The other day, I took a selfie and was sorely disappointed to discover puffy eyes and tell-tale wrinkles all across my face.
Upon inspection, I turned to my partner and said that I needed to get one of those roll-ey things for your face.
"A roll-ey what?" he asked me, incredulous.
"You know those little things that you see on Instagram? They roll it on their faces and they all have such nice skin."
He didn't know what I was talking about and, honestly, I couldn't explain it any better. I wasn't even sure what those roll-ey things were but I was convinced they'd fix my skin.
Without even reading about the product, knowing what it is or how much it costs, or even really what its purpose was, I was convinced I needed one.
All I needed was my favorite influencer to share a video on social media using the product and I was ready to drop some cash on one for myself.
That's the power of a brand ambassador program and is exactly why you need one for your brand.
What is a Brand Ambassador?
A brand ambassador is someone who advocates for your brand, either through content creation on social media, through affiliate marketing on blogs, or through their local community via a live event.
Do brand ambassadors get paid?
Some ambassador programs pay their ambassadors while others simply send them a free product. It totally depends on the brand's journey with referral marketing (the umbrella of marketing that brand ambassadorship falls under) and what the brand can afford.
Some brands, like Alo Yoga, can afford to pay its ambassadors (made up of a yogi influencer league that basically just does acrobatics in front of a camera) upwards of $15,000 per post that shares their clothing.
And as a sneaky loophole to dodge ethical responsibility, which is pretty on-point for Alo as a brand, they hire their ambassadors as “freelancers” so that they are not legally required to use the #ad or #sponsored hashtags as indicated by law.
Others, like Arbonne, pay their ambassadors a commission for the sales that they make.
Flat Tummy Co simply sends a free product to the person with the agreement that this person will share about the product with his or her audience. Any referrals made can help earn the ambassador cash.
What do brand ambassadors do?
An ambassador program creates a professional relationship with people who love your brand and incorporates them into your overall marketing efforts. A successful ambassador program will set clear expectations about the relationship, what 'advocacy' entails (ie content creation or affiliate links), and outline ways that the company will reward the ambassador. The end goal is to increase brand awareness among the brand's target audience and ultimately boost sales.
So what are some common expectations in an ambassador program?
Sample new products
Distribute marketing materials where possible and relevant
Genuine word-of-mouth marketing with peers
Increase brand awareness by wearing branded clothing
Work events like fairs, markets, or festivals
Online word-of-mouth marketing, usually through content creation on social media
Post on message boards and answer questions of potential customers
Invite friends to the brand's Facebook group or events
Share content either on social media or their website (via affiliate links)
Create product reviews (this is huge on YouTube and for bloggers)
How do you become a brand ambassador?
Most brands will have an established ambassador program that is detailed on their website, which usually includes instructions for applying to the program.
Other brands that are more exclusive will reach out to people with a huge and interactive audience on social media, especially on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.
What is a Brand Ambassador Program?
Based on my story in the intro, we know that a successful ambassador program can influence people to purchase a product or service simply by having an influencer on social media advocate for a product or service. It's the origianl flavour of influencer marketing and can work for brands that aren't necessarily on social media, too. Ideally, a brand's ambassadors will have access to and an established relationship with the brand's target audience of potential customers.
A successful brand ambassador program will not only boost sales but it will also increase brand awareness, which will help increase sales down the road.
In 2020, with the advent of social media marketing and a global self-isolation mandate that pushes more people to social media than ever before, it's a good time to start an ambassador program.
As a brand, you want to look specifically at social media accounts that represent your ideal customer and have a large following.
Because an ambassador that is your ideal customer will have direct access to your exact target audience, which are your potential customers.
But before you go sending excited outreach emails to your next online advocate, take a moment to clearly define and reach your next generation of marketers (aka ambassadors).
1. Define Who Your Ideal Brand Ambassador Is
While it is fun to imagine that every customer will eventually turn into a brand advocate, that just isn't the case.
Nor is it the best way to build your brand ambassador program.
Instead, you need to take a moment to identify what makes a good potential ambassador, what your ambassador campaign will achieve, and how the ambassador relationship will look.
To begin, clearly identify your target market and what those consumers look like, where they shop, the kind of content they engage with, and their intrinsic motivations for buying your products. This is at the core of any good marketing strategy, so you should already have an idea of who these consumers are.
Next, identify a few people within those circles that are thought-leaders or mini-celebrities (ie social media influencers) and have followers within that target market.
Lastly, think about the role of each potential ambassador and what you would expect from them as far as brand advocacy. Social media influencers, for example, are great for building brand awareness whereas bloggers are best for converting potential customers into happy customers.
Don't be afraid to dream big, targeting potential ambassadors with thousands of followers on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or their blogs.
But don't forget about the micro-influencers, too. Though they may have fewer followers, they likely have more trust with their followers and are more enthusiastic about sharing your brand.
Typically, your ideal brand ambassadors are:
existing happy customers
social media influencers with lots of followers
Once you outline who your ideal ambassadors are, you're ready to build your brand ambassadorship program from there.
2. Identify Key Metrics and Goals For Your Ambassador Program
The next and most important step in building a successful ambassador program is to set key metrics and goals for your program. This will help you know whether or not the brand ambassadorship is working and it will help guide potential brand ambassadors in their work.
A few key metrics to monitor are:
how often the ambassador is expected to post content about your brand
how much engagement is expected per brand-related post
how much reach the content gets
any traffic and/or sign-ups that are a result of the ambassador relationship
any sales made as a result of the ambassador relationship
If you are paying your ambassadors, then it is especially important to track your ROI (return on investment) so that you're not spending more than you're earning.
3. Find Brand Ambassadors
Now comes the fun part: finding and connecting with potential brand ambassadors.
There really are no rules when it comes to the outreach process. A few tried and true methods are here:
Social media searches
This method requires the most time and effort with perhaps the least reward. However, it can help you find existing customers, which are your best potential brand ambassadors.
After all, they already use your products so you know that they genuinely advocate for your brand.
Not only that, but social media also lets you engage directly with your target audience. So it makes it a lot easier to find natural advocates that already have the attention of your potential customers.
Though I wouldn't recommend this being your primary avenue for recruiting people to your brand ambassadors program, it can help you find genuine advocates for your program.
Luckily, brand ambassador marketing has been around for a while so you can easily find different software programs designed to connect you with potential ambassadors. Some of the top software on the market today include:
Ambassador - This all-in-one program helps you find ambassadors, track their performance, and automate their rewards.
CrewFire - This app allows you to run your entire ambassador campaign through the app, connecting with social media so that you can use hashtags and track engagement.
BrandChamp - This automated software recruits ambassadors for you and uses game theory to incentivize advocacy.
Influitive's AdvocateHub - AdvocateHub uses game theory to incentivize sharing and engagement, where ambassadors must meet certain goals in order to move onto the next level of ambassadorship. This makes it especially easy to develop an ongoing relationship with your ambassadors.
Hootsuite Amplify - This program is similar to the other tools listed here but focuses specifically on employee advocacy.
Brand Ambassador - The software helps you turn existing customers into brand ambassadors, complete with a built-in brand ambassador marketing strategy. It comes at a hefty price, though, making it unreachable for small businesses.
4. Give Them A Reason To Share About Your Brand
We know that your products are amazing and so do your happy customers, but that ain’t enough to motivate someone to share about them. When designing your brand ambassador program, keep these points in mind:
Be clear about what is expected in order to receive compensation
Choose to compensate ambassadors with free products, store credit, cash, or something else worthwhile
Use referral codes or links to track and monitor the success of each ambassador
5. Maintain A Good Relationship With Your Ambassadors
Though not technically employees, brand ambassadors will be doing work for you so it’s important to maintain a good working relationship with them.
be available to them - respond to their questions and messages within 48 hours, if possible. These people are incredibly important to your overall marketing strategy and will likely save you thousands of dollars in advertising, so nurture the hell out of them.
keep them updated on promotions, deals, and campaigns - anything that you want your target audience to know, you should first share with your ambassadors. They will be the ones to naturally deliver the news and build hype.
get their feedback about your products, your brand, and general sentiment about your brand - brand ambassadors have what you do not: access to your potential customers. They know what works with them and what doesn’t, so listen to their feedback and ask for input every once in a while.
Marquis Matson is an SEO analyst, content marketer, and writer. She specializes in search engine optimization for ecommerce sites in the yoga and wellness niche. She lives as a digital nomad, spending time in Ecuador, California, Thailand, India, Australia, and more. You can find her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at marquismatson.com.
A referral program is a deliberate, systematic way of getting people to make referrals to your business. Referral programs are often called word-of-mouth marketing, because they reward existing customers for sharing and incentivize new customers to try out your brand.