’m going to spend a million dollars on, you know, paid media, wherever I’m, you know, spending that, and I’m going to put aside half a million dollars for discretionary things I know are going to come out throughout the year.
And I’ve always got the good because no CMO wants to do a job where, in January, they say what they’re going to be spending their money on. And then say, see you again in a year’s time. Because stuff comes up throughout the year, they might get speaking opportunity, opportunity to sponsor something which wasn’t there in January.
So they kind of put an amount of money aside. I think what happened was, as budgets got taken back that, discretionary funds got swallowed up. So there were no discretionary funds. Meaning if I want to buy something in July, I now have to actually put a business case together and take it to the business and say, I need more money, and this is why I need it.
So that’s, yeah, that, that’s why I think the metrics are so important and why the CFO is kind of more at the centre now.
LG: I think that’s the interesting thing with employee advocacy because a lot of the time when you get into the things that we’re going to be talking about, you’re almost talking about saving money.
Because when we’re talking about proving the ROI from employee advocacy, we’re often talking about the earned media value. So again, a lot of people consider that to be a soft metric.
I don’t believe that for a second because I think it’s a fantastic way to demonstrate the ROI from employee advocacy. But you’re almost talking about saving money with it because it’s like, “OK. We generated this through our employee advocacy platform”. Like Brad, you said at the beginning, we were able to do through our own one.
And it would have cost us this much if we’d continue to pump that same amount of money into, say, LinkedIn ads, for example. So there is a conversation there to be had about, you know, if you don’t have these discretionary funds available and you have to say, “I want more money”. You’re kind of saying I want more money, but it’s because we want to do something that’s potentially more cost-effective.
Now when you were talking about the cost-per-click on LinkedIn at the moment, even if you use conservative averages, so if you said, you know, I think the average cost per click for LinkedIn, I don’t want to say an exact figure, but it was between $6 to $9 last year.
BK: I mean, I would love to know, I’d love to know what business is spending $6 a click.
LG: If you yeah, it’s definitely on the higher end. Yeah.
BK: You, you’d have to be, you’d have to be in such a niche market where you’ve got no one else competing for that space.
BK: Because every time you do a campaign, it gets more and more expensive, but yeah, OK.
LG: I’d say it’s somewhere between that range. I think it is more the higher end of that range. But the reason I’m mentioning the lower side is because even if you say a conservative average of $6, it’s non-comparable still.
Like you said, we’re looking at less than a dollar a click, significantly less. We’re looking at 60. I can’t remember what it was now. Sixty-two cents a click currently, we’re tracking at.
Comparing that to what we would have been paying, which is $10 a click, or what we have paid in the past. But… Even looking at the conservative averages, it’s huge. It’s a massive money saver.
BK: I mean, to be honest, I used to think about it like where we use comparative media value, or comparative media spend as a, as a way of benchmarking the spend, I used to think it was a great way of benchmarking the money, but I didn’t think it was equal to.
And I’ve, I’ve actually changed my view on it. And I’ll tell you why. So originally I thought, well, it’s not comparable because if I’m buying ad space, I can say to LinkedIn, I want to target people in this demographic, in this sector, in this industry, you know, whatever I do in, you know, like I would in sales navigator, say these are the people I want to go after. So those clicks are in the people I want to attract as clients.
As we’re in an employee advocacy program, you’re not choosing who’s going to your content. However, if you actually look at the data of the people that actually do click when you spend on ads and how that relates to the people you targeted, it’s way off anyway.
And also if you’re distributing, if you’ve got people in the business that are sharing content, which are actually commercially viable, meaning that they either sell your product, they support your customers, they’re in your industry, then that should actually be the filter.
And also, if those people are using an advocacy program throughout the year, the person in their audience is not seeing the message once or potentially twice, but they’re seeing constant brand messaging from that same individual, which, you know, you’re the marketing expert, not me, but you know, the more somebody’s going to see the brand, the more they’re going to recognize it.
So actually, when we do our own employee advocacy efforts when we have our inbound inquiries that come in and people say where they heard about us, I think it’s like 70% of people who say they say LinkedIn, yet we don’t spend any money on LinkedIn ads.
BK: But we do spend money on search and SEO. We spend money everywhere else. Yet most of our traffic comes from LinkedIn in a place that, you know, we’ve got a handful of employees active.
LG: Yeah, and it’s interesting. So we, we allow, when we’re asking people to submit forms on our website, we have a self-reported attribution. It’s just a free text field. People can write whatever they want. And I think it’s. It’s difficult because we can’t say a hundred with a hundred percent certainty that they’ve seen, some of our employee’s post because they will just say LinkedIn.
I’d be interested to see what would happen if we change that to a dropdown. It was like a LinkedIn or LinkedIn employees, or you know somebody you’re connected with to see what that difference was.
But just going back to something you were saying before about having the ability to target people within your ICP. In theory, if you’re so, one of the most common reasons that people launch an employee advocacy platform or program is to leverage social selling to support their sales teams.
It can be used as a sales enablement tool. If your salespeople aren’t connected to people within your ICP, then you probably need to reassess the sales teams that you’re hiring. Because I don’t know, I don’t think that argument has any weight to it if you consider it from a sales perspective.
Yes, you can target your ICP through ads, but if you’re inviting your salespeople and the others who are still going to be connected to people within your ICP, they’re going to be pushing your content in front of people who you want to be connected with and who you want to be getting in front of. Does that make sense?
BK: Yeah, a hundred percent. So if I, if I said I want to target people at Johnson & Johnson, and I want to target people in marketing in Johnson & Johnson. So, and in America, let’s say they’re not a client, by the way.
So let’s say I was trying to, and by the way, Johnson & Johnson, if you are listening, feel free to pick up a call. We’re happy to have a conversation.
But let’s say I was targeting Johnson & Johnson. Now the sales guys that have that account named, as their named account, they will have already contacted the specific people in marketing that we know we sell to.
So that’s going to be the social media team, you know, the employer branding team. It’s not going to be their field marketing team. Highly unlikely.
As where if I do it for LinkedIn ads, I’m going to be displaying ads to people who work in the field marketing team. So actually, I can get far more specific, providing that my employees are doing it. But I think we digress a little bit because we’re talking about how.
BK: How’s this yeah, so the bit, so actually going to the CFO and taking these, this idea to them, I think the main things to focus on is removing the fluff from the proposal.
I think that’s what you were saying before about it being a cost-saving exercise. So anything that talks about brand exposure, et cetera, et cetera, like, although as marketers, we’re going to see the value in it, a CFO probably isn’t. So focusing on that.
This is what it costs to buy ad space. This is what it costs to buy SEO, or not buy SEO, but buy positioning in, in Google. This is what it costs to buy LinkedIn ads. This is what an employee advocacy lead costs.
I want to spend more on that and less on the others because it will give us a better return is a far better business case. Then I want to use an employee advocacy tool because our employees should be seen as thought leaders as an example. Cause I think if you said that, that would probably. By CFO, at least, would probably get thrown out.
LG: Yeah, definitely. I think you can still talk about social selling and talk about how that affects the bottom line without getting into the fluffy stuff. So as long as you like, just bring the right stats with you, I would say as well.
So your sales teams are ultimately going to be the people that are impacting that bottom line, right? Those are the ones who are converting the leads, or those are the people that are converting the leads that you know your company’s generating.
There’s so many social selling statistics out there. Like the one that springs to mind for me is the, there’s an IBM stat from years ago that was, well, I’ll say years ago, it’s like two years ago, but, leads generated through employee advocacy are seven times more likely to convert.
So I’m not saying lead with statistics, but just bring that kind of thing with you. So once you’ve kind of gone through the cost saving and that kind of thing, you can lean into to this data just to kind of give your point a little bit more weight, you can say.
And on top of that, the leads that we are generating for this reduced cost, they’re not only cheaper to generate, but they’re also like, you know, X amount. I think it was seven times. I don’t want to misquote here, but let’s say seven times more likely to convert.
BK: Yeah. And there’s another part to this as well. Where we naturally think about sales, right? As more, more customers joining us.
But actually, what businesses care about is revenue and revenue and sales. OK. They’re intrinsically linked, but revenue comes from existing clients.
And in an economy where people are looking at where am I spending my money? Is this valuable? Do I need to look at alternative vendors? Actually, having an employee advocacy program means that your employees are talking to your existing customers in a passive way.
To show them all of the new things that are coming out in your product, all of your releases, your webinars, all those kinds of things to essentially build a protective moat around the existing clients that people have.
So I think there’s a retention message in it as well, as much as there is about generating leads. And I think when you talk to a CFO talking about generating leads, again, is probably a fluffy number.
What we care about is new revenue, protecting revenue, and growth. And I think if the message of those three things is covered in a business case and you can prove that in six months and twelve months, you can demonstrate that clearly, that’s a much better message than, you know, the more marketing-led one, I would say.
Is It Worth Trialling Employee Advocacy?
LG: So I’d be interested to pick your brains on something, Brad, because I think this is slightly up for debate with regards to trialling employee advocacy.
Do you think there’s any value in maybe trying it for a month if you’re able to trial an employee advocacy program for a month, two months, three months, whatever you can get, to then take that to your CFO and say, look, we were able to generate this within our 30-day trial, just to bring those stats with you.
BK: Yes and no. So I think there’s the concept of the concept of trialling software is different to the concept of trialling employee advocacy. And I think the things get mixed.
So for us, if we were to say to somebody, here’s our software, right? You can go press loads of buttons. Does the button do what I think it’s going to do? If it doesn’t, you’ve got a big problem. But we’re going to assume that it does.
Now launching an employee advocacy program properly in a large organization is not something you’re going to do in one week. You’ve got to build comms plans.
You’ve got to test and learn how do we approach employees, what’s our positioning, all those kinds of things that you’re just not going to do in a trial. Because you wouldn’t do that to trial something for a week, because it would be a huge upfront investment for something that ultimately you don’t know.
You don’t know whether you’re going to want to continue doing it. So I think. A technical assessment on software is absolutely. You should always do that with anything you buy. It’d be like buying a car and not test-driving it. You don’t know if you’d like the car or not. We’re going to assume the car drives, but someone might like one style of car versus another.
However, data points are really easy to work out. So even before speaking to an employee advocacy company, you could get you to know five employees together, five or ten. Create some content, put it behind a trackable URL and ask them to share it.
Now, if you ask 10 of them to share it and four of them share it, you know you’ve got an appetite of 40%. Once they share it, how many people click on that link? That gives me the clicks per share.
So those data points can then be used to model out, well, actually, if we got 20% of our employees to adopt this, it would generate this, which would equal this in comparative media spend.
That can be done in an afternoon without, without using any software because the software is there to help you scale it. It’s not designed to create the appetite for employee advocacy, if that makes sense.
LG: Yeah, it does. 100%. I think there’s, well, I don’t think, I know. We have calculators for this kind of thing as well, which we’ll drop in the show notes if you wanted to get a an idea of the ROI you could expect to see from employee advocacy.
Cause I think this is a nice way of doing what you’ve just mentioned, Brad. But basically, the calculator will just allow you to enter your total number of employees, what percentage of them you expect to join the platform, sign up to the platform, be conservative with it. So. I would say if you wanted 20, try 10.
If you have like a thousand employees, if you want 20% to be signed up, I think we see on average about 30 to 40%. But try 20 and then try 10. Get the conservative averages.
It will then just ask you the amount you’re currently paying on LinkedIn, you know, per click. And it will just tell you what you could expect to see if that conservative average that you’ve put in to the calculator was regularly sharing your content. And I think even just taking that with you. Again, it just gives you some… I don’t, again. I don’t want to keep using fluffy metrics, soft metrics, whatever that.
I think that’s a hard metric for you to take into this conversation because you don’t have to trial it. You can literally just, you know, use this calculator and say, OK, worst case scenario, this is what happens, and we’re still saving money.
BK: Yeah, it’s a really good point. And I think on, on that, I think there’s one other a bit of advice I would give people, and that is when you’re when you’re pitching the idea to the CFO, stay away from talking about user numbers.
Because talk about the outputs, the, you know, the, the cost-per-click, the comparative media value, all those hard metrics we’ve spoken about, the actual amount of users is somewhat irrelevant. So what can happen is, let’s say you buy an employee advocacy platform, whether it’s ours or somebody else’s, there’s going to be a user limit in there.
And, of course, we want to sell people the biggest employee advocacy program we can. But actually, what we’ve learned over the years is that that’s not the right thing to do.
So starting with a reasonable amount of people that you actually want to adopt is better than going and buying 10,000 licenses when you haven’t launched 500.
Because what can happen is, let’s say you bought 10,000 licenses, you got to 5,000, your ROI was 50x, 100x, whatever it is, there is a risk the CFO could look at that in a year’s time and say, hey, how many of the 10,000 licenses, how many people are using it? And then you say, well, only half.
They go, “oh, OK, so we’re only getting half the value than we originally wanted”. Even though the output’s actually greater, the license usage is less. So I would say, you know, start with a reasonable amount and get to that point, reach it, grow it and grow it over time. So a far better way of doing it.
I mean, I’m not saying start with five people. You still have to start with a number that’s economically viable because the amount of effort you need to put in as a program leader needs to have an output. And there’ll be an equation to do that.
LG: So are you saying don’t overshoot from the start? Like, don’t shoot for like 200 users if, realistically, you’re only gonna get 50 because that could potentially look worse on you a year down the line.
BK: I think so. And I think the misunderstanding is that because this is an employee app or employee program, that it’s for all employees.
So if I’ve got 2000 employees, am I going to have 2000 employees in my employee advocacy program? No. I mean, I’d love to say yes, but actually the value to the individual gets diminished based on the total percentage of employees that use it.
Really, like we said before, on other podcasts, you want to think about strategic people who really have a vested interest in using it. Say that’s 40% of your workforce. Then that’s fine.
If you’re going for a hundred percent, unless you’re a startup or a reasonably small company, I would say shooting for a hundred is probably going to cause you more issues than you would want.
3 Key Points To Take To Your CFO
LG: Yeah, definitely. So let’s say, Brad, you’ve promoted me accidentally a few times on the podcast, I’m going to demote you down to somebody who’s trying to get budget signed off.
BK: I don’t like the feeling of this.
LG: Roll back the years. Let’s go back to those junior positions.
BK: Right. Yep.
LG: You’re trying to get a sign-off on something. Let’s say it’s an employee advocacy platform. What are your three things, your three pieces of advice, your three takeaways? What are you taking to that meeting with the CFO?
BK: So I’m going to keep it quite simple as a basic business case. So what are the current business risks? So in the current economy, what are the business risks?
OK. We have less marketing budget, which means less brand exposure. We could be losing market share to our competitors. Risk one.
Risk two, our clients are reevaluating what they’re spending money on. And we want to make sure that we can educate, we can communicate them with them consistently and in a cost-effective way.
And risk three is maybe our workforce is, maybe it’s declined, and we need to do more with less. So we need to more with less people, more of less marketing budget.
And then how are we going to do this? So from an employee advocacy perspective, we want to make our content work harder for us. So we’re going to, you know, the basic fundamentals of DSMN8. Here’s what we’re going to do. Here’s the business case.
If X percent of our employees sign up backed up by this piece of data that we’ve tested already, like we said earlier, each employee will share. Let’s say it’s an average of 2.2 pieces of content a week. Now, if 40% of people share 2.2 pieces of content a week, with an average click per share of five, it is an, it would equate to that amount of web traffic.
Now I’m going to compare that to to buy that from LinkedIn would cost me X. To buy it from search would cost me Y. To buy it using an employee advocacy program is, you know, 100th of the cost at this.
To me, that’s the simple business case and a kind of yes or no. And that should be able to be done on a one-pager.
You could add in kind of like metrics and KPIs over time to say, after six months, we expect it to be this. After 12 months, we expect it to be that, but it’s pretty straightforward stuff, to be honest.
LG: Do you think, obviously, we’ve been, apologies, because I know I said sort of to, to summarize there, but just an afterthought, do you think it’s worth saying, obviously, at the moment we’re focusing on a lot of this, the points that we’ve mentioned because of the current economic climate.
Is it worth saying as well to try hone in on the current business goals when you’re going into these meetings?
BK: Yeah, naturally. I mean, obviously, everyone’s going to have different business goals, but I think at the moment, most people are going to have a few common ones, which is, you know, retain existing clients, grow, be profitable, all those kinds of things that have, you know, seem to have only just become in fashion. So yeah.
LG: This podcast was actually just an episode for me to pick your brains about how I’m going to get signed off next time I need something.
BK: Good luck with that.
LG: I’m going to pull the episode up. Be like, “this is what you said”. But no, I think that’s a nice place to wrap up. I don’t know if there’s anything else you want us to run through Brad.
BK: No, the only thing I would say is, as you are looking at things like this, I mean, personally, I wouldn’t be afraid of. Obviously, it depends on the salesperson’s credibility that you’re speaking to. And it’s not just employee advocacy. This is any vendor.
If the salesperson has credibility, you know, why not bring the CFO onto those calls as well?
You know, and let, let them kind of, you know, press a few buttons and, you know, put some pressure on a salesperson to explain the business case, because if the, if the proposal, whether that’s EA or any other piece of tech, the company should be pretty well versed in explaining the value of their proposition from a financial perspective, and not just from a features and benefits perspective.
LG: Love that. Awesome. All right.
Well, as mentioned, while we’ve been speaking, we’ll pop any of these resources we’ve mentioned will be in the show notes below. If you wanted to connect with myself and Brad, obviously, you can do that on LinkedIn. It’s the best place to do it. And yeah, thank you very much for listening. We’ll catch you next week.
SEO and Content Specialist at DSMN8. Emily has 10 years experience blogging, and is a pro at Pinterest Marketing, reaching 1 million monthly views. She’s all about empowering employees to grow their personal brands and become influencers.