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Employer branding on a budget: 5 tips from the experts

Tags: Employer Brand

Employer branding can feel like an expensive luxury that’s reserved for big businesses. It’s not. We spoke to five experts including Recruiting Brainfood’s Hung Lee to uncover five affordable tips for small businesses to get started with employer branding. Low cost; high impact. 

For most SMEs, headcount growth starts off fairly easily then gets hard fast, once you’ve exhausted your initial network and have to start advertising. Suddenly, you find you’ve entered a super competitive market and nobody knows who you are. 

Word of mouth isn’t good enough anymore. You need employer branding.


What is employer brand?

Employer brand is your brand as an employer. In essence, employer branding refers to marketing activities that communicate what makes your company special as a place to work. It’s an answer to the question – why us? – from the perspective of jobseekers, candidates, and employees.  Employer branding makes candidates aware of your organisation – and give them reasons to fall in love with you. It also helps cement loyalty and emotional connection among current employees. 


But employer branding is complicated and expensive, right? And you’re already under pressure to manage recruitment costs, as advertising costs spiral (and still get you nowhere). 

Employer brand is the circuit-break. The stronger your brand, the more effective your advertising and the more efficient your advertising spend. But we know it’s hard to get buy-in – and there’s probably no budget (yet, until you prove your efforts are working). 

In the third session of our four-part webinar series with Recruiting Brainfood’s Hung Lee, we spoke to four brilliant panellists about low cost employer branding activities you can get started with, to build buy-in.

5 lost-cost tips for small businesses to nail employer branding 

1 – Start from your story 

Our panellists unanimously agreed about the importance of starting with your story. One of the common complaints about employer branding is that it’s too pie-in-the-sky. A wish-list from the C-suite that’s detached from reality.

That’s certainly true of bad employer branding. But good employer branding is authentic. It’s absolutely connected to the core truth – Christina calls this the “core culture and core values” – of your business. Before you start thinking about creating content or updating your website or any of that stuff, you need to nail your story. As Marian puts it: “before running straight into execution, make sure you do your brand discovery”. 

  • Connect with brand marketing. At root, brand and employer brand are the same thing and ideally should be connected. If your business has marketers, make friends with the marketing team and work outwards. If your business doesn’t have marketers yet, that’s a great excuse to take the lead on all things brand. Become, as Clair puts it, the “de facto brand guardian”. 
  • Have conversations across the business. Talk to as many people as you can. Grab time with senior leaders. Have virtual coffees. Chat to people in the smoking area. Have short interviews with anyone the organisation hired in the past year. Hold open lunchtime sessions. Immerse yourself in the day-to-day reality of the organisation and build a sense of what you’re really about.

Back yourself up with data. Small business recruiters have usually been brought in with a clear headcount growth mandate. Getting buy-in to step back and consider employer brand can be intimidating – but Hung talks about getting the C-suite onside with metrics. Two of the most common recruitment challenges for SMEs are poor applicant flows and high drop-outs, both of which branding addresses. Mine your data to show that.

2 – Address quick-win touchpoints first   

In large organisations there are often lots of moving parts that make employer branding complicated, like visual identity, tone of voice, value proposition development, consumer branding, brand campaigns, and so on. 

But employer branding doesn’t need to be that complicated or expensive. Mike talks about the importance of grabbing your low hanging fruit first. 

  • Do you have a tagline? 
  • Do you have a mission statement? 
  • Do you have some values?

And if you have those things, are they on every job advert, your LinkedIn, your social media profile, Glassdoor, your careers site, and so on? 

For small businesses, your candidates almost definitely don’t know who you are yet. Tell them. Consistently. Everywhere they might come across you. That’s employer branding.

3 – Audit your back-end 

The back-end isn’t as sexy as candidate-facing stuff but making mistakes like sending candidates to the wrong email address can quickly hurt your brand. Clair recommends that one of the first things recruiters do is audit your back-end set-up.

  • Are contact details listed correctly on adverts, social and your careers site?
  • Are applications sent to one specific hiring mailbox?
  • Are inboxes set-up with the right settings and receiving mail?
  • Are email footers correct, with the correct contact details?

This basic functional stuff is a core component of the candidate experience – and one that’s free to fix.

4 – Create resources to enable hiring managers

One of the biggest recruitment challenges SMEs face as they grow is hiring manager practice. 

As your business scales, more managers are involved with hiring. And your small recruitment team has nowhere near the bandwidth to oversee them all personally. You lose control over recruitment. 

This is a problem from a compliance perspective, and it’s not great for your employer brand. At best, it’s inconsistent. At worst, it’s actively detrimental. Ideally, every candidate coming into the business should experience your business the same way. Consistency is a cornerstone of branding.

To that end, Mike talks about the importance of creating online resources that managers can refer to, covering your process, branding, templates, compliance,  FAQs, and so on. Creating these resources is free – and they’re the foundation for a strong brand presence.

5 – Scale your efforts with internal allies

Employer brand isn’t something owned by one single recruiter, or even one team. Brand is something the organisation lives, breathes and, with some encouragement, promotes. 

Internal allies are a force multiplier who help you build momentum around branding. To identify your internal allies, our panellists suggest:

  • Look at the data. Who’s hiring a lot? Speak to the people who already have a big impact in getting your brand out there.
  • Informal interviews. Who’s naturally an ambassador for your organisation? Who’s active on social media already? Who’d be excited to be involved?
  • Hijack other meetings. When you’re in meetings anyway, grab two minutes for a quick sentiment check.

Then once you’ve worked out who’ll be your early adopters, leverage them to widen your reach. Ask them to create content, whether that’s taking photos, posting on social media, even recording a quick video.

User-generated content like this is free – and a goldmine for authentic employer branding. And make it easy for employees to share, with a shared resource hub that everyone can access. 

You’ll typically find your employer brand activity snowballs from here, as momentum builds.

Employer branding isn’t a luxury item

Employer brand needn’t be a huge line item. You don’t need to spend months designing a new visual identity and road-testing tagline options and working on complicated positioning maps. 

But it does take time and thought. Everyone has a brand, whether you want one or not. Deciding to invest time into employer branding determines whether that brand’s messy, inconsistent, and chaotic – or whether you consistently tell candidates and employees what’s genuinely great about you. 

When you get that right, you get more, better applicants who’ll stay for longer. 

Tribepad Gro is ready built, ready-to-go recruitment software for growing teams. Take your recruitment to the next level. Get your free recruitment diagnostic session with Tribepad consultants Dan and Hayley to learn what could be stalling your growth.

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