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.
Successful Brand Ambassador Programs
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 them. 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 manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz enjoy exceptionally loyal owners. To connect to them, 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
According to brand ambassador software provider Upward Labs, brands should follow several key steps when creating a brand ambassador program.
Set Realistic Goals
Knowing what you want to achieve with your brand ambassador program is critical and informs how you structure 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 blog or social media content. Come up with one or two specific, measurable goals you want to achieve.
Define Program Structure
What do your ambassadors get in return for their service? What do you call them? How will you support and reward them? Outline a plan for the program. Get as specific as you can about how it will work, how you’ll deal with expected issues and how your ambassadors will interact with the program.
What does success look like? 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? 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 their 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 like they’re getting recognition for a job well-done. Second, it allows you to highlight someone who’s modeling behavior you want to see more often. Finally, highlighting community members helps spread brand awareness. The 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. A brand ambassador who feels trusted is more likely to have positive feelings about your company and spread the word.
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