When you’re trying to promote your message and brand, you’ve probably already included the basics into your marketing strategy: content marketing, social media, and email. But there’s a marketing resource that many companies leave untouched: your fans & customers (who I’ll call your advocates).
One of the most powerful tools in marketing is still word of mouth! Think about the last time you purchased something (the bigger the better)…you most likely asked a friend about it, read reviews, watched customer videos all before making your final decision. So you should encourage your customers to become brand ambassadors; they are your voice that can be trusted to give the ‘real’ view of your company.
You don’t have to start an ambassador program as some big, expensive, daunting program that you have to manage. It’s just important that these buyers are treated as your most important customers—because they really are. And working together, you can create a lasting brand.
In the past, brand ambassadors were hired by companies to represent the company in a positive light with the end goal to help to increase brand awareness & sales. But now thanks to social media in particular, brand ambassadors don’t have to be paid by your company! In fact it’s more authentic when they aren’t paid to give their voice to your brand.
These are your best and most engaged customers so they can have a big impact on your customer retention efforts. It’s no secret that I costs way more to get new customers than does to retain your current ones. A small increase in retention means you can pad your bottom line profits by upwards of 25%! In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, increasing customer retention by five percent can increase profits between 25-95 percent.
So with the potential increase, your ROI from a brand ambassador or advocacy program is certainly there and should be used to engage clients at every touch point in their customer journey. This will start building loyalty early on and keep their excitement high. Since word of mouth is one of the best marketing channels you have, you should get to know those customers who are already promoting your brand and ask their thoughts on your new brand ambassador program. Trust me, they will be thrilled to be first on the list and they will be happy to lend their persuasive influence to your company.
To make it easier to find these buyers, you can use social listening tools like Hootsuite to find them. Another way is to ask your customer service team; they interact with customers every day and will probably have a few suggestions of people to talk to.
Answer the question “what’s in it for my ambassadors?” before you start because we all want to get a little when we give a little….This could be free gifts periodically, early access to new product, or even special VIP events so they can meet like-minded people who share the love of your brand.
Once you’ve answered that big question, then you can start recruitment. Recruit brand ambassadors through interactions on various channels: emails, social media private messages, phone calls, text messages, at events, you name it! Keep asking them to be a part of this exclusive squad. Once they’re in, you can ask them to use specific hashtags to promote content they were going to post anyway and ask for referrals along the way for points or rewards so they have an incentive to be an active part of the ambassador program.
Since no two customers are alike, I feel it’s important to have different types of ambassadors for your company. This can be well-known, sponsored talent like athletes or spokesmodels to influencers like bloggers & vloggers or current customers and brand fans. Having a plan in place for the brand advocacy for each of these segments allows you to scale the program more efficiently and send the right message to each type when they need and expect to hear from you.
With each tier you should plan on various degrees of what’s expected from them and what they’ll get from you once those items are met.
One example of a simple ambassador program is Blue Apron’s trial weeks (which also serves as their referral program). I know some customers who basically felt like they worked from them after a while because they kept getting free meals. And, some people have even said they’ve run out of friends to gift to! My friend Jennifer (who recently gifted me a week to try) said, “They need to be giving us a commission! Every time I give one out they send me another one. I’m so glad I got to share them with you!”
These gifts work in several ways! First, the current customer feels good getting to share a gift with their friends and they are becoming ambassadors for your brand. Unlike a standard referral program where you usually give something to get something, Blue Apron’s approach comes from an ambassador point of view. Second, it converts! When their friends tried it, more often than not they would continue with the service (yay for a successful referral). Even if they don’t decide to continue at that point with Blue Apron, the brand has the opportunity to send the new prospects email to continue reaching out to them with deals and other special referral offers.
Here’s your challenge: start planning a brand ambassador program! It will help build your brand’s reputation and increase your overall sales. Start small & ask your best customers for their input into the program structure; what would they like to see from you? Trust me, they will be a proud part of your squad!