Ambassador programs are nothing new. If you’ve ever used a punch card to keep track of purchases and eventually received something for free, you’ve been an ambassador, albeit a horribly under-used one…
At the end of the day, ambassador programs are designed with two main goals in mind: (1) to build a relationship with the customers that love you most and (2) to leverage those customers to increase customers, sales, market share, etc. As the Harvard Business Review coins it, the new “Consumer Decision Journey” requires an emphasis on the aforementioned goals of relationship building and credible network building.
But how do you find and leverage this extremely valuable group of customers? Below are some tips from our experience that will hopefully help you think through the process.
Have a goal from the beginning.
For example, one of our clients told us that they had an ex-employee writing bad reviews after he/she had been fired. Knowing this ahead of time allowed us to construct an ambassador program that focused on generating positive recommendations, reviews, and online sentiment. Ambassador programs can be used to drive event attendance, to drive website traffic, to increase sales, and more. Knowing exactly what your pain point is and how your ambassadors will solve it will allow you to create an impactful ambassador program with a clear focus.
Have a bulletproof system for sifting out your best ambassadors.
Great ambassadors possess three key traits: they love your brand, they love to talk, and they have some sort of online presence. The last one is optional but increasingly important. The question is – how do you find a group of these people? You need a system. Here are the parts to an effective ambassador identification process:
- Identify (super-duper) repeat customers. When we implemented an ambassador program for a tourist destination, we looked through survey data to find out who visited the most, who would represent a range of demographic profiles, and who made extremely positive comments about their experiences. This gave us a list of about 300 people. On the other hand, when implementing an ambassador program for a local salon, we empowered the hair stylists to recommend their most loyal clients. Finding your best customers will be slightly different for each company, but can usually be achieved with some mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis.
- Invite them to apply. Notice that this isn’t inviting them to become an ambassador (yet). This step usually involves having prospects fill out a short survey to identify their “word-of-mouth potential.” Which social networks do they use? Are they familiar with basic communication media such as email? The most crucial part of this step is to convey the benefit of an ambassador program to it’s participants, and also the benefits for the brand.
- Select your best candidates. Invite your desired participants into the program, while clearly articulating the program benefits and why they were chosen. Immediately give them a task or action they can complete – this ensures that you don’t fall off their radar immediately and also tests buy-in of your group.
The key here is not just to incentivize at any/all times, but rather to incentivize in strategic ways. First of all, we rarely use money, which helps to prevent people applying to the program who aren’t really in love with the brand. We want people to be applying first and foremost because they want to be closer to the brand, not because they want some extra cash in their pocket. Another tip for incentivizing is to not tie incentives to individual tasks, but rather tie them to performance/involvement on a large scale and at random times. This further prevents people just completing tasks for the incentive.
Metrics, metrics, metrics.
As with any investment, measurement is key. When measuring the effectiveness of your ambassador program, be sure to set up systems that capture the benefits your program might be creating. If your ambassadors are writing reviews, are you tracking referrals from those sites? If your ambassadors are trying out new products, are you tracking the feedback? Some other KPI’s we use are: views of ambassador comments (awareness), referrals from ambassadors (leads), and ambassador involvement (engagement).
I hope these steps shed some light on how successful ambassador programs work. However a key point is that ambassador program success is not built on the steps that you take but rather how you implement each step. It is extremely important to be communicating with these people in a way that is authentic, transparent, and communicates the value of a continued relationship.
About the Author
Andrew Krebs-Smith is the President/Founder of Social Fulcrum, a word of mouth marketing agency that leverages social media to create marketing campaigns designed around the strategy, goals, and situation of brands. He has worked on social media marketing campaigns for Fortune 50 companies including Pfizer and Microsoft. Contact andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org or @andrewks with any questions about social media marketing or digital strategy.