How to Run a Successful Brand Ambassador Program
What is a Brand Ambassador?
A brand ambassador is someone who is formally recognized by the brand as a representative, and helps spread the word of the brand. A brand ambassador is subtly different from a brand advocate. Brand advocates spread brand awareness, but do not have formal recognition of a relationship from the brand. Because of the formal relationship, brand ambassadors may be encouraged to complete activities in order to spread a brand’s message and raise awareness.
What is the Difference Between Influencers and Brand Ambassadors?
Sometimes, it is difficult to differentiate between influencers and brand ambassadors. Influencers tend to be more famous. The question a company must ask itself is: is the influencer worth the extra cost compared to a brand ambassador? Most people trust brand ambassadors more since they are “real people” and relatable. When an influencer with 10 million followers posts something, many people know they are being paid to praise the product. Yet, when a brand ambassador with 1,000 followers posts about a product, the assumption is it is not a paid advertisement, they truly believe in the product. In the end, it is about the love for a brand. Typically, brand ambassadors are supporting a company for a long time, while influencers are there for a short period of time.
What is a Brand Ambassador Program?
A brand ambassador program is designed to create a closer connection with users. It is a way to get the word out about your brand by taking to social media, hosting events, and generally spreading the brand name organically. If consumers are not aware of the brand, there will be no sales. Forbes states, “Goals sustain momentum. Just as a snowball grows in size as it’s rolled down a hill, momentum works the same way”.
10 Steps to Running a Successful Ambassador Program:
Identify Immediate Goals
Goals are an important part to starting a successful brand ambassador program. First, identify measurements you want your company to obtain. This includes the number of new ambassadors you want to gain and how much activity you want generated (based on impressions, click-throughs, etc.). You may want to start with small goals. This could mean only taking on a few ambassadors to begin with to test the water and see how your brand awareness and sales increase over time. By doing this, you can help determine a specific number of users that works well for your company. In order to find out who is already supporting your brand, you can use social listening tools.
Draft a Plan
Objectives, milestones, and rewards should be well defined before implementing a brand ambassador program. When drafting an initial plan for the program, the simpler the better. This will allow for future ambassadors to understand their objectives and benefits. By creating milestones for ambassadors and the brand, a company can measure success. Next, decide what activities you want your ambassador to partake in. Then, create a commitment curve (also known as the change curve). It encourages prioritization of activities based on commitment levels, effort, and expertise. The Change Curve is based on a model originally developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to explain the grieving process. Since then it has been widely utilised as a method of helping people understand their reactions to significant change. This includes significant change in businesses. Once created, your plan should be able to guide you through the execution of the initial stages of the program. Don’t fear though, your initial plan will be just that – initial. Expect this to change and morph as your program and ideas grow.
Determine Ideal Ambassadors
An ideal ambassador is engaged with your brand and wants to spread the word of your company. When identifying your ambassadors, you may find that they are already spreading the word of your company. These potential advocates could be past customers, or could be users that write the brand letters, send direct messages on social media, and send feedback emails. In essence, your potential ambassadors could be pre-existing heavy users – they probably want to get more involved with the brand.
It is important, however, to remember that there may be multiple ideal sets of ambassadors. Each set may reach different target audiences and may want to partake in different tasks. This should be encouraged, as it markets your company to a multiple niches, creating hype and allowing sales to grow.
Lululemon has done a great job at defining and selecting their ideal ambassadors. Their athlete programs support a community of driven athletes and inspirational people who harness their passion to elevate their communities. Exclusivity ensures that only those who really love the brand can join and this ensures sincerity.
Create an Application Form
An application form is an easy way to find the right people to contribute to your brand’s ecosystem. An application form also creates a slight obstacle for the ambassador to overcome; this filters out those who don’t really care. It is also crucial to gain information about the potential ambassadors. This information will help your brand understand who they will reach when completing their tasks. For example, an ambassador may be in high school, so they will not have as many outlets as one in a university. Another example is that influencers have a following based on a specific subject, like beauty, food, or lifestyle; this can mean they are reaching that one following rather than all of them. Important questions to ask could be based around what city they currently live in, what university they attend (in the case of student ambassadors), and how they want to become involved with your brand. Asking them directly for their following is also a good way to gauge the kind of reach they would have. Why did they chose your brand? What do they like most about your brand? Finally, ask why they decided to apply for your program.
Henrigirl’s on-going ambassador program application form helps build a group of ambassadors that are committed to the brand. Their focus on the ambassador’s whereabouts makes sure that their ambassadors are spread throughout the world and don’t congregate in one specific area. Another key focal point of their onboarding is a description of the ambassador style. Being a clothing company, they want ambassadors who embody their brand. If someone’s style is nothing like Henrigirl’s brand, they will not choose them to be an ambassador.
Understand What the Ambassadors’ Goals Are
When you find your top customers, look into what they would like to accomplish as your brand’s ambassadors. Do they want to build their resume and network, receive free products, or maybe just simply receive some recognition? Being able to understand your ambassadors goals is key to keeping them loyal and building your relationships. Lululemon does this brilliantly through providing tools and resources for their ambassadors to grow their own individual projects. Through this, they empower the ambassadors within the program to make it stronger and increase their sense of community.
Make Membership Exclusive
Not all customers should be a part of your brand ambassador program. Exclusivity is a key factor to many ambassador programs. It makes the program special and filters out those who are not as committed to the brand.
Not every objective given to the ambassadors will be easy. Since there may be difficult tasks, not every customer would want to be held accountable for completing these tasks. That being said, make sure every ambassador is fully committed to the brand or program. The best ambassadors for your brand may already be doing what you require of them as members of the program. Once you are looking at growing your program, give current ambassadors a say in who future ambassadors are, let them help grow what they’ve created with you.
Gain Feedback/Make Connections
Your ambassadors are your brand’s very own personal feedback channel. Use them! Encourage communication with ambassadors to build rapport. One benefit of this is it will make them feel comfortable discussing your brand with an unbiased voice. Coordinate your objectives and goals with that of your ambassadors. By doing this, you can help ensure mutual success. Mutual success allows your ambassadors to feel like your partners, not just customers. Typically, they tend to have a creative passion for your company, so make them feel like an important part of the brand. This can create innovative ideas. Keep track of the ideas so that your brand will stay on message and original. Make sure your brand welcomes feedback and informs the entire company of it. When feedback is given, respond to the brand ambassadors and their feedback.
There are times when running a successful ambassador program may be too difficult to do on your own. This is when a third party should handle your database. The platform will store information about ambassadors and create a communication platform. This allows collaborating advocates, ambassadors or micro-influencers to collaborate and demonstrate their tasks are complete and successful. Some platforms that can be used are Slack, Medium, Facebook, WhatsApp, forums, events. Yet, typically these platforms can get busy and unorganized. If you want an organized platform, it would be best to have an ambassador portal like Duel. Through the portal, you are able to set challenges for your ambassadors, manage the success of these posts, segment your ambassadors, reward them automatically, and moderate their content.
Ambassadors should have direct contact with executives within the brand. This builds trust. If ambassadors trust your brand they will generate honest feedback. An ambassador program is not the place to use an anonymous blanket newsletter. Content sent out must be personal. This allows ambassadors to feel their worth and importance to the company. Maker’s Mark does a good job of this with their personalized business cards and golf balls they provide for their ambassadors. Also, make sure to keep them in the loop before announcing important news to the public. This includes adding ongoing updates of your company’s progress and upcoming releases. Ambassadors need to feel like they are part of your brand’s journey.
When it comes to measuring success, decide what is most important to the brand. Is it the size of the ambassador community? Is it getting feedback from the ambassadors themselves? Response time to your product feedback, or simple check-ins? Measuring return on investment of a brand ambassador program can be difficult. If you provide ambassadors with discount codes or customizable links, it is easier to create direct measurement. Solid analytics and reporting tools are needed to follow the progress of ambassadors. There are also automated platforms to complete these tasks, like Duel.
Give Brand Ambassadors the Spotlight
It is great to gain new users, but retaining those already using your product will create brand loyalty. By giving your ambassadors the spotlight, it a good way of promoting brand loyalty. Another approach would be to offer exclusive perks to your ambassadors. The perks will increase motivation to produce quality content for your brand, while driving repurchasing and loyalty. Your brand could also offer certain benefits, like free product/s, regular discounts on their collection, events they can attend, products to share with others, or allowing ambassadors to include personal links to their profiles
Featuring your brand ambassadors is another great way to give them the “spotlight”. This may mean you give them a spot on your blog or website or include them in flyers, social media posts, tv, or streaming video commercials. Public recognition is powerful to help ambassadors advance in their career, make them attractive job candidates, and give them a morale boost. It is important to praise all ambassadors, not just top performers. Seaskape Swim does a great job of featuring their ambassadors on their website, a perfect way to help your ambassadors feel valued.
When you create your brand ambassador program, remember the program will leave a lasting impression on your consumers. Do not rush into a program, instead have it planned out from start to end. Let the program grow organically and continue to give your ambassadors reasons to continue to promote your brand. If management of such a program becomes too difficult, there are also a number of automation platforms (like Duel) that could help reduce management time and increase the ROI on your ambassador effort.
Duel is Customer Advocacy Platform which turns customers into advocates – we automate that lightning-in-a-bottle moment of a friend endorsing a brand. You should probably get a demo booked… (click me!)
If you want to look more at the theoretical background – take an intellectual swim by diving into a Customer Advocacy Marketing Workshop run by our consultancy arm (click me!).