Indianapolis email signature marketing firm Sigstr came on the scene in 2015 with a clever idea. Its software allows a company to append a clickable call-to-action at the end of an employees’ email signature, promoting company initiatives such as an upcoming event, new digital resource or service offering.
Given that each employee sends roughly 10,000 emails per year, the email signature becomes a relatively cheap billboard for a company.
In a new twist in the crowded domain of digital marketing, Sigstr has rolled out a new product feature that enables a company’s human resources department to promote the company’s initiatives to the employee, via internal emails.
Ostensibly this appears to be solely for improving employee engagement, that hot trend in HR of making employees feel more empowered and valued to improve employee retention and productivity.
Getting employees on board
In a study released last year, consulting firm Deloitte found that 87 percent of organizations surveyed cited culture and engagement as top challenges, particular as job seekers have found more opportunities as the economy recovers.
While employee engagement is a key selling point, Sigstr is also selling the platform as a way to make employees even stronger advocates of their company’s brand. To the extent they feel more jazzed about their company and its products the more they’re likely to sing its praises to friends, family and their networks
“It drives awareness of initiatives that are important to the business,” said Dave Duke, vice president of customer success at Sigstr.
Sigstr points to a Social Chorus study that found employees have about 10-times more connections than a company’s brand. So a company with 200 employees could reach about 2,000 more people than its marketing department.
“The employee is really at the center of relationships with prospects, customers and partners,” Duke said.
Sigstr’s so-called Dynamic Campaigns feature, bundled with Sigstr’s external email signature product, also includes analytics to measure results.
Duke said rollout of the product has been limited at this point so it’s a bit early to measure its success. The full breadth of what kind of content employers can place in this email signature to employees has yet to be realized, he said. “We’re looking for creativity, to be honest.”
There are some predictable things, though, such as using the internal email signature to spotlight a particular employee’s birthday or hard work. Or to alert employees of new products or initiatives in the works or even the company’s recent contributions to charitable groups.
Perhaps even more valuable would be showing employees how their company is different than their competitors. It’s the kind of information that ultimately makes the employee feel so impressed about the company he or she will tell others.
Sigstr points to a survey by Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today that found upwards of 79 percent of respondents with employee advocacy programs reported higher brand visibility. About 65 percent reported better brand recognition.
Authenticity a must
Duke said the value in turning employees into advocates of the company when outside the office is particularly valuable to the extent it is driven by authenticity.
Indeed, authenticity is essential when employees act as brand advocates on social media, says Sarah Smith-Robbins, a lecturer in marketing at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
It likely would be problematic if a company recommended a particular script, however. “If an audience can kind of smell an ulterior motive to a recommendation they (social media audience) will notice,” said Smith-Robbins.
In general, a company “has to be able to embrace a little bit of risk and not be strong-arming what the employee can and cannot say.”
That’s not to say employees can’t advocate for the company, she said. If an employee who is genuinely excited about, say a particular initiative the company has underway in the community, then the employee’s network will probably pick up on it.
“If it is about marketing company culture it could be really effective. That will come across from that employee,” Smith-Robbins added.
Sigstr now has over 100 customers, including the Indiana Pacers. The firm raised $1.5 million in 2015 and last June said it plans to invest $1.4 million and over the next five years add 100 new jobs to its workforce of about 25.