Working in marketing for over 25 years has meant I’m more than familiar with the term ‘do more with less’. Planning cycles are underway, yet many CMOs have to plan with reduced budgets and higher expectations.According to Gartner’s 2023 CMO Spend and Strategy Survey, 71% of CMOs believe they lack the budget to execute their marketing strategy properly.
As this HBR article explains, the increasing cost of talent and media and the decreasing yield of technology utilisation and digital ad impressions have pushed marketing into a corner. Volatility is becoming the new norm, and spending more to yield more is a luxury many CMOs cannot afford.
Having recently finished reading “A Beautiful Constraint” by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden, an inspiring book about transforming limitations into opportunities, it’s got me thinking.
As CMOs cascade objectives and budget cycles for next year, it’s important to challenge the status quo and think creatively about supporting business growth goals via alternative, more cost-efficient methods.
Activating employees on social media, whilst a long-term investment, is a great way to build brand awareness, generate demand and build a differentiated competitive advantage within the market. It’s far more cost-effective than extensive marketing campaigns.
But it takes a bold CMO to believe in this approach.
It means resisting the temptation to always lean on creative campaign approaches to driving MQLs, leaning back on expensive digital media campaigns that generate millions of impressions on your website but few conversions, and being comfortable with demonstrating measurable impact through data and insights.
Let’s explore how redirecting a small percentage from each budget allocation and creating a budget for employee activation can impact your results in 2024.
Employee Advocacy is a Cost-Effective Strategy Amidst Budget Cuts
Amid economic uncertainties and constrained resources, there’s a shining light for CMOs, and it’s not found in extravagant campaigns or costly advertisements. It’s nestled within the very heart of their organisations, the subject matter experts - the employees.
According to a report from Hubspot, if a recession hits this year, nearly a quarter of marketers anticipate a cut in their marketing budgets. And they expect marketers to make those strategic budget cuts in areas including paid media and print ads.
But is cutting the budget in these areas a bad thing?
Paid media is expensive, and according to The CMO survey for fall 2023, although there has been a slight dip in social media spending, it’s forecasted to increase across industries in the next 12 months and 5 years.
With this in mind, I urge you to consider this: social media spending may bring in a lot of views, but are they bringing in the right people?
Creative and innovative CMOs will be looking at results more objectively. Their priority will be driving the right traffic and increasing conversion rates. They don’t want to just get people to the door; they want the right people to walk through it!
It’s not about grandiose campaigns or eye-watering budgets. It’s about turning inward, recognising the power of the voices echoing within the organisation.
Let me put it this way: anyone can copy a marketing campaign, but they can’t copy your employee voices!
Every individual is a universe of networks, connections, and influences. When employees speak, their circles listen; trust is not built but inherent, and the message resonates personally.
It’s a complex landscape where economic pressures are real, but so are opportunities for innovation and creativity.
The Long-term Benefits and Impacts of Employee Advocacy
Employee advocacy isn’t a ‘quick fix’ but is often an untapped resource full of potential. It’s a strategy that elevates the brand and fosters a culture of engagement and authenticity within the organisation.
Authentic Content Creation
One of the most significant impacts of employee advocacy is the exponential amplification of brand awareness. Employees’ social networks are vast and diverse, offering a reach that is both extensive and intimate.
Content shared by employees receives eight times more engagement than content shared via brand channels. (Source: Social Media Today)
It’s a testament to the power of personal connections and the authenticity that employees naturally bring, and in a world of content, authenticity is king.
When employees are empowered and trained to create content, a raw, genuine, and profoundly resonant narrative emerges. It’s not polished to perfection but is imbued with the realness that audiences crave.
Employees As Influencers
In the age of digital marketing, influencer marketing has carved its niche. Yet, while external influencers can offer a quick fix in amplifying brand visibility, there’s an intrinsic question about the alignment of audience and message.
Are these influencers reaching the right ears? Is the message resonating or lost in the vast digital space?
Herein lies the long-term benefit of employee advocacy. Instead of renting the influence of external personalities, there’s an opportunity to invest in cultivating employee influencers.
These individuals are intrinsically aligned with the brand, offering endorsements that are not paid for but are born from genuine affinity and understanding.
Employee Retention and Engagement
Beyond the immediate impacts on brand visibility and content authenticity, employee advocacy plays a pivotal role in employee retention. When employees are engaged as brand ambassadors, they’re not just workers but integral contributors to the brand’s narrative.
This fosters a sense of belonging, engagement, and ownership. According to a report by Gallup, highly engaged workplaces see a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 59% reduction in turnover. (Source: Forbes)
It underscores the intrinsic link between employee advocacy and a thriving, engaged workforce.
Strategies for the Bold CMOAs we navigate the complexities of reduced budgets and increased expectations, the focus shifts to innovative strategies that maximise ROI and foster authentic connections.
At Tribal Impact, we don’t simply broadcast messages and hope for the best. We use data and insights to identify who is engaging with our content and tailor our approach to draw them closer.
For CMOs, the focus should be on deepening engagement quality. There’s a lot of excitement around Intent tools, but the goldmine is in the nuanced, authentic interactions facilitated by employee advocacy.
Sales teams, empowered by this approach, engage potential buyers early, laying the groundwork for meaningful relationships. This early engagement, facilitated by employees’ authentic interactions, ensures that the brand is seen and remembered and becomes preferred when purchase decisions are made.
Marketing's role in this is also pivotal. They are not just amplifying content but are part of the content creation process, making it resonate on a personal level.
The convergence of sales and marketing is not just desirable, but essential.
For CMOs, the task is to weave employee advocacy into this mix, ensuring that every campaign, every piece of content, is imbued with the authenticity and personal touch that only your employees can bring.
The magic happens when sales and marketing align. A synergy CMOs should prioritise leveraging data to turn insights into actionable strategies, making every engagement count.
Empower Real Growth With Employee AdvocacyIn this evolving landscape, employee advocacy stands as a cornerstone. It’s a strategy and a culture, echoing authenticity and fostering connections.
CMOs have the opportunity to lead this transformation, steering brands into an era where connections are as valued as conversions, and authenticity is the currency that fuels engagement.
As social media looks set to rise, I find myself grappling with a crucial question: should we be increasing our budgets in areas that are hard to measure? Spending more is all well and good, but we must be sure of the return on that investment.
For me, the real value comes when we can see clear, measurable results - which I’ve found to be at the heart of employee advocacy.
Join us for a discussion on why paid media shouldn’t take the lion’s share of B2B marketing budgets in 2024 with Marketing Expert, Rand Fishkin.