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Success Hacks — 08 May 2023
What is a
Imagine a marketing strategy that builds authentic relationships with customers, all the while bringing in more buyers and developing brand awareness—that’s a brand ambassador program. 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, including examples from brands like your own.
We’re going to cover:
Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!
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.
The best brand ambassadors work with your marketing team to create content that promotes your brand, helping to get more customers on board and increase brand awareness across various marketing channels.
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.
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 or can even be employee ambassadors, influencers are often chosen for their large following and social presence.
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.
Simply put, the answer to the question “what’s an ambassador program?” is that it’s 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 for brands 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!
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:
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 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.
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.
By now, you’re probably thinking that an ambassador program sounds like a good idea. . But, can you develop a program that’s a perfect fit for your business? Here’s some brand ambassador program examples that demonstrate that, yes, almost any business can make brand ambassadorship work for them:
Aiming to empower individuals and organizations to achieve more in their lifetime, Xbox’s Ambassador X Program puts the power in the hands of young consumers. They partner with select individuals passionate about gaming. It’s best described as a brand ambassador affiliate program, as ambassadors are rewarded with exclusive content, digital prizes, and other perks.
Their ambassadors are the brand’s first line of communication to consumers, and by fostering an intimate relationship with them, they receive greater media exposure and brand awareness. The “X Program” is also a kind of brand ambassador training program, in that ambassadors onboard new gamers and help them learn the ropes.
Another perfect example of a successful brand ambassador program is Bumble’s. Their program recruits members to join the “Beehive”—a team of ambassadors to spread brand awareness and grow Bumble’s digital presence.
Beehive members are “digital gurus” who are tasked with creating awareness about the app through social media (particularly Instagram), blogs, interviews, and more. It’s like an influencer ambassador program, where “Bumble honeys” leverage their online and in-person connections to raise awareness of the dating app.
Their campus brand ambassador program is PINK’s attempt to promote its lines to college students, and encourage and empower young women. The program currently has hundreds of ambassadors who promote the product on social media, increasing its reach among their own followers.
A leading player in leisure and athletic wear, Lululemon’s brand ambassador program has done wonders in raising public awareness surrounding the brand. By partnering with athletes, influencers, celebrities, and active members of different communities, Lululemon increases its brand profile amongst young consumers particularly.
Drinks brand, Red Bull’s “Student Marketeers” are their brand ambassadors, and are also sometimes referred to as the “Wings Team”. These individuals are part of the brand’s target demographic (aged 18-34) and give Red Bull a boost in advertising to what is a challenging demographic to reach, by speaking directly to their peers on the brand’s behalf.
The great thing about brand ambassadors is that they’re real people. If you choose informal, employee, or college advocates you’ll find brand ambassadors who really do love your brand.
By raving about you and sharing information about your brand through social media posts, brand ambassadors produce user-generated content for free. This form of ambassador marketing asserts you as a business invested in its consumers rather than a brand just out to increase its profit margins.
Adding a personal and human touch to your business demonstrates your ability to build relationships but also highlights your brand to a new audience you potentially wouldn’t have reached without a brand ambassador program.
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.
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 successful 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.
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).
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.
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 free products to brand ambassadors.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Keen to build your own ambassador program so you can start reaping the benefits?
Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to create a brand ambassador program:
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:
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.
The next step in creating an ambassador program 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:
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
The question isn’t really how to start an ambassador program, after all, it’s how to build a brand ambassador program that will keep delivering for the months and years to come.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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