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Employer Branding as a Marketing Funnel

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Phil Strazzulla is the Founder of SelectSoftware in the HR software space, as well as NextWave Hire in the employer branding arena.  Phil started his career working in venture capital before getting into employer branding. He is a graduate of NYU and Harvard Business School.

Phil, you are the founder of a few companies in the HR space. What goals are you looking to achieve by leveraging Employer Branding?

It’s my opinion that when you start any project, you need to have clear goals articulated.  This is especially true for projects that involve branding, as they can be seen as having a nebulous ROI.  Without the proper goals and tracking, you run the risk of losing internal credibility.

The goals that you can translate into a hard ROI that your CFO will appreciate generally revolve around decreasing cost per hire, and decreasing time to fill.  Obviously, if you can find channels that lead to lower cost per hire, this saves the company money.

For example, maybe our cost per hire is $4k across the company and $10k for engineers.  One goal may be to decrease cost per hire by increasing the conversion rate on our career site which magnifies the impact of paid media spend.  Maybe our conversion rate increases from 8% to 10% due to better employer value props, and therefore our cost per hire decreases by (10%-8%)/8% = 25%, or $1k.  This would be huge!

Time to fill also has a large impact.  I’ll use an anonymous example for a company that I worked with: for every 100 sales and ops people we hired, we could take on 1,000 more customers in a month, which each paid us $5k.  That translates into $5 mm/mo, or $60 mm/yr.  Our business was valued at 10x revenues.  So, hiring those 100 sales and ops people faster meant getting another $600 million of value to our shareholders!

Beyond these more financial focused goals, I always have a few others that I want to accomplish with employer branding:

More tier 1 press coverage
Higher career site traffic
Higher candidate NPS
More hires/recruiter
Better ratings on employee review sites
Better cost/applicant via paid media

The goals you set for your business will be idiosyncratic to what you want to accomplish, but I hope you can use some of my experience to build your own framework.

Absolutely agree, it’s numbers game and no hiring manager has the luxury to underestimate KPIs. What is your Employer Branding Strategy?

I think of employer branding through the lens of a marketing funnel.  We have candidates who find out about us, those that engage, those that apply, those we interview, and those that eventually become employees.

My goal is to get more people at the top of the funnel – to get more people to find out about our company – and then to increase the rate at which people move down the funnel.

So, to get more people to find out about our company, I may implement employee advocacy, get more PR, pay for ads on LinkedIn, etc.  This fills my top of the funnel.

To move people down the funnel at higher conversion rates, I’ll make sure we have great copy, compelling stories, and easy to use tools that let people say “yes, I want to work here, let me sign up!”

The last tip here is that you always have to contemplate the passive candidates.  They don’t have a resume, so they can’t apply to most ATS’s.  You need to have a chatbot they can engage with or a talent community that will allow them to raise their hands and get on recruiter radars.

Attracting passive candidates requires a compelling marketing strategy centered around the story of the brand and the exciting projects the company is currently working on. How did you define your Employer Value Proposition?

The EVP to me is the answer to “why do you work here?”  It is typically the first thing that attracted someone to the firm, and then is a series of things that keep people engaged in their jobs.

The interesting thing is that employer value propositions vary a lot depending on who you are talking to in the organization.  For a female engineer in New York, it could be very different from a male salesperson in London.

Therefore, it’s important to think about EVP at a high level – why do people want to work at my company.  And then you need to drill down and define it for the most important talent demographics that you are trying to engage.

Of course, EVPs originate from the mouths of employees (via internal surveys, interviews with the people you’d like to replicate, and even Glassdoor reviews).  They then need to be distilled into headlines, job description copy, social media posts, and stories that can support the core themes.

One piece of advice is to work in the “why not.”  Why do some people fail at your company, who is this not a fit for, and how do you tell this in a way that isn’t too abrasive?  If you can get the wrong people to opt-out, that is equally as valuable as getting the right people to want to work with you.

How does Employer Branding help your business?

Companies reap the rewards of strong employer brands through a number of different ways.  First off, you decrease costs through decrease TA spend.  A strong employer brand means you can attract and engage people more easily, and for less money.

Second, it’s been shown that companies will be able to pay lower salaries for their employees if they have a strong brand.  Makes sense, I’ve seen many employees accept offers because they are inspired by a company’s mission, or their ability to climb the ladder in an accelerated manner.

Lastly, companies with strong employer brands get the best talent, and that is a game-changer.  Look at the businesses who figured this out a long time ago – Google, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs.  They have all been way ahead when it came to the right company perks, interesting recruiting methods, and telling their story through engaging media.  It’s no coincidence that these are also some of the most profitable and valuable companies in the world.

Overall, employer branding is an incredibly important aspect of any recruiting team’s strategy if hiring top talent is a priority for the business.  Without it, your TA team is essentially acting like a poorly run sales team with no backing from marketing – definitely a recipe for disaster!