Most marketers are familiar with the traditional marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, and decision. But for a lot of businesses, there’s actually a fourth level that isn’t addressed as much: advocacy. Advocacy and brand loyalty are what keep repeat customers coming back to your business and, even more, sharing their experience with friends.
One way to capture this advocacy is through ambassador marketing programs. Let’s look at what ambassador programs are, how they can benefit your business, some powerful examples of ambassador programs done right, and how to set one up for your own business.
What is an Ambassador Program?
A brand ambassador program is a type of marketing campaign that leverages influencers to spread the word about your business or product. These programs can be temporary or last indefinitely as an ongoing relationship. Both the business and the influencer agree on a set of terms, conditions, and compensation and when done successfully can be mutually beneficial for both parties.
There’s no denying that influencer marketing is on the rise. According to Digital Marketing Institute, nearly half (49%) of consumers rely on influencer recommendations before making a purchase and 40% of respondents purchased something after seeing it on Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram. In fact, a report from Twitter suggests that consumers rely on influencer recommendations almost as much as they rely on recommendations from their own friends.
Brand ambassador programs allow you to harness this influencer marketing momentum for your own brand awareness, reach, and conversions. Let’s dive into more of the benefits of this marketing strategy.
The Benefits of Ambassador Programs
Harnessing social media to benefit your business is the end goal of ambassador programs. But in this, there are many other benefits that come from these kinds of programs. Here are just a few:
Brand Ambassador Programs Can Increase Your Social Media Following
A lot of a brand ambassador’s reach is going to be on social media. As a result, this can increase your own social media following and engagement. If an influencer that has 50,000 followers on Instagram posts about your product or company, some of those followers are sure to follow you, as well. If growing your social media following is the main goal of your brand ambassador program, you can structure it accordingly and focus on engagement rather than conversions.
Your Brand Ambassadors Can Help You Create Content
Content marketing should be at the center of your marketing strategy for 2019, but you don’t have to create all your content on your own. One of the benefits of brand ambassador programs is that you can entice your ambassadors to create content on your behalf, which you can then repurpose in many ways.
For example, The Container Store partnered with an influencer in this blog post about making over her closet. Laurel Pantin, a writer for the blog, contributed a whole article about the process of building out the closet, how The Container Store’s products helped, and the end result. Now, The Container Store has this blog post in their content marketing arsenal that they can reuse at a later date. If this were your company, you could promote this piece using social ads, break it up into graphics and shorter copy to share on social and on your blog, and many more. Repurposing user-generated content like this is a win-win situation because you get authentic content for your brand that you can continue to get traction from.
You’ll Create a Community
Another benefit of brand ambassador programs is that they help you build a community online and in the real world. Not all brand ambassadors need to have thousands of followers on social media and be a celebrity or popular blogger. Often times, the best ambassadors are just individuals who are passionate about your company. This word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful tool to build your tribe.
Examples of Successful Ambassador Programs
There are many different kinds of brand ambassador programs, depending on your company’s needs. Let’s look at three companies that have nailed the ambassador thing. Each of these companies seek to accomplish something a little different with their programs, but they all do it well.
The Grassroots Ambassador Program: Lululemon
As we mentioned before, building a community of like-minded people is one of the major benefits of a brand ambassador program. Athletic gear titan Lululemon has done this extremely well with their ambassador program because they recruit people who share the same values and passions as their potential customers. They look for three different kinds of ambassadors: Elite, Global Yoga, and Store. Looking at just one of these categories, their Elite Ambassadors “are respected and loved by their sport communities” and share stories of their extreme sports, love of life, and, of course, how Lululemon helps them reach their fitness goals.
Not all the content these ambassadors produce is branded for Lululemon, but this grassroots style of influencer marketing is extremely successful because it draws potential customers in and helps make the connection between the brand and the community surrounding it.
The Friends and Family Ambassador Program: Dropbox
Cloud storage giant Dropbox approaches their ambassador program a little differently, but it’s still a cool way to leverage loyal customers. They make it easy for all members to share Dropbox with their friends and family by providing a referral code and with every new sign up, the original user gets more storage space on their account. This referral program makes every customer a potential brand ambassador.
The Social Media Ambassador Program: FabFitFun
FabFitFun, a women’s lifestyle subscription box, has become synonymous with influencer marketing, and for good reason. According to Single Grain and FabFitFun’s Co-CEO Michael Broukhim, influencer marketing is a big reason why they are able to triple their growth every year. The company uses both paid and organic media to get more eyes on their products and this is through mega influencers like Ayesha Curry and regular customers that just really love their boxes. Check out this interview with FabFitFun’s Senior Director of Influencer Marketing for more tips on how they structure their brand ambassador program.
How to Set up an Ambassador Program
As you can see, there are different kinds of ambassador programs depending on a company’s size, marketing budget, and goals. Here are some steps to get you started in setting up your own brand ambassador campaign:
- Define your marketing goals – At the end of the day, what do you want your brand ambassador program to accomplish? Do you want more sales? Do you want to grow your social following? Are you a startup or small company and just want to get your name out there? Figuring out what you want to accomplish with your ambassador program will help you structure it from the start.
- Create the terms and conditions – Every successful brand ambassador program has a clear set of guidelines for both the ambassadors and the company. Your guidelines should include what an ambassador can expect as incentives, when they will receive those incentives, and what they are expected to do. For example, you could expect ambassadors to share one post a month on their social media platforms about your brand and in turn, you give them first dibs on any new products or releases.
- Define the incentives – There’s a fine line between creating a successful, organic brand ambassador program (good) and paying for reviews (bad). The first is a helpful marketing strategy that builds brand loyalty in an authentic way and the second is a shady way to get publicity. In building your brand ambassador program, you could consider rewarding your influencers with discounts or items, giveaways, first looks at new releases, publicity for their own profiles or blogs, or other incentives. Cash usually isn’t the answer, unless it’s a paid media partnership.
- Choose the right ambassadors – Once you have all the terms, conditions, and incentives set, it’s time to find your influencers! The first place you should look is your own social media pages, website, and online reviews. If you notice a few past customers always saying great things about your company, those people might be great brand ambassadors. You can also use social listening tools like BuzzSumo to research your industry and see some of the top names in that field. If your business is local, check out online reviews on Yelp and Google to see who’s already saying nice things about you. Employees can also be great ambassadors! According to IBM, leads developed through employee social marketing convert seven times more frequently than other leads.
How to Launch and Maintain an Ambassador Program
Once you have all of the above components, you’re ready to launch your ambassador program. When starting out, don’t feel pressured to land the biggest ambassadors or make a super complicated program. It can be as easy as requiring a certain amount of social posts for a clearly-defined incentive. Lululemon’s brand ambassador program was mentioned above as one of the best, but it started with just some local fans willing to share their story.
As your ambassador program grows, maintain it by rewarding key ambassadors. Share them on your other marketing channels and encourage them to continue the great work. Brand ambassador programs need constant refining and maintaining to keep a core group of great influencers.
Brand ambassador programs are a great way to leverage the success of influencer marketing and they can work for any sized company. Whether you want to tackle a brand ambassador program from scratch or are enlisting the help of a digital agency, this marketing strategy is one that should definitely be in your plan.