Word-of-mouth marketing remains one of the most effective tools at a company’s disposal; 74 percent of consumers identify word of mouth as one of their top points of influence. Rather than hoping word-of-mouth marketing occurs organically, many companies are taking matters into their own hands by creating brand ambassador programs.
A brand ambassador program takes advantage of the passion of your most enthusiastic fans. By giving them exclusive benefits and the autonomy to carry your message to consumers, you can create a word-of-mouth marketing campaign that thrives for years to come.
IMAGE: DAILY FINANCE
Successful Brand Ambassador Programs
Brand ambassador programs are becoming more and more common, and examining what companies are doing right can help your brand ambassador program succeed.
Lululemon does more than sell athletic gear; it sells a lifestyle. The company’s target audience is youthful, active, vibrant and hip, and its brand ambassador program reflects this. Lululemon’s brand ambassadors have the kind of lifestyle the company encourages, and they do so in a public way. In return, Lululemon rewards them with autonomy, free products and, most importantly, recognition.
Because the brand ambassadors reinforce the company’s mission and values, Lululemon’s audience can relate to the mission and values. Lululemon involves athletes specifically as ambassadors, ensuring its products will be used in a context that makes sense and looks good.
Maker’s Mark has long been a big name in bourbon, and the company works hard to stay that way. Its ambassador program, the Embassy, achieves this by treating its members as VIPs. Members of the Embassy get a variety of exclusive perks like business cards and access to special tastings; they even get their name burned into the side of a bourbon barrel.
In exchange, members of the Embassy are knowledgeable about Maker’s Mark bourbon, talk about it frequently and recommend it to everyone. The ambassador program creates a level of enthusiasm and loyalty for the brand that members feel good about passing on, turning people into Maker’s Mark customers or even recruiting more members for the Embassy.
Luxury car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz officially sponsors a number of car clubs throughout Europe, providing members with Mercedes-Benz membership cards. Members gain access to the Mercedes-Benz museum, discounts at a variety of locations and even exclusive trips with the company. In addition, members get discounts on parts and maintenance, making them more likely to keep buying Mercedes-Benz cars.
Because Mercedes-Benz owners are often seen driving their cars, that simple act creates brand awareness for the company. Because club members are treated well and given exclusive benefits, they’re likely to extol the virtues of Mercedes-Benz cars to those they meet.
How To Create A Successful Brand Ambassador Program
Each of the companies above succeeds in creating an effective brand ambassador program for similar reasons. The following five steps are key.
Set Realistic Goals
Knowing what you want to achieve with your brand ambassador program is critical and informs how you structure it and implement it. If you want more brand awareness, that requires a different structure and different incentives than a brand ambassador program designed to create a blog or social media content. Come up with one or two specific, measurable goals you want to achieve with the program.
Define Program Structure
What do your ambassadors get in return for their service? What do you call them? How will you support their ability to do the work? How will you reward them for success? Outline a plan for the program. Get as specific as you can about how different aspects will work, how you’ll deal with expected issues and how your ambassadors will interact with the program.
What does success look like? How can you tell if your brand ambassador program is working? Know the metrics you’ll use to measure the program and determine whether it’s providing value. Think about this from the ambassadors’ perspective, too: Are you providing value to them? Is it the kind of value they want from you? Brand ambassadors are so passionate about your company that they’re willing to do work on their own time to help you succeed. Are you rewarding that behavior in a way that makes them feel valued?
Highlight Community Members
Make sure you recognize specific members of the ambassador community for their efforts. This has more than one purpose. First, it makes the ambassadors feel good (and valued) and like they’re getting recognition for a job well-done. Second, it allows you to highlight someone who’s modeling the behavior you want to see more often. When you give someone accolades, others will try to find ways to get their own recognition. Finally, highlighting community members helps spread brand awareness. In addition to your own message, the highlighted ambassador and other members of the community will share the story, bringing it to the people in their circles.
Allow Community Control
Giving brand ambassadors control over how they promote your company not only inspires creativity but also gives them a sense of ownership and investment in the company. Giving a non-employee control over your message can be scary, but it implies trust, and a brand ambassador who feels trusted is more likely to have positive feelings about your company and to spread the word. Sometimes you’ll get results you don’t expect, but if you’ve done the work of constructing an effective brand ambassador program, those will be pleasant surprises more often than not.
An online degree in business management or an online MBA from Philadelphia University can give you the tools necessary to create your own successful brand ambassador program. By understanding marketing principles, learning business practices and gaining effective communication skills, you can build a brand ambassador program to help your company stand out.
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