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What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started

Tips & Guides — 27 Oct 2021

How to
Kickstart
an Ambassador Program?

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What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started

Imagine a marketing strategy that builds authentic relationships with customers, all the while bringing in more buyers and developing brand awareness. All that and it’s low-risk and cost-effective—what more could you ask for?

Marketers often look to bring on more customers with internal campaigns, but one of the most effective strategies is getting your customers and fans involved! You can do that through a brand ambassador program, and not only will it increase recognition of your business, it will also help build great customer relationships and make your brand more human. 

Interested in setting up your own brand ambassador program, but not sure where to start? This guide covers everything you need to know to launch an ambassador program of your own:

Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!

What is a Brand Ambassador?

Brand ambassadors are essentially advocates of your brand, willing to represent your business in a positive way, and rave about your new products or services to customers. They’re usually plucked from your ideal target audience and don’t need much convincing—they’re already fans of who you are and what you do.

Brand ambassadors work with your marketing team to create content that promotes your brand, helping to get more customers onboard and increase brand awareness

A lot of brand ambassadors do this work via social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, as it’s an easy way to connect with potential customers. The great thing about brand ambassadors is that their positive word-of-mouth marketing spreads amongst their audience, possibly leading to referrals and new customers coming onboard.

What’s the difference between brand ambassadors and influencers?

You might be thinking that brand ambassadors sound a whole lot like influencers, and it’s understandable. The definition doesn’t vary much, but there is a distinct difference.

One of the most FAQs is the difference between the two, and it lies in their purpose. While brand ambassadors are usually plucked from your own customer base, influencers are often chosen for their large following and social presence.

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started
Image source: BigCommerce

While both promote and rave about your products, influencers do so by example. Influencer marketing involves showing how your product can be used, and it usually involves a short-term partnership. 

Brand ambassadors, on the other hand, already have a deep interest in your product, and you’ll usually maintain a long-term relationship with them. They also focus more on promoting your product via word-of-mouth and don’t have to be “social celebrities” to get involved. While both can have a strong social media presence, it isn’t an absolute must for a brand advocate to amass a large following.

What is a Brand Ambassador Program?

Simply put, a brand ambassador program is a social marketing strategy  that utilizes your company message, values, and content in combination with ambassadors to get your brand noticed. 

These brand ambassadors spread positive word-of-mouth about your brand over their various social platforms, enticing others to buy your products and become part of your community. The ultimate goal of an ambassador program is to increase conversions and customers, in turn boosting your revenue and building brand awareness.

It’s not just about building up your business, though. It’s also about building genuine and thoughtful relationships with customers (and this never hurts!). Once you start spending time developing authentic relationships with consumers, you’ll start building more trust and loyalty in your brand. Plus, customers who are seen and listened to = happy customers!

Why Start a Brand Ambassador Program?

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started

If you’re looking to increase brand awareness and build real relationships with customers, starting a brand ambassador program is a great first step to making it all happen. 

It’s especially beneficial for small businesses or startups within a niche, as it means you get to put your brand in front of those who will probably already have an interest in what you sell. And then there’s the obvious benefits of boosted revenue, high conversion rates, lower churn, and increased brand recognition.  

Starting a brand ambassador program is also a great idea if:

You’ve Already Got a Loyal and Happy Customers

If you’ve got a loyal fan base, then setting up a brand ambassador program that includes your customers is a great way of choosing advocates that really care about your brand and actually use your products.

You Have Adequate Resources to Create Killer Marketing Campaigns

You can’t rely solely on your brand ambassadors to promote and market content. Though their efforts will go a long way, it’s important that you provide them with great sources of content and ideas.  If you’ve got adequate resources, you can work with your brand ambassadors to create killer campaigns rather than letting them work alone.

You’re in a Competitive Market

If you’re in a highly competitive market, it can be difficult to reach new customers and set yourselves apart from others in your industry. Setting up a brand ambassador program is an easy way of getting fresh eyes on your brand and giving you an edge.

Types of Brand Ambassador Programs

There are five main types of brand ambassador programs: Formal, informal, affiliate-based, employees, and college advocates. 

Not sure which one is right for your business? 

Here’s all you need to know:

Formal Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors who are required to enter a contract or sign up to an agreement fall under this section. 

Formal brand ambassadors usually work very closely with your brand, learning about all your special quirks and business goals. If you’re looking for something more structured, then going for formal brand advocates might be perfect for you.

Since they’re bound to an agreement or contract, they usually have to work to specific guidelines that you’ve set up. This agreement could include rules on how to promote and talk about your brand or how many events or posts they should be making in a given week. It’s ideal if you want to keep track of your brand ambassadors and get a specific amount of posts and content out every month.

Informal Brand Ambassadors

Informal brand ambassadors can literally be anyone—they just have to have a genuine interest and love for your products. Looking to your own customer base is a great place to start, and most brands that go down this route choose ambassadors from their existing consumers. 

Informal brand advocates are usually given a discount code or coupon to share with followers, and every time a purchase is made via this code the advocate is rewarded. This might mean earning a percentage of their follower’s purchase or store credit. It could even simply be in the form of more products and freebies—payment options are a lot more flexible for brands partnering with informal brand ambassadors. 

This route is ideal for brands looking to grow their business without putting too much of an investment into their ambassadors. You’ll still need to incentivize and reward advocates, but this approach gives you more options.

Affiliate-based

Affiliate ambassadors will promote your products or services on their social media platform or website, using a special link that provides them with commission each time a purchase is made via the link. Unlike informal ambassadors, affiliates don’t have to even use your product or be interested in it to promote it (though it’s better if they do). 

Affiliates usually have quite a large following, so this route is ideal for businesses just starting out. The only downside is that it can take away from the relationship building element of ambassador programs. If you’re looking to strengthen and develop foundations for customer relationships, you may wish to opt for informal advocates instead.

Pro-tip: Running an affiliate-based ambassador program requires an end-to-end solution to manage your affiliate partnerships. Affise could be perfect for your brand, as it allows you to control and optimize your marketing campaigns, manage affiliates, and track affiliate marketing results.

Employees

Sourcing ambassadors from your professional networks is never a bad place to start. Your employees might not know what it means to be a “customer” of your product, but if they have a lot of passion for your brand and what you stand for, it will reflect in how they talk about and promote your products or services. 

Your employees also have a deeper understanding and knowledge of what you sell, its quirks, and its USP, and may be able to point out why your brand is better than your competitors.

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started
Image source: Hootsuite

Also known as employee advocacy, these kinds of brand ambassadors can spread positive word-of-mouth via professional networks like LinkedIn, as well as informally to friendship circles and social media platforms

The great thing about employee advocacy is that you don’t necessarily need to pay them directly, their passion for your brand should be enough to drive them. To keep them interested, however, consider adding in a few incentives like flexible work day options, freebies, and gift cards at their favorite store.

College Brand Ambassadors

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started

If your brand is targeting a high school or college-aged demographic, then recruiting college and student brand ambassadors is a must. 

A lot of universities already play on this tactic—prospective students and current students are often given opportunities to become a brand ambassador for their school or department. This might require doing a few regular duties like cleaning, cooking, or handing out pamphlets. In return, the student gets a few freebies or extra rewards on campus like a free meal. 

While a university is different to a brand selling sweatpants, for example, the tactic behind a student brand ambassador program operates in much the same way.

For brands targeting this young demographic, there’s no better place to source ambassadors. Since they’re part of the demographic you’re targeting, they’ll probably already be connected to hundreds of students their own age. This means they’ll know exactly how to tap into the “student life”, and promote your products or services in a way that truly appeals to your demographic. 

College students are also a lot more flexible when it comes to payment. Instead of paying them directly, you can reward them with freebies, discount codes, or social leverage (especially if you have a large following yourself). Say that you’ll feature all brand ambassadors on your socials; a lot of student ambassadors will jump at the chance of being featured on a popular brand’s page, as it means more exposure.

The only thing you’ll have to do is set up a vetting process. Not all people will be genuine, so be sure to take their edu email address before signing them up to your ambassador program. This way you’ll root out all the people simply pretending to be students.

7 Key Benefits of Starting an Ambassador Program

Humanizes Your Brand

The great thing about brand ambassadors is that they’re real people. If you choose informal, employee, or college advocates you’ll find that these people really do love your brand. 

They want to rave about you and share what you sell with their followers. You become less of a brand that’s all about selling, and instead become a business that’s invested in its consumers and building relationships. This all adds a human touch to your business. 

A customer’s purchasing decision is more likely to be swayed when they’re being talked to by people just like them, rather than a direct marketing campaign done by a brand.

Builds Trust

People trust people. They’re a little more skeptical when brands shout about being “the best.” The reason is simple; they don’t see a brand as inherently trustworthy. A brand wants to sell above all else, but luckily you can change that image. 

Building relationships is at the core of a brand ambassador program, and the more you build relationships with customers, the more they’ll start to trust you. And trusting, loyal customers = repeat purchases (it will also increase their customer lifetime value). 

Brand ambassador programs also focus on the voice of the person, not the brand. Instead of a brand shouting about how great it is, an actual human being is—one that usually likes the same things as the target audience.

Increases Brand Awareness and Social Media Presence

Brand ambassador programs can be a goldmine, particularly for brands who have just started in a new market or small businesses. You might not have hundreds of thousands of followers, but you can pick brand ambassadors that do. 

This makes it easy to tap into a large social network, putting your products in front of potential customers, and helping your business grow (as well as bringing more followers to your own social accounts).

Builds a Brand Community

By putting your brand in front of new audiences, you kickstart your journey to building a genuine and authentic brand community. 

Social media is a great platform to curate this community on, since it’s based on content like photos and videos, and they’re highly interactive. The more engaging and interactive your brand ambassador’s content is (the content they’re putting out to promote your product), the better chance you have at building a real community, and community is super important.

Brands that cultivate these communities are able to sell a kind of lifestyle associated with their product, and selling a lifestyle, a “feel”, and a “mood” is a lot easier than promoting one simple product. Lululemon is a great example of a brand that’s cultivated a culture and community of wellness that people want to be part of.

Provides Better Value for Money

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started

Another great thing about brand ambassador programs is that you only pay advocates once you’ve gotten results (a new sale or customer comes onboard). This makes it one of the most cost-effective and low-risk marketing strategies around, even if you do offer discount codes and freebies to brand ambassadors.

Increases Revenue

It’s a no-brainer, but the more brand ambassadors rave and talk about your product, the wider reaching your brand will be, resulting in potentially new customers, and all that = sales! 

The fact that you don’t have to put a whole lot of investment into a brand ambassador program is a benefit in itself, but the return on that tiny investment will usually be pretty big. Imagine you get five more customers each time your ambassador promotes your product. After a few weeks, that number really adds up!

Encourages Proactive Feedback from Brand Ambassadors

Having brand ambassadors as part of your team will open your business up to fresh new perspectives. Once you’ve built that relationship with your advocates, you can start asking for feedback to improve your products, content, and marketing. 

You could even get them to test out new products before they’re launched so you can iron out any problems before release day. They might even be able to offer advice on upcoming digital and partner marketing trends, so your business can stay ahead of the curve.

Increases Traffic to Your Website

If you decide to go down the route of affiliate-based brand ambassadors, you’ll start to see a steady increase in traffic to your website. Every time affiliate ambassadors post a link to your site across their various platforms, more and more potential customers will be funneled through to your site. 

Not only does this get more eyes on your brand and products, but if you’re lucky, these users will stick around and become regular buyers.

Safeguards Your Reputation

If you do happen to run into a sticky situation, brand ambassadors can help soften the blow. While they can’t magic the problem away, they can vouch for you and be on your side. 

Depending on which ambassador you choose, customers will see them as unassociated to your business, making their voice of reason seem more trustworthy than that of an employee’s. This is why it’s important to try to pick brand ambassadors that have similar values to you, as it increases the chances of them supporting you in certain situations.

How to Get Started

Keen to build your own ambassador program so you can start reaping the benefits? 

Read on for a step-by-step guide on what it takes:

 

  • 1
    Define Your Goals

The first step is to think out clearly defined goals for your brand ambassador program

What do you hope to achieve? Are there any significant milestones you’d like to hit? What does your timeframe look like? Not only does this give you something to work towards and measure your success against, it also shows brand ambassadors what you expect of them.

Though no two businesses are the same, having an idea of what goals you’d like to hit will give you a rough idea of where you’d like your brand ambassador program to take you. It will also help in future efforts of tracking and analyzing your progress and success.

Your goals might include:

  • Increasing your brand’s reach across all social media platforms
  • Amassing a large social media following
  • Reaching wider audiences
  • Increasing your sales and conversion rates
  • Building more customer loyalty and trust
  • Building authentic and genuine customer relationships

Goals will differ from brand to brand, but also remember to take into consideration the kind of brand ambassador program you’re building. 

If you’re choosing an affiliate-based ambassador program, for example, a goal of building authentic and genuine relationships with customers is less realistic. In this case, it would make more sense to have a goal associated with increased revenue and conversion rates.

 

  • 2
    Choose the Right Ambassadors for Your Brand

The next step is to pick the right ambassadors for your brand. As we’ve gone over previously, there are five main types of ambassador programs: Affiliate-based, informal, formal, college-based, and employee-advocacy. 

Once you’ve nailed the kind of ambassador you’re going to use, it’s time to think a little deeper about the kinds of qualities, experience, and audience you want your advocates to possess. 

Think of these as guidelines for potential brand ambassadors — a checklist if you will. 

These guidelines could cover areas like:

  • How often will they promote your brand?
  • Which channels will they promote your brand on?
  • What keywords and hashtags should they be using?
  • What types of content should they be creating to promote your brand?

Not only will this help you weed out the “bad apples”, but it will also show potential ambassadors that you really care and value the program you’re building—simply because you put time and effort into it. 

It’s also worth looking at a few ambassador criteria before making your decisions.

Eligibility for your program could be based on:

  • How long they’ve used your product or service
  • What brands have they worked with previously (AKA, their experience)
  • What kind of results they have achieved for other brands previously
  • How many followers they have

 

  • 3
    Build Your Brand Community
What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started

Once you’ve identified the kinds of ambassadors you want onboard, your next step is to actually build your brand community. This means reaching out to your chosen ambassadors, but where should you look to source advocates?

Social Media

Social media is a great place to reach out to potential ambassadors, particularly those who already have an interest in your brand or niche. Look up hashtags and accounts within similar niches to your own—this could be anything from people using your brand name to keywords associated with your niche and what you sell. Reach out to these ambassadors via social media, and always try to give an incentive before hitting send.

Directories

Whether you’re running low on time or simply need a bit of help hooking up with a few ambassadors, joining a directory is an easy way of getting set up with potential advocates. 

Doing all the hard work for you, you’ll be provided with a network of potential candidates on a regular basis. All you’ll need to do is fill in a few details about the kind of ambassadors you’re looking for and brand information, and you’re all set!

Looking for a better way to build partnerships? Affise Reach brings together the best affiliates and advocates with brands from around the globe. 

With 1000+ affiliate networks, agencies, and brands, there’s something for every business. Easily explore and connect with different partners, making the recruitment process quicker so you can spend time on more important tasks.

Customer Pool

Another great place to source ambassadors is from your own customer pool! Don’t just pick anyone, though. Take a look at your customer data and unearth some valuable insights. 

Customers who have bought the most products or been with you from the start are great candidates to get in contact with, so make sure you look over your data and pick customers that have been consistently loyal. These candidates will make great brand ambassadors as they already have a lot of passion for your brand, and will probably end up being active promoters.

Application Forms

Another option is to let potential brand ambassadors come to you via an application form. Consider posting it on your website and linking back to it across all your social channels to increase traffic and awareness.

The great thing about an application form is that it usually weeds out people who aren’t “all-in”. If a customer has taken the time to fill out a form, chances are they’re pretty interested.

A form can also give you a bit of intel on the potential ambassador applying, aiding in your decision. Some good questions to ask include:

  • What is it that you love about our brand?
  • How long have you been a customer?
  • Why do you choose our brand over others?

Pro-tip: Once you’ve got your chosen brand ambassadors on board, be sure to set up a welcoming onboarding environment. Make them feel like they’re part of something special by making them part of your community. Consider setting up a few webinars to get to know the ambassadors individually. Not only will this enable you to train them properly, but it also sets the foundations for a long-lasting relationship.

 

  • 4
    Recognize and Incentivize Your Brand Ambassadors
What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started

Now that you’ve got your team of brand ambassadors together and everything’s on the move, don’t forget to regularly reward them! While some ambassadors are happy to work for free, you might find that a few become uninterested and unmotivated about promoting your brand if they’re not being recognized and rewarded for their efforts.

This is why it’s so important to set up a few incentives—not only will it keep ambassadors motivated and interested, it will also reflect well on your brand and show them that you truly value and care for them. 

The great thing about brand ambassador programs is that these incentives don’t always have to be monetary. Of course, if you pick a “social celebrity” or someone with a massive following, you might have to incentivize them with cash…but it’s not an absolute must. Freebies, gift cards, and store discounts are all great incentives that will keep brand ambassadors happy.

Consider asking them directly what kind of incentives they’d prefer, and be sure to keep it consistent. Set up a schedule for when they’ll receive their rewards and don’t forget about the importance of recognition! Incentives are great, but recognition goes a long way in making people feel valued. 

Show your appreciation for their efforts by:

  • Posting a special feature on your website or blog
  • Shouting them out via email
  • Sending a handwritten thank-you note
  • Running an “ambassador of the month” award series

 

  • 5
    Track Your Brand Ambassador Programs

Congratulations! You’ve successfully set up your own brand ambassador program, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Your next step is to set up a tracking system so you can easily manage and analyze data from your program.

You’ll need to track KPIs like:

  • How often content is created by brand ambassadors
  • The reach that you’re getting with the content
  • Reposts and reshares
  • Likes and comments
  • Engagement and impressions
  • The amount of rewards issued
  • Feedback from ambassadors

Tracking all this data is super important, as it will give you insight into how well you’re progressing and if you’re on track to meeting your goals. It will also help you assess and analyze the success of your brand ambassadors, enabling you to see which advocates deserve rewards and which would be better off without you.

Best Practices

The goal of any brand ambassador program is to maintain long-term working relationships with advocates, so it’s not enough to just set up a program and leave it at that. 

If you truly want to build genuine and authentic relationships, you’ll need to put in the effort. Here a few of the best practices to help build long-lasting relationships:

Keep Communication Open

Keep in regular contact with your ambassadors via email or video, and make sure you’re easily accessible and available. These check-ins are a great way of maintaining the relationship with advocates, as well as gaining insight into the progress of your program and any problems your ambassadors may be encountering.

Pro-tip: While you should devote yourself 100% to individual check-ins, it might be helpful to have a tool that automates communication processes. For instance, Affise has a ticketing system that allows your ambassadors and partners to address you instantly if they have issues and get these issues tackled swiftly.

Ask for and Listen to Feedback

As members of your ideal target market, your brand ambassadors’ feedback is like liquid gold. Regularly ask for their feedback on your brand’s positioning and content, and listen to what they have to say. 

They might be able to offer up a fresh perspective you hadn’t previously thought of, leading to even more successful campaigns that resonate even deeper with your target audience

You could even use your ambassadors as your first port of call for any new products or services. Consider letting them have a test run of them before they’re launched so you can iron out any niggles before it’s released to the wider public.

Offer Training and Support

Even the most experienced brand ambassadors should be given a 101 on your program’s guidelines and expectations. Consider holding a webinar or Zoom meeting to go over all the fine details, and provide a bit of time afterwards for advocates to ask any questions.

Improve Your Program with Data

Your brand ambassador program shouldn’t stay the same throughout its entire life cycle. The only way you’ll improve is by changing and refreshing it regularly.

The best way of doing this is by using data to refresh and update your program. As we’ve gone over previously, tracking data is super important and will help you assess and analyze key metrics about your program and ambassador’s performance.

Once you’ve got the intel from your data, start making changes so your program can continue to evolve and improve.

Pro-tip: Manage all your data seamlessly with Affise BI, so you can get to making the changes and improvements fast. We provide businesses with the tools to make evidence-based business decisions using their data, simplifying the process with a business intelligence (BI) tool that does all the hard work for you.

Takeaway

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started

Genuine interest in your brand, access to a large audience, cost-effective, and low-risk—what more could you ask for? 

Brand ambassador programs are a great way of marketing your brand with very little investment. You don’t even need to have a big social presence to get results, you just have to put in the time and effort to build and maintain relationships with advocates.

Imagine a marketing strategy that builds authentic relationships with customers, all the while bringing in more buyers and developing brand awareness. All that and it’s low-risk and cost-effective—what more could you ask for?

Marketers often look to bring on more customers with internal campaigns, but one of the most effective strategies is getting your customers and fans involved! You can do that through a brand ambassador program, and not only will it increase recognition of your business, it will also help build great customer relationships and make your brand more human. 

Interested in setting up your own brand ambassador program, but not sure where to start? This guide covers everything you need to know to launch an ambassador program of your own:

Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!

What is a Brand Ambassador?

Brand ambassadors are essentially advocates of your brand, willing to represent your business in a positive way, and rave about your new products or services to customers. They’re usually plucked from your ideal target audience and don’t need much convincing—they’re already fans of who you are and what you do.

Brand ambassadors work with your marketing team to create content that promotes your brand, helping to get more customers onboard and increase brand awareness

A lot of brand ambassadors do this work via social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, as it’s an easy way to connect with potential customers. The great thing about brand ambassadors is that their positive word-of-mouth marketing spreads amongst their audience, possibly leading to referrals and new customers coming onboard.

What’s the difference between brand ambassadors and influencers?

You might be thinking that brand ambassadors sound a whole lot like influencers, and it’s understandable. The definition doesn’t vary much, but there is a distinct difference.

One of the most FAQs is the difference between the two, and it lies in their purpose. While brand ambassadors are usually plucked from your own customer base, influencers are often chosen for their large following and social presence.

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started копия
Image source: BigCommerce

While both promote and rave about your products, influencers do so by example. Influencer marketing involves showing how your product can be used, and it usually involves a short-term partnership. 

Brand ambassadors, on the other hand, already have a deep interest in your product, and you’ll usually maintain a long-term relationship with them. They also focus more on promoting your product via word-of-mouth and don’t have to be “social celebrities” to get involved. While both can have a strong social media presence, it isn’t an absolute must for a brand advocate to amass a large following.

What is a Brand Ambassador Program?

Simply put, a brand ambassador program is a social marketing strategy  that utilizes your company message, values, and content in combination with ambassadors to get your brand noticed. 

These brand ambassadors spread positive word-of-mouth about your brand over their various social platforms, enticing others to buy your products and become part of your community. The ultimate goal of an ambassador program is to increase conversions and customers, in turn boosting your revenue and building brand awareness.

It’s not just about building up your business, though. It’s also about building genuine and thoughtful relationships with customers (and this never hurts!). Once you start spending time developing authentic relationships with consumers, you’ll start building more trust and loyalty in your brand. Plus, customers who are seen and listened to = happy customers!

Why Start a Brand Ambassador Program?

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started копия

If you’re looking to increase brand awareness and build real relationships with customers, starting a brand ambassador program is a great first step to making it all happen. 

It’s especially beneficial for small businesses or startups within a niche, as it means you get to put your brand in front of those who will probably already have an interest in what you sell. And then there’s the obvious benefits of boosted revenue, high conversion rates, lower churn, and increased brand recognition.  

Starting a brand ambassador program is also a great idea if:

You’ve Already Got a Loyal and Happy Customers

If you’ve got a loyal fan base, then setting up a brand ambassador program that includes your customers is a great way of choosing advocates that really care about your brand and actually use your products.

You Have Adequate Resources to Create Killer Marketing Campaigns

You can’t rely solely on your brand ambassadors to promote and market content. Though their efforts will go a long way, it’s important that you provide them with great sources of content and ideas.  If you’ve got adequate resources, you can work with your brand ambassadors to create killer campaigns rather than letting them work alone.

You’re in a Competitive Market

If you’re in a highly competitive market, it can be difficult to reach new customers and set yourselves apart from others in your industry. Setting up a brand ambassador program is an easy way of getting fresh eyes on your brand and giving you an edge.

Types of Brand Ambassador Programs

There are five main types of brand ambassador programs: Formal, informal, affiliate-based, employees, and college advocates. 

Not sure which one is right for your business? 

Here’s all you need to know:

Formal Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors who are required to enter a contract or sign up to an agreement fall under this section. 

Formal brand ambassadors usually work very closely with your brand, learning about all your special quirks and business goals. If you’re looking for something more structured, then going for formal brand advocates might be perfect for you.

Since they’re bound to an agreement or contract, they usually have to work to specific guidelines that you’ve set up. This agreement could include rules on how to promote and talk about your brand or how many events or posts they should be making in a given week. It’s ideal if you want to keep track of your brand ambassadors and get a specific amount of posts and content out every month.

Informal Brand Ambassadors

Informal brand ambassadors can literally be anyone—they just have to have a genuine interest and love for your products. Looking to your own customer base is a great place to start, and most brands that go down this route choose ambassadors from their existing consumers. 

Informal brand advocates are usually given a discount code or coupon to share with followers, and every time a purchase is made via this code the advocate is rewarded. This might mean earning a percentage of their follower’s purchase or store credit. It could even simply be in the form of more products and freebies—payment options are a lot more flexible for brands partnering with informal brand ambassadors. 

This route is ideal for brands looking to grow their business without putting too much of an investment into their ambassadors. You’ll still need to incentivize and reward advocates, but this approach gives you more options.

Affiliate-based

Affiliate ambassadors will promote your products or services on their social media platform or website, using a special link that provides them with commission each time a purchase is made via the link. Unlike informal ambassadors, affiliates don’t have to even use your product or be interested in it to promote it (though it’s better if they do). 

Affiliates usually have quite a large following, so this route is ideal for businesses just starting out. The only downside is that it can take away from the relationship building element of ambassador programs. If you’re looking to strengthen and develop foundations for customer relationships, you may wish to opt for informal advocates instead.

Pro-tip: Running an affiliate-based ambassador program requires an end-to-end solution to manage your affiliate partnerships. Affise could be perfect for your brand, as it allows you to control and optimize your marketing campaigns, manage affiliates, and track affiliate marketing results.

Employees

Sourcing ambassadors from your professional networks is never a bad place to start. Your employees might not know what it means to be a “customer” of your product, but if they have a lot of passion for your brand and what you stand for, it will reflect in how they talk about and promote your products or services. 

Your employees also have a deeper understanding and knowledge of what you sell, its quirks, and its USP, and may be able to point out why your brand is better than your competitors.

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started копия
Image source: Hootsuite

Also known as employee advocacy, these kinds of brand ambassadors can spread positive word-of-mouth via professional networks like LinkedIn, as well as informally to friendship circles and social media platforms

The great thing about employee advocacy is that you don’t necessarily need to pay them directly, their passion for your brand should be enough to drive them. To keep them interested, however, consider adding in a few incentives like flexible work day options, freebies, and gift cards at their favorite store.

College Brand Ambassadors

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If your brand is targeting a high school or college-aged demographic, then recruiting college and student brand ambassadors is a must. 

A lot of universities already play on this tactic—prospective students and current students are often given opportunities to become a brand ambassador for their school or department. This might require doing a few regular duties like cleaning, cooking, or handing out pamphlets. In return, the student gets a few freebies or extra rewards on campus like a free meal. 

While a university is different to a brand selling sweatpants, for example, the tactic behind a student brand ambassador program operates in much the same way.

For brands targeting this young demographic, there’s no better place to source ambassadors. Since they’re part of the demographic you’re targeting, they’ll probably already be connected to hundreds of students their own age. This means they’ll know exactly how to tap into the “student life”, and promote your products or services in a way that truly appeals to your demographic. 

College students are also a lot more flexible when it comes to payment. Instead of paying them directly, you can reward them with freebies, discount codes, or social leverage (especially if you have a large following yourself). Say that you’ll feature all brand ambassadors on your socials; a lot of student ambassadors will jump at the chance of being featured on a popular brand’s page, as it means more exposure.

The only thing you’ll have to do is set up a vetting process. Not all people will be genuine, so be sure to take their edu email address before signing them up to your ambassador program. This way you’ll root out all the people simply pretending to be students.

7 Key Benefits of Starting an Ambassador Program

Humanizes Your Brand

The great thing about brand ambassadors is that they’re real people. If you choose informal, employee, or college advocates you’ll find that these people really do love your brand. 

They want to rave about you and share what you sell with their followers. You become less of a brand that’s all about selling, and instead become a business that’s invested in its consumers and building relationships. This all adds a human touch to your business. 

A customer’s purchasing decision is more likely to be swayed when they’re being talked to by people just like them, rather than a direct marketing campaign done by a brand.

Builds Trust

People trust people. They’re a little more skeptical when brands shout about being “the best.” The reason is simple; they don’t see a brand as inherently trustworthy. A brand wants to sell above all else, but luckily you can change that image. 

Building relationships is at the core of a brand ambassador program, and the more you build relationships with customers, the more they’ll start to trust you. And trusting, loyal customers = repeat purchases (it will also increase their customer lifetime value). 

Brand ambassador programs also focus on the voice of the person, not the brand. Instead of a brand shouting about how great it is, an actual human being is—one that usually likes the same things as the target audience.

Increases Brand Awareness and Social Media Presence

Brand ambassador programs can be a goldmine, particularly for brands who have just started in a new market or small businesses. You might not have hundreds of thousands of followers, but you can pick brand ambassadors that do. 

This makes it easy to tap into a large social network, putting your products in front of potential customers, and helping your business grow (as well as bringing more followers to your own social accounts).

Builds a Brand Community

By putting your brand in front of new audiences, you kickstart your journey to building a genuine and authentic brand community. 

Social media is a great platform to curate this community on, since it’s based on content like photos and videos, and they’re highly interactive. The more engaging and interactive your brand ambassador’s content is (the content they’re putting out to promote your product), the better chance you have at building a real community, and community is super important.

Brands that cultivate these communities are able to sell a kind of lifestyle associated with their product, and selling a lifestyle, a “feel”, and a “mood” is a lot easier than promoting one simple product. Lululemon is a great example of a brand that’s cultivated a culture and community of wellness that people want to be part of.

Provides Better Value for Money

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Another great thing about brand ambassador programs is that you only pay advocates once you’ve gotten results (a new sale or customer comes onboard). This makes it one of the most cost-effective and low-risk marketing strategies around, even if you do offer discount codes and freebies to brand ambassadors.

Increases Revenue

It’s a no-brainer, but the more brand ambassadors rave and talk about your product, the wider reaching your brand will be, resulting in potentially new customers, and all that = sales! 

The fact that you don’t have to put a whole lot of investment into a brand ambassador program is a benefit in itself, but the return on that tiny investment will usually be pretty big. Imagine you get five more customers each time your ambassador promotes your product. After a few weeks, that number really adds up!

Encourages Proactive Feedback from Brand Ambassadors

Having brand ambassadors as part of your team will open your business up to fresh new perspectives. Once you’ve built that relationship with your advocates, you can start asking for feedback to improve your products, content, and marketing. 

You could even get them to test out new products before they’re launched so you can iron out any problems before release day. They might even be able to offer advice on upcoming digital and partner marketing trends, so your business can stay ahead of the curve.

Increases Traffic to Your Website

If you decide to go down the route of affiliate-based brand ambassadors, you’ll start to see a steady increase in traffic to your website. Every time affiliate ambassadors post a link to your site across their various platforms, more and more potential customers will be funneled through to your site. 

Not only does this get more eyes on your brand and products, but if you’re lucky, these users will stick around and become regular buyers.

Safeguards Your Reputation

If you do happen to run into a sticky situation, brand ambassadors can help soften the blow. While they can’t magic the problem away, they can vouch for you and be on your side. 

Depending on which ambassador you choose, customers will see them as unassociated to your business, making their voice of reason seem more trustworthy than that of an employee’s. This is why it’s important to try to pick brand ambassadors that have similar values to you, as it increases the chances of them supporting you in certain situations.

How to Get Started

Keen to build your own ambassador program so you can start reaping the benefits? 

Read on for a step-by-step guide on what it takes:

 

  • 1
    Define Your Goals

The first step is to think out clearly defined goals for your brand ambassador program

What do you hope to achieve? Are there any significant milestones you’d like to hit? What does your timeframe look like? Not only does this give you something to work towards and measure your success against, it also shows brand ambassadors what you expect of them.

Though no two businesses are the same, having an idea of what goals you’d like to hit will give you a rough idea of where you’d like your brand ambassador program to take you. It will also help in future efforts of tracking and analyzing your progress and success.

Your goals might include:

  • Increasing your brand’s reach across all social media platforms
  • Amassing a large social media following
  • Reaching wider audiences
  • Increasing your sales and conversion rates
  • Building more customer loyalty and trust
  • Building authentic and genuine customer relationships

Goals will differ from brand to brand, but also remember to take into consideration the kind of brand ambassador program you’re building. 

If you’re choosing an affiliate-based ambassador program, for example, a goal of building authentic and genuine relationships with customers is less realistic. In this case, it would make more sense to have a goal associated with increased revenue and conversion rates.

 

  • 2
    Choose the Right Ambassadors for Your Brand

The next step is to pick the right ambassadors for your brand. As we’ve gone over previously, there are five main types of ambassador programs: Affiliate-based, informal, formal, college-based, and employee-advocacy. 

Once you’ve nailed the kind of ambassador you’re going to use, it’s time to think a little deeper about the kinds of qualities, experience, and audience you want your advocates to possess. 

Think of these as guidelines for potential brand ambassadors — a checklist if you will. 

These guidelines could cover areas like:

  • How often will they promote your brand?
  • Which channels will they promote your brand on?
  • What keywords and hashtags should they be using?
  • What types of content should they be creating to promote your brand?

Not only will this help you weed out the “bad apples”, but it will also show potential ambassadors that you really care and value the program you’re building—simply because you put time and effort into it. 

It’s also worth looking at a few ambassador criteria before making your decisions.

Eligibility for your program could be based on:

  • How long they’ve used your product or service
  • What brands have they worked with previously (AKA, their experience)
  • What kind of results they have achieved for other brands previously
  • How many followers they have

 

  • 3
    Build Your Brand Community
What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started копия

Once you’ve identified the kinds of ambassadors you want onboard, your next step is to actually build your brand community. This means reaching out to your chosen ambassadors, but where should you look to source advocates?

Social Media

Social media is a great place to reach out to potential ambassadors, particularly those who already have an interest in your brand or niche. Look up hashtags and accounts within similar niches to your own—this could be anything from people using your brand name to keywords associated with your niche and what you sell. Reach out to these ambassadors via social media, and always try to give an incentive before hitting send.

Directories

Whether you’re running low on time or simply need a bit of help hooking up with a few ambassadors, joining a directory is an easy way of getting set up with potential advocates. 

Doing all the hard work for you, you’ll be provided with a network of potential candidates on a regular basis. All you’ll need to do is fill in a few details about the kind of ambassadors you’re looking for and brand information, and you’re all set!

Looking for a better way to build partnerships? Affise Reach brings together the best affiliates and advocates with brands from around the globe. 

With 1000+ affiliate networks, agencies, and brands, there’s something for every business. Easily explore and connect with different partners, making the recruitment process quicker so you can spend time on more important tasks.

Customer Pool

Another great place to source ambassadors is from your own customer pool! Don’t just pick anyone, though. Take a look at your customer data and unearth some valuable insights. 

Customers who have bought the most products or been with you from the start are great candidates to get in contact with, so make sure you look over your data and pick customers that have been consistently loyal. These candidates will make great brand ambassadors as they already have a lot of passion for your brand, and will probably end up being active promoters.

Application Forms

Another option is to let potential brand ambassadors come to you via an application form. Consider posting it on your website and linking back to it across all your social channels to increase traffic and awareness.

The great thing about an application form is that it usually weeds out people who aren’t “all-in”. If a customer has taken the time to fill out a form, chances are they’re pretty interested.

A form can also give you a bit of intel on the potential ambassador applying, aiding in your decision. Some good questions to ask include:

  • What is it that you love about our brand?
  • How long have you been a customer?
  • Why do you choose our brand over others?

Pro-tip: Once you’ve got your chosen brand ambassadors on board, be sure to set up a welcoming onboarding environment. Make them feel like they’re part of something special by making them part of your community. Consider setting up a few webinars to get to know the ambassadors individually. Not only will this enable you to train them properly, but it also sets the foundations for a long-lasting relationship.

 

  • 4
    Recognize and Incentivize Your Brand Ambassadors
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Now that you’ve got your team of brand ambassadors together and everything’s on the move, don’t forget to regularly reward them! While some ambassadors are happy to work for free, you might find that a few become uninterested and unmotivated about promoting your brand if they’re not being recognized and rewarded for their efforts.

This is why it’s so important to set up a few incentives—not only will it keep ambassadors motivated and interested, it will also reflect well on your brand and show them that you truly value and care for them. 

The great thing about brand ambassador programs is that these incentives don’t always have to be monetary. Of course, if you pick a “social celebrity” or someone with a massive following, you might have to incentivize them with cash…but it’s not an absolute must. Freebies, gift cards, and store discounts are all great incentives that will keep brand ambassadors happy.

Consider asking them directly what kind of incentives they’d prefer, and be sure to keep it consistent. Set up a schedule for when they’ll receive their rewards and don’t forget about the importance of recognition! Incentives are great, but recognition goes a long way in making people feel valued. 

Show your appreciation for their efforts by:

  • Posting a special feature on your website or blog
  • Shouting them out via email
  • Sending a handwritten thank-you note
  • Running an “ambassador of the month” award series

 

  • 5
    Track Your Brand Ambassador Programs

Congratulations! You’ve successfully set up your own brand ambassador program, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Your next step is to set up a tracking system so you can easily manage and analyze data from your program.

You’ll need to track KPIs like:

  • How often content is created by brand ambassadors
  • The reach that you’re getting with the content
  • Reposts and reshares
  • Likes and comments
  • Engagement and impressions
  • The amount of rewards issued
  • Feedback from ambassadors

Tracking all this data is super important, as it will give you insight into how well you’re progressing and if you’re on track to meeting your goals. It will also help you assess and analyze the success of your brand ambassadors, enabling you to see which advocates deserve rewards and which would be better off without you.

Best Practices

The goal of any brand ambassador program is to maintain long-term working relationships with advocates, so it’s not enough to just set up a program and leave it at that. 

If you truly want to build genuine and authentic relationships, you’ll need to put in the effort. Here a few of the best practices to help build long-lasting relationships:

Keep Communication Open

Keep in regular contact with your ambassadors via email or video, and make sure you’re easily accessible and available. These check-ins are a great way of maintaining the relationship with advocates, as well as gaining insight into the progress of your program and any problems your ambassadors may be encountering.

Pro-tip: While you should devote yourself 100% to individual check-ins, it might be helpful to have a tool that automates communication processes. For instance, Affise has a ticketing system that allows your ambassadors and partners to address you instantly if they have issues and get these issues tackled swiftly.

Ask for and Listen to Feedback

As members of your ideal target market, your brand ambassadors’ feedback is like liquid gold. Regularly ask for their feedback on your brand’s positioning and content, and listen to what they have to say. 

They might be able to offer up a fresh perspective you hadn’t previously thought of, leading to even more successful campaigns that resonate even deeper with your target audience

You could even use your ambassadors as your first port of call for any new products or services. Consider letting them have a test run of them before they’re launched so you can iron out any niggles before it’s released to the wider public.

Offer Training and Support

Even the most experienced brand ambassadors should be given a 101 on your program’s guidelines and expectations. Consider holding a webinar or Zoom meeting to go over all the fine details, and provide a bit of time afterwards for advocates to ask any questions.

Improve Your Program with Data

Your brand ambassador program shouldn’t stay the same throughout its entire life cycle. The only way you’ll improve is by changing and refreshing it regularly.

The best way of doing this is by using data to refresh and update your program. As we’ve gone over previously, tracking data is super important and will help you assess and analyze key metrics about your program and ambassador’s performance.

Once you’ve got the intel from your data, start making changes so your program can continue to evolve and improve.

Pro-tip: Manage all your data seamlessly with Affise BI, so you can get to making the changes and improvements fast. We provide businesses with the tools to make evidence-based business decisions using their data, simplifying the process with a business intelligence (BI) tool that does all the hard work for you.

Takeaway

What is an Ambassador Program? Your Ultimate Guide in Getting it Started копия

Genuine interest in your brand, access to a large audience, cost-effective, and low-risk—what more could you ask for? 

Brand ambassador programs are a great way of marketing your brand with very little investment. You don’t even need to have a big social presence to get results, you just have to put in the time and effort to build and maintain relationships with advocates.

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Affise Academy

Affise is a partner marketing platform for brands, advertisers and agencies to scale via all possible performance marketing channels. Synergy of technology and our long standing experience lets you expand your partnerships, automate every step of the campaign lifecycle and make data-driven decisions.

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