When marketers think of promotion in the traditional sense, it's likely paid advertising, sales, or direct marketing are what come to mind. But not all promotion has to come at a high cost. In fact, employee advocacy is approximately 1/10 of the cost of advertising.

The definition of "employee advocacy" is straightforward: the promotion of an organization by its staff members. It's a low-cost, high-return approach to increasing brand awareness—and thus driving engagement and fueling the talent pipeline.

With extensive budget cuts and the overall strain that organizations are feeling in a Covid-driven world, it's these kinds of strategies that will help keep your brand afloat.

What's more, your employee advocacy efforts have the ability to impact teams and departments across your organization.

But how can you showcase how that impact is directly related to overall business goals?

Consider the return on employee advocacy efforts in three buckets: retention, revenue, and reputation. The same goes for customer advocacy. Every advocacy strategy should have one (or more) of these 3 Rs in mind.

Let's test that out by running through five metrics that help prove the ROI of your employee advocacy efforts.

1. Employee advocacy increases engagement

This may be the most straightforward metric to track. An obvious benefit of employee advocacy is that it can boost your brand's reputation authentically.

Encouraging your employees to share your content across their social channels will drive brand awareness and can increase your following and clickthrough rates if the audience is aligned. Plus, three-quarters of surveyed professionals report that they would create content on behalf of their company and/or share content their company has put out.

If you don't believe in the power of social, consider that brand messaging shared by employees has up to 561% more reach. Still not convinced? 79% of firms surveyed report more online visibility after the implementation of a formal employee advocacy program. Sometimes, it takes a village.

2. Drive leads through employee advocacy

An employee advocacy program has the ability to drive leads for two key departments: Sales and Human Resources.

When prospects are in the evaluation phase, their search is not limited to downloading your branded content or viewing your website. Passionate employees deliver better service. So, employee reviews, blog posts, and social posts can directly impact the sales pipeline and bottom line. (According to recent research, 80% of professionals have been positively influenced by a product or service they've seen on social media.)

Employee advocacy has the ability to fuel the talent pipeline as well. Consider the importance of positive reviews and feedback on job sites, photos of company culture on Instagram, or a LinkedIn post about a recent thought leadership event hosted by your brand. As recruits are in the consideration (or decision) phase of their journey, all of those elements come into play.

3. Employee advocacy saves time and resources

Another way that employee advocacy has an impact on the bottom line is through saved time and resources for your HR, marketing, and sales departments.

The cost of recruiting on social media, for example, is far less than the cost of posting on job sites, paying recruiters, or hiring agencies, or paying for advertisements. And you'd better believe that recruits will review your owned channels and employee content when evaluating whether they want to work for your company.

But social isn't the only channel that you should encourage your employees to share their experiences on. The power of word-of-mouth, reviews, and direct referrals extends far beyond awareness.

Positive sentiment about a brand from the people who work there brings a new level of authenticity and trust, saving time across your marketing department. It also has the ability to shorten the sales cycle if prospects begin to recognize the level of trust you bring to your product or service.

4. Employee advocacy affects your clients and workforce

Retention should be an important goal for your employee advocacy program. Consider that replacing an employee with a median salary of $45,000 can cost up to $15,000 in recruitment efforts. Understand the value that your current employees hold, and make sure your efforts reflect that value.

Employee advocacy can extend beyond your internal staff; it can influence your customer base. Satisfied employees can sway your current clients by creating more positive, enhanced customer experiences that make them want to stay.

Happy people want to be surrounded by other happy people. If you cultivate a group of employees who consistently share your content and speak positively about your brand, they're bound to create a more vibrant culture and encourage others to be attracted to it.

5. Employee advocacy drives a sense of brand purpose

Any good marketing team will make sure your brand's purpose is evident across your website, executive thought-leadership opportunities, social media, and other earned and owned channels. But a great marketing team will partner with HR to make sure your brand purpose is exuded by your most important group of advocates: your employees.

As we enter the recovery phase of this pandemic, your brand purpose has more meaning now than ever. Fully 64% of professionals strongly agree or agree that a company's efforts toward social impact on the community impacts current and future buying decisions.

Finding ways to showcase those company values by empowering your employees to share client success stories, company initiatives, or the ways your brand has supported their career will drive authentic awareness and allow your brand to shine.

Boost your employee advocacy program

Now that we've discussed the five key areas that employee advocacy has the power to impact, what is your main objective? Understanding which of those areas aligns most closely with your program goals will help you maximize your efforts.

For example, many brands halted all recruitment efforts during Covid-19 and may not be looking to re-enter that market quite yet. They may want to focus on harnessing employee voices to help fill the sales pipeline that ran dry during this economic downturn or support organic growth opportunities. A strong group of employee advocates can provide opportunities to retain and upsell to your current customers.

The important takeaway is that employee advocacy programs don't assume a one-size-fits-all model. No matter your goals, though, there are metrics to use when the C-Suite questions the value of your efforts.

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Five Measures for Proving the ROI of Your Employee Advocacy Efforts

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image of Mark C. Nardone

Mark C. Nardone is executive vice-president at PAN Communications, an integrated marketing and PR agency for B2B technology and healthcare brands. He oversees the firm's strategic focus across brand marketing and business development efforts.

LinkedIn: Mark Nardone

Twitter: @MarkCNardone