Why Brand Ambassadors Should Be Prioritized Over Influencers

Your brand is your reputation. Your legacy. You never get a second chance to make a first impression with customers and prospects. But trust is an issue.

Why this matters:

Most millennials and Gen Zers don’t trust brands today as the generations did in the past. But they do trust other people. People like themselves.

You must identify your current customers with a strong emotional attachment and affinity with the brand and activate them to be brand ambassadors. They can help generate buzz around your company by spreading the word about what makes you unique. They can attract new customers, reach new audiences and amplify company messages.

While this study is somewhat outdated, it’s worth mentioning. In 2016, TapInfluence and Altimeter released a study, “The Influencer Marketing Manifesto; Study of Both Marketers and Influencers Uncovers How to Succeed in the New Social Capital Paradigm,” and found that 71% of marketers believe that brand ambassador programs are the most effective form of influencer marketing.

71% of marketers believe that brand ambassador programs are the most effective form of influencer marketing.

I have two points on this.

First, a brand ambassador and an influencer program are not the same.

Second, while this study is almost eight years old, I don’t think many brands today are investing in brand ambassador programs for two reasons.

One, it’s expensive and requires a commitment of time and resources. Two, the rise of creator marketing has marketers looking the other way when spending their budgets. Managing and activating creators is easy. It’s transactional, and you can turn them on and off for specific campaigns and initiatives.

You have to ask yourself, “Why would a customer want to become a brand ambassador?” If you can’t answer that question, maybe it’s not the right time to start. Programs like this require nurturing. A conversation. It’s a relationship, not a one-night stand. You should also consider how an ambassador program will integrate into your PESO model.

What are Brand Ambassadors?

A brand ambassador promotes a brand positively and helps raise brand awareness among potential customers. Brand ambassadors have a strong personal connection to the brand and are passionate about its products or services.

They may be influencers within their social networks, or they may have a high level of brand recognition due to their celebrity status. In addition, brand ambassadors typically receive compensation for their efforts, which can take the form of monetary payments, free products, or other perks. Therefore, while ambassadors can be highly effective in raising brand awareness and generating buzz, it is essential to consider the implications of having someone represent your brand before deciding to hire one.

What is a Brand Ambassador Program?

A brand ambassador program is a marketing initiative that enlists the help of influential customers to promote a brand. The definition sounds very salesy and “in-your-face” marketing, but its execution shouldn’t be. Ambassadors are typically people with a large social media following, and they use their platform to raise awareness about the brand and drive sales.

In exchange for participating in the program, brand ambassadors typically receive free products, access, membership to a private community, etc. While these brand programs can be highly effective, they can also be controversial. For example, some brand ambassadors have been accused of endorsing products they have not used or giving false information about a product to generate sales. As a result, brands need to consider their reputation when deciding whether or not to launch a brand ambassador program.

What are the Benefits of a Brand Ambassador Program?

Brand ambassador programs can be highly effective in raising awareness and fostering loyalty. In addition, they can help reach new audiences, amplify marketing messages, generate positive word-of-mouth, create engagement and even drive sales.

Additionally, they can be used to provide a valuable feedback loop about your product and services. This is especially helpful if you can give ambassadors early access to beta versions of your product.

During a crisis, brand ambassadors can also help defend the brand when they are being scrutinized online. For example, when United Airlines was under fire for treating a passenger’s guitar, some ambassadors came to its defense and spoke out against the negative publicity. Of course, this doesn’t make what they did right, but it illustrates the positive effect they can have on your brand.

What’s the Downside of Brand Ambassador Programs?

Brand ambassador programs can be costly, requiring time and resources. Additionally, they can damage your brand’s reputation if not managed properly. For example, you can’t just launch a brand ambassador in Q1 and stop paying attention to them in Q2.

Also, there could be instances where brand ambassadors say something offensive or do something that reflects poorly on the brand. For example, when Kendall Jenner was announced as a Pepsi brand ambassador, she was criticized for appearing to appropriate protest culture in an ad.

Pepsi quickly pulled the ad and apologized, but the damage had been done. In this case, it’s essential to have a system in place to address any negative publicity quickly. Word-of-mouth marketing is good so long as it’s positive.

This may not be the best example because your program won’t be supermodel influencers (in most cases), but you get my point.

Brand Ambassador Program Best Practices

If you’re thinking of starting a brand ambassador program, there are a few best practices you should keep in mind–establish your goals, training, technology, and measurement. But more importantly, you have to build a plan.

Build your plan. Building your plan is essentially a document that outlines the whole mechanics of the program–how it works, how it will be measured, the technology requirements, and the budget. For example, if you work for an enterprise technology company, this might be the deck you use to get approval and shop for a budget. Anyone who reads the plan should know precisely how the program will work and its details.

Define the goals. It’s essential to clearly define the purposes of the program and what you hope to achieve. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Drive sales? Build customer loyalty? Once you know what you want to accomplish, you can start recruiting ambassadors who are a good fit for your brand and who will be passionate about promoting your products or services.

Invest in technology. Several software platforms can help you manage your program, from recruiting and tracking ambassadors to providing them with the resources they need to be successful. Some of the most popular platforms include Ambassador, BrandMob, and Influitive. I have also seen some programs managed on public social media platforms.

Train your ambassadors. It’s also essential to provide your ambassadors with training and resources to be effective advocates for your brand. This may include platform training, deep dives on your product or service, social media training, and tips for building their personal brand.

Measure your brand ambassador program’s success. To determine whether or not your brand ambassador program is successful, you need to establish metrics and track progress over time. Some metrics you may want to track include reach, engagement, sales, customer satisfaction, or increasing NPS (Net Promotor Score).

Do Brand Ambassadors Get Paid?

I believe that brand ambassadors should not get paid monetarily. And the great thing is that they won’t expect to get paid either. A brand ambassador believes in a brand so that they will tell the world about their experiences. They will talk positively about your brand whether they are part of an official brand ambassador program.

Getting paid takes away from the authenticity of brand ambassadorship. However, there are several other ways to show appreciation and provide value to those in the program.

  • Be human. Sometimes it can be as little as just listening and paying attention to their needs or specific feedback about their experiences with your product. But it would help if you were prepared to implement changes based on customer feedback.
  • Building community. Creating a safe space for advocates to talk to each other, solve problems or provide feedback. Some brands even use these programs as a real-time focus groups. The insights are powerful.
  • Access: Giving early access to a beta version of your product or service and asking for their feedback makes advocates feel like part of the product development process. They will feel vested in your business.
  • Suprise and delight. You’d be surprised how the smallest things, like a five-dollar gift card for Starbucks, will result in brand appreciation. But, of course, saying thank you can also do wonders.

Brand ambassadors aren’t in it for the money; they’re in it because they want to share their love for something extraordinary. And that’s something that a price tag should never tarnish.

6 Reasons Why You Should Prioritize a Brand Ambassador Program

There are several essential reasons why brand ambassadors should be a priority for your company:

  1. They are passionate about you. Your brand. Leadership. Products. Your brand ambassador program should be composed of genuinely passionate people about your company and what it does. They should be excited to share their positive experiences with others and be eager to help you grow. They are often customers or employees who have had a great experience with your company and want to share the love.
  2. They have trusted sources of information. People are more likely to believe information from someone they know and trust, so brand ambassadors can be a powerful data-driven marketing strategy for your business. In addition, when potential customers see that someone they respect is using and enjoying your products or services, they’re more likely to be intrigued and want to try it out for themselves.
  3. Programs are cost-effective. Well, kind of. Working with brand ambassadors is often more cost-effective than traditional marketing and advertising on social media platforms. I do not recommend abandoning your other digital marketing programs, but setting aside a budget for a brand ambassador program is an intelligent business strategy. They are typically willing to do what you ask because of their affinity for your brand.
  4. They can reach new audiences. Your brand ambassadors can help you reach new audiences that you might not be able to reach through traditional marketing. For example, if you are a consumer brand and want to engage more with the Gen Z audience, your recruiting efforts can be focused more on the younger generation. You may want to engage more of the developer community for a technology business. In this case, you may build a developer advocate program and engage with them.
  5. They can help build brand loyalty. Brand ambassadors can build brand loyalty by providing an emotional connection to your company. When customers see real people behind your brand who are passionate about your work, they’re more likely to develop a sense of trust and loyalty. Brand ambassadors can also help turn one-time customers into lifelong fans by providing exceptional customer service and going the extra mile.
  6. Integrated employees. Innovative brands are integrating external ambassador programs and internal employee advocacy programs. This makes sense, especially for B2B brands with internal subject matter experts. Connecting these two audiences can foster a community of internal and external influencers with your brand right in the middle.

How to Find Brand Ambassadors

Brands looking for ambassadors can use several techniques like internal audience segmentation through email, social media, and social listening.

Email segmentation can help you identify your most loyal customers. By grouping customers with similar interests and behaviors, you can create targeted campaigns that are more likely to resonate with them. And what better way to show your appreciation for their loyalty than by inviting them to participate in a brand ambassador program?

Good community managers know which customers are most engaged on the branded social media channels. Therefore, inviting this group to an “exclusive” program would be an excellent first step in building a brand ambassador program.

Another way to identify potential brand ambassadors is through social listening. You can see who is talking about your brand, what they say, and how they feel. This information can be incredibly valuable for identifying loyal customers who would be perfect for your brand ambassador program.

When finding brand ambassadors, the most important thing is to be creative and think outside the box. There are many ways to find potential ambassadors, so don’t limit yourself to just one method. Instead, try out a few other techniques and see what works best for your business.

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Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.