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No matter how far technology takes us, word-of-mouth will always be the best form of marketing:
(And we steer clear of that one friend with the self-indulgent recs no one ever asked for.)
92% of consumers trust their friends over traditional advertising or media – and even that figure seems low all things considered.
It’s just easier to start your research when someone you trust supplies their educated opinion.
That’s why brands embraced the concept of influencers. It’s also why most companies with brand ambassador programs appear to be killing it – both industry dominators and smaller brands that enjoy solid control over their niche.
Read on to learn how brand ambassador programs work, when and why brands should launch one, and best practices for pulling off a successful one.
Brand ambassadors are your most die-hard customers.
They know the details of your products better than your marketing team. They follow your every move. They tell everyone they know about how your products change their lives.
Well, that’s the ideal brand ambassador. Brand ambassadors can also just love your brand, have in-depth knowledge of your products, and share their experience with friends.
Companies with a brand ambassador program have a dedicated strategy for finding, vetting, and organising ambassadors.
Relationships with influencers are more contractual and limited to a handful of posts. Influencers also may not know anything about your brand. Ambassadors, on the other hand, usually involve long-term relationships with loyal customers.
As far as compensation for ambassadors vs. influencers goes, there’s no single answer. Like influencers, many brand ambassadors get paid in both money and products. But like influencers, it depends.
Some ambassadors may get free products, early access to products, VIP invites to events, and other perks – but no payment.
It’s up to the brand and the value they see in brand ambassadors. Companies with invite-only ambassador programs tend to offer better compensation than brands that accept almost every applicant.
You can create all kinds of brand ambassador programs based on your audience and goals for reaching them. You could even run several types of ambassador programs if they fit with your objectives. Go nuts!
Companies with ambassador programs are smart. They’ve taken the best parts of influencer marketing and built an optimised strategy around them.
It’s easy to see the benefits when you realise ambassador programs are just word-of-mouth advertising updated for 2021.
84% of consumers say brands can earn their business by treating them like a human being, rather than a number in a data spreadsheet. Companies with brand ambassadors bridge that gap effortlessly.
The best brand ambassadors embody your values and culture (as much as a customer can). That’s why ambassador programs are an excellent starting point for growing an online community with Facebook groups, forums, subreddits, Discord servers, Clubhouse, TikTok, and more.
Brand ambassadors should reflect a specific audience persona. That’s why they’re so valuable compared to influencers (not to say influencers aren’t): An ambassador usually has a highly targeted social media audience. People might follow them for their work, hobbies, or expertise as a subject matter expert.
Ambassadors are perfect for launching hashtag campaigns, contests, and user-generated content campaigns. Again, most ambassadors embody a specific audience persona in their hobbies, work, or expertise. Leverage that to run user-generated content campaigns.
Stay tapped into the dynamic elements of your audience through your ambassadors. They can lead you to new audience segments and show you how your audience evolves in real time.
Starting a brand ambassador program at the right time is key to success. Otherwise, things can backfire. Companies with winning brand ambassador programs usually have a few things in common.
If you don’t meet those criteria, you might want to consider influencer relationships for now.
Ambassador programs involve long-term relationships with people who embody your brand values. You definitely want brand alignment before you take that step.
You deserve the truth: The best brand ambassador programs are a ton of work. They don’t have to be herculean efforts, necessarily. But they do require extensive planning and research to pull off with the success you want.
Most companies with brand ambassador programs focus on top-of-funnel goals but don’t limit yourself. You might apply a different goal to each ambassador. You could also create multiple ambassador programs: one for each objective.
Regardless, pick your main goals so you can assign metrics and KPIs later.
You can scour your email list, hashtags, and brand mentions to find potential ambassadors. Before that, however, you need to define what you’re looking for.
Some will say your ambassadors might want to work for nothing but that’s not how smart companies approach their brand ambassador programs.
Your ideal ambassadors are loyal customers. In other words, they’ve already spent a ton of money with your brand. That deserves something.
Plus, you want to nurture the relationship. You’re planning long-term here. Lose an ambassador and you could lose a whole market segment.
Whatever you offer as compensation, just make sure it’s clear from the beginning. No hard feelings.
Unlike most influencers, ambassadors already know all the details of your product and brand. This makes onboarding easier, but ambassadors also represent your brand more directly than influencers.
Here are a few things brands looking for ambassadors should consider:
By this point, you have all the foundations ready, and you just need to find the best ambassadors for your program.
Don’t worry. This is the easy part. The internet makes finding loyal customers seamless. (Just make sure to run through your vetting process before moving forward.)
Hashtags and Mentions
You can browse your tagged mentions and hashtags manually. You could also use tools like BuzzSumo to set up alerts based on keywords and keep an eye on the results. Visual search software can even scan photo content when your brand isn’t mentioned.
Niche Groups and Forums
Reddit is an excellent place to find loyal customers discussing your brand on a surprisingly professional level. Facebook groups that either revolve around your brand or industry work too. Run a search and see what comes up.
Investigate Your Email List
Who buys from you most often? How about the longest? Investigate their social media presence and go from there.
Lots of new brands jump straight into ambassador programs as a way to build their customer base and audience. This can serve a purpose, but the real benefit comes from the exclusivity.
Successful companies with brand ambassador programs know the value comes from targeted reach, long-term potential, and highly relevant audience insights. You can’t reap those benefits without some exclusivity.
Thinking of launching a brand ambassador program? We can help you maximise your strategy and get your footing. See what we offer and the creative campaigns we’ve helped other brands run.