For a brand, discovering a customer who not only purchases frequently, but actually goes out of their way to promote and represent the brand to others is akin to hitting the jackpot. This brand lover is essentially providing free marketing for the brand. But the world of the brand ambassador isn’t as simple as one might think. Therefore, organizations who are looking to find such supporters organically should build a whole strategy around discovering, engaging and nurturing brand ambassadors.
Luckily, the process of building a habit and changing behavior through incentives and special experiences isn’t much different from retaining valuable customers through a next-gen loyalty program. So here are three ways a loyalty program can be used to interact with a brand ambassador.
But before that, let’s ask:
Who Is a Modern-Day Brand Ambassador?
The term ‘brand ambassador’ can be best described as a person who embodies a brand’s identity and raises awareness about the company out of sheer loyalty. But in practicality, how does a brand ambassador actually achieve this? What can brands expect from brand ambassadors?
Here are some of the roles that a brand ambassador can play:
- Brand representative: For many high-profile brands (especially in the fashion industry), a brand ambassador is a hired influencer or celebrity who represents the brand in a professional manner. They make scheduled public appearances, partake in community events and provide interviews for various media outlets.
- Brand evangelist: Hyped to the near-extreme, a brand evangelist is an enthusiastic customer who completely aligns their core value with the brand. They dedicate a large chunk of their time to engaging with the brand on social media and they do their best to spread positive word-of-mouth about the brand. Thanks to their efforts, they have the potential to grow organically into an influencer.
- Brand lover: Unlike most brand ambassadors, brand lovers aren’t always in the spotlight. They are simple brand enthusiasts who have fallen in love with the brand and buy from them no matter what. However, they still play an important role in promoting brands to their friends, coworkers, and family members. And because they aren’t officially affiliated, this kind of advocacy feels authentic.
In truth, a modern-day brand ambassador plays a bit of each role, and it is really up to the brand to decide how to work with its loyal audience.
Brand Ambassador Programs 101: How to Discover, Reward and Engage Your Brand Advocates
A brand ambassador program is an internal marketing campaign that’s meant to ensure clear goals, expectations and guidelines for the partnership. From the brand ambassador’s perspective, the program is a gateway to deepening their relationship with the brand while also receiving some form of compensation for their promotional activity.
Some of the goals for a brand ambassador program can be to:
- Raise brand awareness
- Highlight brand-related content through social media posts
- Boost conversions through affiliate links
- Encourage product discovery by renting items to the brand ambassador
- Build social proof for the brand via testimonials
- Increase the appeal of live events and community gatherings
Brand ambassador programs and loyalty programs share many similarities, as both are aimed at using a reward system to entice the target audience to perform certain actions and to build a long-lasting bond with them. As such, brands can engage their ambassadors as part of a next-gen loyalty program — although the program should be designed this way from the very beginning.
Here are three best practices (and three no-nos) on how to build a successful brand ambassador program through your loyalty program.
1. Discovering a Brand Ambassador
If you wish to find potential candidates for your brand ambassador program, you need to think outside the box. For example, brands with an eCommerce sentiment can organize an Instagram or hashtag contest, where customers with the best image/story earn a prize. This helps you identify eager volunteers who might have what it takes to become a brand ambassador.
As for companies with an offline presence, the best course of action is to hold community gatherings where staff members and organizers can network face-to-face with attendees in hopes of discovering a diamond in the rough.
Avoid this common mistake
Casting a wide net is not always the wisest choice when it comes to scouting talent. It’s not enough for someone to say that they are loyal to the brand, they have to prove it. If you already have a loyalty program, consider picking a brand ambassador from among your top-tier members, because those members have dedicated plenty of time and effort to reach the highest tier.
2. Rewarding a Brand Ambassador
Once you have a candidate for your ambassador program, you have to plan an incentives system — unless you wish to directly employ your candidate, of course. The most common approach is a referral system. In this approach, brand ambassadors share their referral code to their network and receive a fixed payment or percentage of profit for every customer who uses the code.
There are a couple of strategies that can make this tried-and-tested formula more unique or attractive, however. For example, you can use tiers. Brand ambassadors who actively recruit new customers using their referral codes will move up to new tiers and receive access to more benefits, such as being able to rent expensive items for free, which they can show to their audience to gain more prestige.
Avoid this common mistake
Another lesson you can learn from loyalty programs is that boring or overly complicated reward systems lead to low participation. If an influencer doesn’t see the value in sharing the referral code (or isn’t incentivized because they’re getting paid anyway), they won’t do it all. That’s why tiers are the best option, because they are geared towards long-term engagement.
3. Engaging a Brand Ambassador
Leaving brand ambassadors out of your marketing events is a wasted opportunity. So make sure to involve them whenever you run a customer-facing project. Live streaming events and other social retail opportunities are prime examples of occasions when you can engage customers via your ambassadors’ charisma and reputation.
Consider inviting a brand ambassador to store openings, in-store anniversaries and other events, too. Having the chance to mingle with your brand evangelists is especially exciting for other aspiring brand lovers.
Avoid this common mistake
If you bring in a brand ambassador for any marketing project, make sure to leave enough room for their creative input. If you are only using them as a talking head, parroting pre-written endorsements, it may end up feeling inauthentic, eventually damaging the brand image. Instead, ask them to interact with the community their way to collect their feedback and preferences — just like you would with a gamified survey.
Achieving Success Together
Brand ambassadors can be extremely helpful in organically spreading word-of-mouth and boost customer lifetime value. However, finding, recognizing and maintaining a brand ambassador is a complex marketing project. Introducing a brand ambassador program is far smoother if you have experience running a loyalty program, due to the many parallels between the two reward systems.
If you wish to know how you can run a truly-next gen loyalty program that’s also capable of catering to influencers and brand ambassadors, we would be happy to strike up a conversation. Just book a demo to see our technology in action, or send us your requirements as part of an RFP.
And don’t forget to download Antavo’s Customer Loyalty Report, an in-depth report that showcases dozens of statistics and future industry trends to help you navigate the world of next-gen loyalty programs.
Tamas is a Senior Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional - CLMP. Tamas is known for having a keen eye for loyalty and customer retention research and trends. Tamas is also a true gamer at heart and has an impressive collection of cyberpunk books.