How would you like to have an army of people out there who zealously promote your products and company to anyone who'll listen?
That's what you'll get if you set up a brand ambassador program. These outspoken proponents of your business become an external salesforce of sorts, who sometimes aren't incentivized with anything more than an "Atta boy!"
It can work for any sized business, in any industry, as long as you have loyal customers. If you own a small business, a brand ambassador program is the next step if you've already spent time carefully cultivating a community of peers, colleagues, employees, customers and prospects. It won't work, however, if you simply decide one day to create a loyalty program but you haven't taken the time to create a loyal community.
Assuming you've got that loyal community in place, you can use a brand ambassador program to promote a new product, build excitement for a legacy service or help you sell existing products and services.
What Your Program Needs
While the purpose of a brand ambassador program will vary from business to business, there are certain things you want to be sure to include:
1. A goal. What are you trying to achieve? Is it a certain level of sales? Do you want to generate media coverage? Or increase event participation? Whatever it happens to be, define the goal and communicate it to your brand ambassadors over and over and over again.
2. Open application process. When you're ready to launch your program, open it up to everyone. Promote the application process on your website, blog and social networks. Use traditional media—a news release, direct mail and emails—to let your customers know about the opportunity. Allow people to apply for up to two weeks (though a week is usually enough time).
3. Drip emails. As people apply, they're going to have questions. Anticipate them ahead of time, and create a drip email campaign through MailChimp or your preferred email software. The first email should go out as soon as someone applies so they know you received their application. The second email should address expectations: when they can expect to hear if their application was accepted and when you'll announce the brand ambassadors. You can also send out a third email that talks about how many days remain in the application process, but that's not necessary.
4. Defined expectations. There are going to be people who apply—and are accepted—who go above and beyond your expectations. Likewise, there will be some who don't participate at all. Define your expectations early on, and communicate them clearly. If people don't participate, politely excuse them from the program, and give their spot to an alternate.
5. Consistent communication. Once the brand ambassadors have been chosen, make sure you have a plan to consistently communicate with them. You can create a private Facebook group, Google+ community or LinkedIn group. You can email at the same time every day. You can host an online chat. Or you can do a combination of the three. Your communication should remind them of your expectations, keep them motivated and update them on where you are toward achieving your goal.
Once you've thought through the five program essentials above and are ready to roll, execution can begin.
Putting the Plan in Place
The plan should include your brand ambassadors as well as the following items:
- A page with pre-written social media updates that are easy to either tweet or copy and paste into other social networks;
- A short video that brand ambassadors can use in their promotion that talks about what you're trying to achieve;
- A blogger relations program that entices others to write about what you're doing on their own blogs;
- Guest blogging for the sites that will accept your submission;
- Traditional media relations with targeted journalists within your industry;
- Social media advertising;
- Social media efforts, both on your channels and on those of your brand ambassadors;
- A social media contest; and
- Targeted email marketing.
Now you're ready to execute, and this is the easy part, because all the planning you've done to this point will make it so.
Go through all the brand ambassador applications you received. Narrow them down to a manageable group, and announce the winners. Develop a private site for them to engage with you, and create your daily communication. Manage your plan.
Before you know it, your brand ambassadors will have helped you achieve your latest goal and you'll be ready to plan your next marketing move.
Read more articles on branding.