This year, many businesses across a vast array of industries are launching their first ever brand ambassador program.
Privacy changes have wreaked havoc on the traditional advertising strategy. Also, consumers are increasingly craving authenticity and community with the brands they love.
When you consider those factors and the fact that 74% of consumers identify product recommendations from social media as a key influence in their purchasing decisions, it’s no surprise that brand ambassador programs are becoming a crucial marketing channel for the modern brand.
Companies that successfully drive recommendations for their products on social media will see the most success in this new era of marketing. Brand ambassador programs are on the rise because they allow companies to do just that.
Are you considering launching a brand ambassador program for your brand, but don’t know where to start? In this guide, we’ll cover the 5 steps you can take to set your brand up for success with this new channel.
What is a Brand Ambassador Program?
A brand ambassador program is a type of social media marketing where companies incentivize real people to promote their products and content to a desired audience.
Brand ambassador programs can be a more engaging and effective form of advertising than a traditional paid ad, because the promotion is coming from a person that usually genuinely likes and would recommend the brand in question. Think of it as hyper-charged word of mouth for the social media age. This messaging connects better with consumers as it is more human and authentic.
The overall goal of a program like this is to build relationships and partnerships with people who genuinely like your content, brand, and product or services, and then leverage those relationships to drive sales and awareness for your company.
Benefits of a Brand Ambassador Program
Beat the paid ads problem – With the increased unreliability of paid advertising due to constantly evolving privacy restrictions, it’s crucial to make sure you are focusing on a promotion strategy that you can be in full control of. Promoting from human to human via word of mouth ensures that technology doesn’t block your brand’s reach.
Generate more authentic content – Incentivizing creators to post and share their own authentic content about your company results in high quality, cost-effective and engaging content for you to use throughout your marketing.
Make your brand more human and relatable – As we’ve already touched on, consumers prefer to buy from people rather than brands, so having real people posting recommendations of your products and services will drive real connections with consumers.
Strengthen the community around your brand – Community is super important for the modern brand, and connecting your loyal customers, social media fans, and other affiliates together will create stronger ties to your company that spur on even more people to get involved.
Achieve an ROI that is hard to beat – Brand ambassador programs are one of the top performers among the marketing stack when it comes to return on investment. Low up-front costs combined with the power of word of mouth makes a perfect storm for driving sales.
Start Your Ambassador Program in 5 Steps
Step 1: Set Your Program Goals and Structure
Having clear goals and expectations set before building your program is a crucial first step. There are many things you’ll want to get ironed out before you bring anyone on to your team – from the perks you’ll offer, to who you’ll recruit.
Important questions to answer before you proceed to the next step:
What will you consider successful performance? – Are you focusing on increasing brand awareness or sales? If brand awareness, what actions will you track (content created, social engagement, page views, subscribers, link clicks, etc.)? If sales, how will you measure sales success (add to carts, average order value, number of orders, dollar amount of sales, etc.)?
How will you track this performance? – Once you know what you’re tracking, you must decide how you’ll track it. How will you keep track of which ambassadors are driving results? For example, the most common methods for this are affiliate links and referral (coupon) codes that are unique to each ambassador and therefore, when used by a customer, can be attributed back to the correct program member.
How will you reward this performance? – When an ambassador drives success, how will they be rewarded? Will you reward them in cash, gift cards, store credit, or products? Will you reward them per link click, per post, per sale? How will you send their rewards to them?
What other perks (if any) will you offer? – Will you offer any perks outside of the rewards for their performance? For example, some brands like to send out a monthly product gift, or offer all ambassadors exclusive access to discounts and other perks.
How will this program fit into your margins? – Now that you know what perks you’re offering, make sure they fit into your business’ margins. Factor in the discounts, payments, and products you’re offering to your ambassadors with any order discounts for the customer, the costs of product, shipping costs, etc. and try to estimate where you’ll land with each ambassador-driven order. Most of the time, brands end up with a lower CAC (cost to acquire a customer) per ambassador-driven sale than they were spending on other channels, such as paid advertising.
What will you call your ambassadors? – Some brands prefer to call their brand ambassadors by a different name, like creators, partners, affiliates, VIPs, brand reps, advocates, or influencers. Make sure whatever label you decide on is used consistently throughout your program messaging so you don’t confuse your members.
Who is your ideal program member? – What platforms (i.e. TikTok, YouTube, Instagram) are they most present on? How big is their audience? Does their page have clear tie-ins with your niche? Have they purchased or used your products/services before? These are all questions you should ask yourself to create a profile of your ideal ambassador, which will be helpful to have nailed down before recruitment.
What is your ideal program size? – There is no right or wrong answer to this. Some brands work with 10 ambassadors, some have 10,000. Your ideal size will depend on your unique brand, but this number is important to know before recruitment.
How will you facilitate everything? – This is one of the most important things to figure out before you get started. With all the moving parts associated with brand ambassador programs (recruitment, tracking, attribution, payments, etc.), they can be very time-consuming to manage. Will you go at it alone, or will you utilize a brand ambassador management tool that can automate the tasks for you? For example, Buzzbassador offers a fully automated brand ambassador management software that starts at just $39/month.
Step 2: Recruit Your First Ambassadors
Now that you know exactly who you are looking for and how your program will work, it’s time to recruit. This is often the most daunting part of the process for brands. With so many potential ambassadors out there and so many places to look, finding the right people for you can be overwhelming.
But rest assured, there are quite a few options to find the perfect ambassadors for you– many of which are free. Below we’ll cover some best practices pre-recruiting, and then our most recommended ways to go about recruitment.
Best practices before you start outreach
Create an information page or PDF to send them – Think of recruiting ambassadors like selling - you have to show them something to convince them why this program is worth their time and effort. Many brands prefer to have a page on their website for the sole purpose of “selling” the ambassador program and listing out the perks and incentives. You can create a page like this with Buzzbassador; here’s an example:
Create an intake form to collect their information – In order to work with an ambassador, you’ll need to have certain information from them, such as their email address, mailing address (if you want to send them gifts), social media handles, and payment information. To avoid having to retroactively collect this information later on, it’s easiest to just ask them for this as a part of the recruitment process. A lot of businesses create ambassador intake forms where interested ambassadors can fill out their information as the first step towards joining the program. You can create a form like this easily within Buzzbassador; here’s an example:
Have a few outreach templates prepared – Write up a few scripts to easily copy and paste when you’re reaching out to the ambassadors. This will save you time and headache later. Come up with several variants that you can send over either social media DM or email. With your outreach, you want to make sure it’s personable, polite, and concise – and never pushy or spammy. Here’s an example:
“Hey [their first name]! [Your first name] here, I’m a [your title] at [your brand name]. My team and I have been searching for [partners, brand reps, etc.] for our new [brand ambassador, influencer, etc.] program that we’re launching in [launch month], and you’ve come up in several of our searches. Every time we have come across your page we have really liked your content, and we think you could be a great fit for our brand. No pressure at all, but I just wanted to reach out and see if you’d be interested in working with us?
Here’s more details about what we’re offering you: [link to landing page or pdf].
Let me know what you think! Thanks [their first name]!”
Start recruiting your ambassadors (5 ideas)
Recruiting customers – Recruiting from your customers is a great first step, as they are already familiar with your brand and likely willing to recommend it, especially for an incentive. Try reaching out to your top customers about joining your ambassador program. Or, you can even promote your program to every customer by linking to it somewhere in your checkout page or post-purchase page.
Paid ad search – Running paid ads that you’re “Searching for ambassadors” with a link to your recruitment page or application form is another option to recruit ambassadors.
Additional resource: Check out our YouTube video covering more tips on searching for ambassadors from your customers and by using paid ads
TikTok Creator Marketplace – A completely free tool to find ambassadors on TikTok. Check it out here.
Instagram search – Searching on Instagram through the explore page, hashtags, and other methods is another completely free way to find ambassadors on Instagram. Watch this video for more tips for finding ambassadors on Instagram.
Platform marketplace or discovery tool – If you did decide to use a brand ambassador management software, they may have an ambassador marketplace or discovery tool built into the platform that you can use. If not, there are plenty of options out there, like the newly launched Shopify Collabs creator marketplace (free). Also, Buzzbasador is launching its own in-platform ambassador discovery tool very soon -- sign up here to be notified when it’s live!
Step 3: Onboard Your New Ambassadors
As you find the right ambassadors, it’ll be time to add them to your program. In step 1, you identified how your program would be structured and how you would facilitate it. How your onboarding process works will depend on the structure you chose, but most ambassador programs will require the steps listed below.
Onboarding Checklist Example:
Send them a welcome message – It’s always a best practice to send new ambassadors an introductory email containing all the information they’ll need to know, like what your expectations of them are and the next steps they need to complete. Good communication is an important aspect of making your ambassador program successful.
Get any terms or contracts signed – this can include ambassador program terms & conditions if you have them. You should also consider having each ambassador sign an agreement that you have the rights to share the content they create for your brand.
Send out any promised up-front perks – If your program includes access to exclusive discounts or product gifts, make sure to get those sent out in a timely manner.
Create and assign sales attribution methods – This includes setting up referral codes, affiliate links, etc. for each ambassador.
Confirm key contact information – If there was any needed information you did not collect in an intake form during step 2, such as payment information or other details, make sure to collect and confirm that up front.
Add them to your ambassador software – If you are using an ambassador software to manage everything, you may want to add your ambassadors to it so they can keep track of their own sales and payments. For example, with Buzzbassador, every ambassador gets their own dashboard that they can log into any time to update their profile info, review their perks, and track sales and payments.
Step 4: Equip & Engage Your Ambassadors
A brand ambassador program doesn’t stop once you’ve gotten it set up. To have a successful program requires regular upkeep – your members will need your help throughout the program so that they can promote your brand effectively. Providing your ambassadors with tools to succeed allows you to further ensure their success while also making them feel more supported and engaged.
Ideas for Engaging Your Ambassadors
Plan around product drops – Do you have a new product coming out soon? Send your ambassadors a free sample to use and try out. They can use this sample to create content for this product ahead of the drop. When drop day comes, have everyone post this content, and you’ll hit the market with a huge promotion push on the big day. This creates excitement and a feeling of exclusivity within your ambassador community.
Guide their content – Often, the biggest blocker for ambassadors to perform is they don’t know how to promote you or what content to create. Providing them simple tools like a content calendar, an asset library, or examples and ideas for what kind of content you’d like to see can make a huge difference in their participation and performance.
Host competitions and events – Another great way to engage your ambassadors is to host sales competitions or events. For example, you could provide an extra incentive for the top 10 sales performers in a given period, or host a virtual content creation workshop.
Utilize engagement & community tools – There are plenty of tools you can use outside of any given ambassador management platform to help manage your ambassador community further. Common ones we see brands use are Facebook groups, Discord, and Slack.
Communicate regularly – Your ambassadors want to feel like they’re an important part of your brand (because they are!), so make sure you don’t leave them hanging. They should receive updates when they are paid, when they’ve generated sales, and when there are any changes to the program or your expectations for them. Many ambassador management softwares like Buzzbassador provide automated email updates. On top of that, aim to connect with your ambassadors at least once per month with a newsletter-style update. Provide them with exciting insight about what’s going on with the company, or just give them a chance to respond with questions or feedback. You can use a tool like Klaviyo for these monthly updates.
Step 5: Track & Reward Performance
Now your ambassadors are all set to perform, so you need to be ready to track and reward their performance.
Using the attribution structure (ex. affiliate links, referral codes, etc.) and reward structure (ex. cash, products, store credit, etc.) you decided on in step 1, it’s time to track and attribute your ambassador’s performance back to them and then reward them for it.
While this step can be handled manually using spreadsheets and other methods, it will definitely be much easier to keep track of using a brand ambassador management software. Using a software like Buzzbassador, all the ambassadors’ performance is tracked automatically, and the rewards you set are tallied up and readied for payment without any manual work required.