Many of the world’s great brands (and many up-and-coming ones!) take advantage of a brand ambassador program to spread awareness and acquire new customers. That’s all well and good, but…how do YOU actually get started with your own successful ambassador program?
1. Set up goals and define success.
Yep, this is one of those universal truths that holds up no matter what. Start by defining what you’re trying to do:
- Do you want to build brand awareness?
- Get more great content for your social media, blog and website?
- Do you want to reach more customers?
Whatever your goals are, you want to make sure they fit with your brand and business goals. This will keep you focused as you suggest or emphasize new marketing activities to your ambassadors. Organizing the program clearly by sticking to your goals and being straightforward about what you expect from brand ambassadors can make all the difference in the world.
2. Invite the right people, not everyone.
It’s about quality not quantity. In the end, it’s the most passionate people (not just the loudest ones or the people with the most Twitter followers) that will be your best evangelists. Some brands already have a core group in mind and can simply send them an invite to join in the program. If you’re not sure who this core group is, don’t worry, there are clear templates for an application that you can launch to invite in people. Some questions that can help you instantly identify who would make an ideal ambassador are:
- Why would you make a great ambassador?
- In what kinds of ambassador activities do you want to get involved (blogging, hosting in-home events, sampling, etc.)?
- What’s your favorite [our brand] product/service? Why?
- Tell us a story about a favorite experience with our brand.
3. Make it about them, not you.
It can sometimes be daunting to think about formally structuring the people who want to do stuff on your behalf. It doesn’t have to be.
Your ambassadors want to get involved in the ways that are authentically meaningful to them, so ask them what they would want to do as part of an ambassador program. You could ask this in a formal application, via an email to a segment of your best customers or via social media.
Take a look at how the gold standard of brand ambassador programs, Lululemon, makes it all about their loyal ambassadors and how they live the Lululemon brand values, not about how they love the latest yoga tank.
4. Give up some control.
Yes, it can be a little scary, but you have to give up at least some control. Of course, you can make your brand guidelines clear and you can emphasize any guidelines for the program, but if you don’t allow a little creativity, you’re going to be missing out on the good stuff.
Remember, if you’re trying to control every step of what they do, you may as well hire yourself a paid representative that is told exactly what to do.
Accept that in some cases you may end up with your very own branded musical, but when people really do love you, hey, you’ve got to embrace it.
5. Make it a community.
If they can actually learn from other and get ideas and potentially meet up in person, then your chances of success will dramatically increase. Your ambassadors are part of your brand family and should be able to interact with you and with fellow ambassadors. After all, the best ideas often come from other ambassadors and there’s no need to be re-inventing the wheel over and over again. We love the camaraderie and support that comes from LUNA Bar’s Luna Chix program – women who share an interest in being active and learning new sports coming together to embody the values of Luna Bar.
6. Personal recognition can be worth a million bucks.
Personal recognition is basically what makes the world go round. This doesn’t mean that you need to monitor what your brand ambassadors are doing at every second of the day of course, but you should be able to jump in with bits of recognition or commendations to nurture the community.
A great way to do this is to recognize ambassadors for their individual skills – we love what Evernote does with their community. They identify people with different skills and give them the opportunity to do what they do best, and then they stay out of the way. You don’t get to 75M users by not listening to the unique interests and product applications of your users.
7. Value is relative
Remember that value is relative. In the case of a brand ambassador, this person has just told you, I love you so much that I will spend time doing stuff on your behalf and I want you to succeed. It’s often an immediate jump to think: how much should we pay them??
But often times, this can be condescending. Is it really money that’s driving them and making them do more? It’s more likely to be first access to a new product, an invitation to a special event or public recognition. The Mercedes-Benz Brand Club is a great example of this type of recognition. They’re loved enough that they have 80,000 brand ambassadors around the world. And they nurture this community by offering incredible, targeted perks. But, to be clear, you don’t have to go overboard. Just featuring the person on your blog can be exciting enough in many cases.
In short, a brand ambassador program can be a cost effective way to deliver boatloads of goodwill, new customer introductions and great brand stories. It doesn’t have to be exhausting if you follow these steps and have the right software to manage and measure the program. There’s never been a better time to start.
What else have you found to be true that makes a brand ambassador program successful?