Brand ambassador programs are one of the most powerful ways to promote your business. They connect the virality of word of mouth with the power of authoritative figures and influencers. Let’s start by determining the strategy behind a brand ambassador program.
A brand ambassador program formalizes your brand’s relationship and the people who prefer your products or services. Notably, it invites the best people to interpret and promote your brand to the people.
The requirements of the program are different for each relationship. But the primary goal of a brand ambassador program is to engage your biggest advocates and produce the maximum marketing results.
What is a brand ambassador program?
A brand ambassador program assists standardize the way your company runs with individual ambassadors.
It’s normally based on a particular goal, such as boosting sales, driving conversions, or building brand awareness. To achieve this goal, an ambassador will actively support your brand to their social networks. This can be online (social media accounts, blog posts) or offline (events, trade shows). Usually, it’s a combination of both.
Traditional brand ambassador programs are invite-only, particularly for smaller companies with a niche audience. Bigger brands, though, have begun using informal programs or holding contests to get their next brand ambassador.
While brand ambassador programs don’t have a regular duration, these relationships are usually more long-term.
For this purpose, it’s crucial to provide your brand ambassadors with insider information – new product details, the latest marketing campaign, up-to-date messaging. This attracts and gives them more reasons to share your brand with their audience.
How do brand ambassador programs work?
Brand ambassadors work closely with your company for long periods. In various ways, they work as the face of your brand and the addition of your philosophy and values.
To keep the association running smoothly, it’s best to build a brand ambassador program. A program formalizes all the relationship details, including any specifications, guidelines, and incentives that have been agreed on.
Here are six reasons your business should create a brand ambassador program:
- Brand ambassadors are trusted.
According to a Nielsen report, 92% of consumers consider recommendations from family and friends far more than direct messaging from a brand. Recommendations that come after a personal experience, such as with brand ambassadors, are among the most trusted information sources.
If you want to penetrate a new target market, the right brand ambassadors can help you do so in the fastest way possible.
- Brand ambassadors promote your products authentically.
Since ambassadors have already utilized your products, they can apply their perspective and words while sharing your brand with others. This translates to advertisements that are more productive than standard press releases or sales pitches.
You may see brand ambassadors will even sell products without prompting (because they genuinely love your brand). It’s this real, compelling testimony that leads to more conversions.
- Brand ambassadors create and share content for you.
Whether it’s a social media post, a blog article, or a glowing review, ambassadors produce content that shines the spotlight on your brand.
As long as you provide ambassadors with your latest products and information, you can relax back as they roll out fresh content in their different styles..
This unique content is posted and shared broadly throughout its network. You can also repost the content on your site and channels.
- Brand ambassadors have a meaningful reach.
Even if they don’t have a large audience, a brand ambassador can still be in a high position to expand your market share. Appoint an ambassador who has authority with an audience that is also your brand’s target market. Even if they have a smaller audience, as long as your ambassador gives regular engagement, you have the makings of a word-of-mouth campaign and a community you may not be able to access on your own.
- Brand ambassadors offer great feedback.
Brand ambassadors are already fans of your product – which makes them great testers. They’ll share what they like, as well as what they think you can improve on. This accurate feedback helps iron out any rough spots before starting a new product to the general public.
- Brand ambassador programs are cost-effective.
Even if you prefer to reward your ambassadors with store credit or discounts, brand ambassador programs are still one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies. Any payments are based on results, meaning you only incur costs after making a new sale or meeting another goal.
Who should set up a brand ambassador program?
With so many advantages, ambassadors are a great addition to any marketing strategy. However, running a brand ambassador program does require a little extra work. Some businesses may be more qualified to handle these kinds of programs. Here are a few signs your business is one of them:
- You are confident in your products and services. The best brand ambassadors already use your products and are keen to share them with their audience. Before you jumpstart your word of mouth with a formal brand ambassador program, make sure you press out all the kinks and provide the greatest quality possible.
- You have a happy customer base. No matter how big your market, having satisfied and loyal customers proves you’re doing something right – and others want to hear about it. Many ambassadors start as loyal customers who have shared your product with others, without you even asking them to. These are the buyers you should look at while building your brand ambassador program.
- You have the means to build strong marketing campaigns. Brand ambassador programs aren’t a replacement for your complete marketing strategy. While they are a large source of content and promotions, brand ambassadors still need something to share. It’s crucial to maintain a lineup of exciting campaigns and work with your ambassadors to maximize exposure.
- You’re active on social media. These days, most marketing occurs online and through social media – this is the same for brand ambassador programs. When an ambassador shares content about your brand, you want to be present on the platform so they can guide viewers to your business account. It’s also a good chance to engage and answer any audience questions directly.
Moreover, brand ambassador programs are highly advised if your business also meets the following:
- You’re in a highly competitive industry. Even with the best products, it can be challenging to stand out in a highly competitive industry where it’s tough to differentiate yourself. This is where affiliating yourself with authority, or notable personality can give you that advantage you need. Brand ambassadors can help make your product stand out from competitors with their perspective and content.
- You’re targeting a niche audience.
- While new brand ambassador programs are rising across all sectors (from soft drinks to software), it can be very useful if you’re targeting a niche audience. In smaller niches, there are usually a few prominent individuals who stand out, and audiences follow. These are the individuals to invite to your brand ambassador program.
Four types of brand ambassador programs
Do you think your business will profit from a brand ambassador? There are four types of brand ambassador programs to pick from:
Requirement-driven brand ambassador programs
This is something many marketers consider to be an authentic brand ambassador program. There are particular requirements that an ambassador must perform on behalf of a brand within a specific time frame.
Affiliate brand ambassador programs
Building on the marketing efforts of brand ambassadors, this kind of program strives to generate purchases ultimately. Affiliate brand ambassadors promote products and services on their platforms (usually social media and personal websites), including an individual affiliate link that attributes the sale back to them.
In exchange, they get a commission for every successful purchase. It’s common to offer tiered incentives – the more sales an affiliate brand ambassador drives, the higher their commission percentage.
Informal brand ambassador programs are an open invitation to anyone who loves your brand. With this type of program, there are no signed agreements or requirements. Often, there are no rewards, although some brands offer special incentives to their top-performing ambassadors.
An informal brand ambassador program is great for generating word of mouth and referrals. But without any guidance or structure, it can be hard to track and optimize where your new customers are coming from.
College brand ambassador programs
Colleges and universities provide the perfect setting for a brand ambassador program – a massive number of students, with natural groupings by interest, sport, or hobby. Not only are college brand ambassadors active on social media, but they can also share your brand through word of mouth and guerilla marketing tactics (i.e., sticker bombs, branded outfits, product handouts).
Although this type of brand ambassador program focuses on the 18-25 age bracket, it allows for a lot of fun promotional potential. Plus, college students are eager to gain practical experience and often promote your brand in exchange for free products and skill development.
How to create a brand ambassador program in 5 steps
Starting a brand ambassador program may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have happy customers cheering for you, you’re already off to a good start. Here are five key steps to create a brand ambassador program:
- Set the goals of your brand ambassador program
Before you begin reaching out to potential brand ambassadors, it’s essential to create clearly defined goals for your program. This helps set your expectations and demands from each brand ambassador.
While intentions differ for every business, understanding what you hope to achieve makes it easier to calculate whether your brand ambassador program is successful. Here are a few common goals to draw from:
- Increase brand awareness
- Generate sales
- Drive conversions
- Expand to new audiences
- Build a social media following
- Foster customer loyalty
Keep in mind; most brand ambassadors will have their personal goals.
- Set criteria and guidelines for your brand ambassador
Now, it’s time to define your ideal brand ambassador. Besides showing a passion for your brand, brand ambassadors can be almost anyone – loyal customers, employees, industry experts, etc.
Most brand ambassadors fit at least one of these categories:
- The enthusiast: People who are very enthusiastic about your brand make wonderful ambassadors. Not only do these fans already like your products and services, but their enthusiasm also comes through their promotion. Enthusiasts are effective at getting people excited about your brand, particularly during events and experiential marketing efforts.
- The expert or niche authority: The expertise of these brand ambassadors improves the odds of trusting their recommendations. For example, an athlete would make a great ambassador for a running shoe company, or a dermatologist could help support a new skincare line. Brand ambassador authorities are perfect if you’re in a medical, technology, or another highly specialized field.
- The peer: Peers are brand ambassadors who can quickly reach your target audience. They are more approachable and friendly; most of 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations more than any other source. For instance, if your brand is geared toward college students, it might help recruit brand ambassadors. If your company makes plant-based food products, it makes sense to team up with nutritionists or vegan chefs (or even foodies who are impressed by how much your products taste like actual meat).
- The celebrity: You’ve probably heard of them before. Celebrity brand ambassadors are famous, recognizable people (at least in their niche) with a large following and the ability to influence trends. Just one mention from a celebrity brand ambassador can get you in front of a massive audience. However, many celebrity contents can be seen as superficial, so be careful when enlisting these brand ambassadors to do heavy promotion.
Adding structure to your brand ambassador program shows potential ambassadors you value their work and want to build a beneficial long-term relationship.
- Recognize and reach out to potential brand ambassadors.
The best brand ambassadors are thoroughly handpicked, making this step a little distinct from a referral program or affiliate program.
A good start to recognizing your ideal brand ambassadors is to look at where your target market spends their time. What platforms are they on? Who do they listen to? Do these individuals meet your brand ambassador requirements?
There are many approaches to find a good brand ambassador. Here are six of the best ones:
Social media searches
This is relatively simple but time-consuming. If you already know of people who have posted about your brand, they are a good place to start.
If not, search through your top social media platforms for any posts that have tagged you or include your brand hashtag. This requires some discernment – not everyone who uses your hashtag is a good fit to be a brand ambassador.
Fortunately, there are amazing software programs to help you find your perfect brand ambassador. Instead of spending hours manually tracking mentions of your brand, a simple tool can do all the hard work for you.
Brand mention tools reveal who is talking about you, allowing you to filter through any mentions of your brand or products on select platforms. Once you’ve found some potential ambassadors, a full-fledged brand ambassador software or alternative ambassador program can also help you reach out to them and manage your entire program.
Another way to identify brand ambassador candidates is to look at your customer data. Who are your most loyal customers? Who buys from you most often? Loyalty is a strong sign someone might be a strong brand ambassador.
The good idea is to check your customer data first, and then search social media for any brand mentions from the loyal customers you’ve identified. After all, a brand ambassador needs to be an active promoter and a loyal customer.
Influencer marketing platforms
Thanks to the rise of brand ambassadors and influencers, there is a corresponding crop of influencer marketing platforms. While these platforms are built for influencer marketing, they can also find the best brand ambassadors.
Influencer marketing platforms do a lot of the legwork for you. They pool together a pre-vetted database and in-depth data, analyzing metrics like follower size, engagement rates, audience reach and interests, and more. Set filters according to your preferences and the platform will reveal your top matches.
Formal application forms
You can also employ traditional methods to promote your brand ambassador program. A common example is publishing a brand ambassador application form and letting potential ambassadors come to you. You can add the form (or a link to the form) in targeted emails, post-sales messaging, and other pages customers visit on your website.
In the application form, ask why the customer bought your product and why they love your brand. Also, ask if they’d be willing to share your products with their network consistently. The submitted answers help you determine the customer’s viability as a brand ambassador and give you an idea of their content’s voice.
Informal application process
The same application process can be used to run an informal brand ambassador program. Like a referral program, this type of application process invites anyone (or almost anyone) who loves your brand to join. Customers sign up to become brand ambassadors via a simple form on your website. They’ll receive a code or link to share with their friends and followers. Whenever someone uses that link to purchase from you, that particular ambassador will earn an incentive.
Even with an informal application process, you should still personally reach out to customers and let them know about your ambassador program. You can run an informal brand ambassador program for all your customers while inviting your best customers (or best-performing informal ambassadors) to join your formal brand ambassador program.
Just make sure to offer formal ambassadors bigger incentives to reflect their long-term commitment to your brand.
Once you’ve identified some brand ambassador candidates, start forming relationships with them. Follow them on social media (especially on the platforms you want them to post on), comment on some of their posts, and read how they engage with their followers. If you want, you can also repost some of their content and see if it resonates with your brand followers.
- Reward and recognize your brand ambassadors
You’ve signed on the first ambassadors for your brand ambassador program – congratulations!
Keep them motivated and committed to promoting your brand with the right rewards. While some ambassadors are fine promoting your brand for free, rewards are a nice way to show how much you value the ambassador’s effort.
Rewards don’t have to be expensive or even monetary. According to Maria Cuasay, who helped create referral programs for Lyft and Opencare, the “importance of incentive is really to catch someone’s attention.” While cash attracts attention, other incentives like store credit, gift cards, freebies, and other valuable items can work just as well.
Think about what motivates your potential brand ambassadors, and offer these as a token of thanks for their support. Ensure you inform ambassadors when they will receive their rewards – after each post, every month, every quarter, etc.
In addition to rewards, recognizing a brand ambassador’s achievements is an important part of making them feel valued and part of your team. Here are a few ways to show your appreciation:
- A personal thank you note
- A special feature on your website
- An “ambassador of the month” series promoted on your social media and blog
- A shoutout on Instagram Stories
You can also ask them about their experience with your brand and share what makes them a stand-out ambassador. This is a great way to personalize your ambassador shoutouts and highlight your brand ambassador program in the process.
- Track the progress of your brand ambassador program
With your brand ambassador program up and running, you’ll find there are a lot of things to keep track of. Each time they promote your brand, every brand ambassador and all the engagement and feedback from each promotion.
Don’t let all this data go untracked. Once you (and your ambassadors) agree on what will be tracked throughout your brand ambassador program, it’s best to use a software analytics tool to bring all this data together. Here are some important metrics to track:
- Frequency of posts (blog posts and social media posts)
- Impressions and engagements
- Reposts and shares
- Brand reach and inbound traffic
- Issued rewards
In addition to these, a brand ambassador tool can also be used to communicate with your ambassadors, manage key elements of your program, and even search for new brand ambassadors.
Best practices for brand ambassador programs
Brand ambassador programs rely on building long-term relationships. And with any long-term relationship, you don’t just reach out once and leave it at that. It takes continuous work and cares to maintain a successful brand ambassador program.
Here are a few best practices to build a brand ambassador relationship that lasts:
- Provide onboarding: Even your best customers should be briefed on your brand ambassador guidelines. Whether through a 1-on-1, email drip campaign, or webinar series, make sure you cover all the relationship details before promotions begin.
- Be available: Make sure brand ambassadors can easily reach you with any questions or suggestions, and respond within a reasonable time frame.
- Send regular updates: Are you starting new marketing campaigns? Are you launching new products? Let your brand ambassadors know. Regular updates are necessary for brand ambassadors to promote fresh content to their followers. You can also create a newsletter, especially for your brand ambassadors with promotion reminders and best practices.
- Encourage ambassadors to express themselves: The purpose of a brand ambassador program is to spread the word about your company through your ambassador, using their presence on social media, websites, events, and other networking. Besides sharing basic brand guidelines, ambassadors should always promote your brand authentically and in their voice.
- Ask for ambassador feedback:
- Ambassadors want to see your brand succeed. As a member of your target market, they can offer fresh perspectives to help your campaign resonate with others. Ambassadors can even test out new products and provide in-depth feedback before you launch to the public.
- And give them feedback in return: In the same way you recognize ambassadors for their success, you should also offer constructive feedback. As long as you don’t stifle their creative control, please suggest ways to promote your brand better.
- Keep constant communication: Don’t be afraid to ask for check-ins or updates from each ambassador (within reason, of course). You can schedule these regularly with individuals or as a group.
- Refresh your program (using data): Through time, your brand, your ambassadors, and your audience will change – your brand ambassador program should change, as well! Look at all the data you’ve tracked to see what resonates best with your audience and brings in more customers. Then, adjust your program to double down on these efforts.
Brand ambassadors are specialists at sharing word of mouth and developing trust with an audience. Plus, they’re already enthusiastic about seeing your brand thrive. Why not take the relationship to the next level and invite them to your brand ambassador program?