Imagine how rapidly you could grow your customer base if you multiplied yourself by 100. A brand ambassador program is your answer.
It means you’re rewarding 10s, 100s, or 1,000s of people to actually help you achieve your goals. They can amplify your reach at enormous scale, and with an authentic voice. For example, Business Insider calls the Yelp Elite Squad “akin to joining a secret society.”
Let me highlight – it’s your ultimate growth hack.
Running a brand ambassador program is hard. You need to build a plan and objectives, identify and recruit people who are potentially scattered globally, motivate them to contribute to your brand, reach your key results, and deliver rewards to your ambassadors that are meaningful to them.
What’s the key success factor in managing all of that and achieving your desired outcome? And what can make your program so appealing to ambassadors?
Building strong relationships. Because it’s all about the people.
Relationships with people are the key to an amazing brand ambassador program.
In all three of these examples, the ambassadors’ success is aligned with the company’s main objective. That’s a major success indicator. Hootsuite’s ambassadors are not only spreading the word at HootUps, but they are actually becoming better at social media (it’s their job!).
Prezi’s student ambassadors actually want to be amazing presenters and spread ideas, which is at the core of Prezi’s mission.
And for Ben Slome at tapd, a new job matching platform for college graduates, his network of brand ambassadors, called “Campus Strategists,” are the driving force behind their growth. According to Slome:
“Ambassadors are called Campus Strategists, because they are truly helping strategize for us. That’s integral to how we motivate them. For your program, think about how to motivate people through ownership. They’re your partners.”
If people are the key to success, then you need to build strong relationships with your brand ambassadors.
Yep, we said it was hard – but you can do it! Strong relationships with your network of brand ambassadors are your foundation towards growing your company, supporting your business objectives, and making your ambassador partners successful.
Here are 8 essential tips to build strong relationships… and a kick-ass brand ambassador program:
1. Identify the right people in your ecosystem
First question – who are your ambassadors? They can be your top customers, influencers, local meetup organizers, or campus reps. For B2B companies especially, they could be resellers or independent consultants. Besides spreading the word about your brand, an effective program also engages and enriches your ambassadors – remember, they’re your partners, and you’ll be proud of their success.
2. Ask these questions in your application form
Here are some great application forms by Docker, Prezi and Vinted – check out how each one caters to their audience of developers, presentation designers and fashionistas. Ask for their age; location, university or company; links to social profiles or portfolio; how they want to get involved (mentoring, organize meetups, etc); why they are applying; user level, rating or other engagement history; and why they love your brand.
3. Know their aspirations
Consider your super users – or if you have ambassadors already, ask them – what do they want to get out of your brand ambassador program? Here are 5 ideas to spur your thoughts: Do they want to build their resume? Get awesome swag? Eventually join your company? For business solutions, do they want to host free workshops and then get hired as consultants? Or get the inside scoop and improve in their current role?
Slome explains that “our ambassadors share our vision for creating jobs. And at the same time, they want to be involved in something cool, they want to show on their resume that they worked with a startup.”
4. Build a real plan
They expect you to be professional and they want to learn from the experience. Define your brand ambassador program objectives, milestones, and rewards.
For example, Lyft relies on their ambassadors to recruit new drivers, so their plan focuses clearly on revenue performance. Hootsuite explains that ambassadors will advocate, share content, provide insight and feedback, create a local Hootsuite presence, and host events.
5. Build trust and transparency
Keep your ambassador network in the loop before announcing important news with the public. They are actually your partners – you don’t want them to be the last to hear!
Furthermore, communicating with partners in a transparent way demonstrates trust and opens a channel for valuable feedback. “They’re not just cogs in a wheel. They’re the energy behind our program,” says Slome. “For example, when we’re doing a t-shirt campaign, we get their feedback on designs from the beginning.”
6. Keep a clear, open channel for feedback
No matter what communication tool you choose, make it very clear that you’re open for feedback and criticism. “We ingest constructive criticism,” says Slome about the tapd company culture. “I always give out my direct line.”
It will not only help you to create better trust among your ambassadors, but also help you to actually improve your product.
7. Don’t underestimate the value of praise
While swag and exclusive invitations are wonderful benefits, public recognition is so invaluable because it helps ambassadors advance in their career, makes them attractive job candidates, and is a huge morale boost. Just like praising your own team.
Don’t be afraid to retweet them, or to share their content through your official company channels. “When a Campus Strategist makes a referral, we always congratulate them on Twitter,” says Slome. Just be careful not to only praise your top performers – make sure that all of your ambassadors feel valued.
8. Use tools that help you communicate, build relationships, and track your success
There are many options for how to communicate and build relationships, even with a large group. First, keep a database of your network members, and collect as much information about them as you can. Then, find a channel that’s easiest for you – whether it’s Facebook groups, group SMS, or mailing lists.
We built Mobilize to organize all your brand ambassadors and build strong relationships with them at scale.
“Mobilize allows us to leverage our personal relationships, in a way that was not possible before,” says Slome. “It’s our bridge to a personal connection with a large group of people. It’s an interactive platform to track and communicate.”
And Ro Hensley at Vinted relies heavily on her operations to send the right message to the right ambassadors.
“I can finally organize all my previously scattered data about our community ambassadors, beta testers and bloggers,” explains Hensley. “And it’s integrated into a messaging system. That’s very powerful.”
Here’s your takeaway – a relationship management strategy is the foundation to a successful brand ambassador program.
And by success, we mean that you can amplify yourself to the enormous reach of your ambassadors, let them speak about your brand with an authentic voice, align your objectives with the aspirations of your ambassadors, and empower your mutual success.
Whether you’re building a new brand ambassador program, or a seasoned professional looking to refine and grow your operations, our solution can help. Learn more at www.mobilize.io/product.html, or send me a note.
Michelle, Marketing Director at Mobilize