July 18, 2015
According to a report from Nielsen, 56 percent of buyers worldwide turn to friends and family to learn more about new products, making word-of-mouth the most common source for such information. In addition, the report shows social media is gaining traction as a common form of word-of-mouth marketing, with 26 percent of global respondents indicating they use social media to find information and recommendations about new products from friends and family. What does this mean for marketers? You can have a multi-million dollar media buying budgets and one of the most creative ads in the industry, but a reference from family, friends, or social media has been shown to provide more value.
When you have a trusted product and stellar customer service that that brings true value to your customers, word-of mouth happens naturally. However, while the average customer might recommend your product or service to a few family members or friends, he or she likely won’t take the extra time and effort to advocate and move the needle for your brand. One way you can change this is by building a brand ambassador program – identifying leaders in various communities and turning them into evangelists for your company.
Payoneer’s Brand Ambassador Program – launched in 2014 and now live in 12 countries including Argentina, Egypt, and India – has become a driving force in enabling us to expand our reach in emerging markets where many global businesses have faced challenges. Whether you run a global business or just launched a startup in one country such as the U.S., several of the lessons we’ve learned while building out our brand ambassador program can be applied to your business.
Here are seven strategies to help you get your brand ambassador program off the ground, enabling your brand to be seen in a whole different light:
- Set and strive for clear goals.
Don’t lose track of the ultimate goal of any marketing effort, which is accelerating growth. Set reachable goals such as how many locations to launch your brand ambassador program, and how many brand ambassadors are ideal in each region. Unlike advertising, email marketing and other efforts, there isn’t a clear way to measure the ROI of a brand ambassador program. However, with the right ambassadors in place, it has potential to grow your customer base worldwide. In the long run, such a program can increase word-of-mouth, customer loyalty and number of brand advocates. Results might not be clear overnight but after a few months of measuring the growth of your brand awareness in markets where your program is live, you should start to really see positive results of your effort.
- Clearly define the selection process.
How will you select and appoint your brand ambassadors? Some companies choose to have an “open route” when it comes to brand ambassadors, allowing anyone to sign up, while others hand-pick customers who are the most loyal and enthusiastic about your brand. With the first route, this opens the door to hundreds of ambassadors, which increases their reach but decreases the control you have over the program. However, hand selecting ambassadors allows more control over the program and ensures the ambassadors truly love and advocate for your brand. An added bonus for your company if brand ambassadors are already respected as influencers via high social media engagement, contributions to popular blogs, or being well-known in the local event circuit.
- Adapt your brand ambassador program to different regions.
As you scale your brand ambassador program you will start to discover which activities and events work best. While it’s good to replicate this in additional locations, always localize your strategy when you expand your brand ambassador program in new regions. Some countries might be more receptive to events and forums while others tend to be more active on social media. In addition, specific activities might be more common at events in one region than they are in another. Just as you need to localize other aspects of your business strategy when you expand to new regions, this is no exception with a brand ambassador program.
- Bring people together.
One of the most important ways that your ambassadors offer value is by bringing people together. Online activities like webinars or forums are good but nothing can replace the power of human interaction. You can find ambassadors in cities or countries where you and your team rarely visit and have them host meetups, roundtables, and other exclusive networking events.
- Remember – swag goes a long way.
What better way for your ambassadors to spread word-of-mouth awareness than by taking a crate full of swag everywhere they go? If your ambassadors are wearing or handing out branded t-shirts, pens, laptop bags, and more, it’s a great way for them to start the conversation about what your brand does and its benefits. If ambassadors host forums or meetups, make sure the venue is really well branded with banners, flyers, and more. Like your ambassadors, the content at meetups and other events should be independent. Consider inviting industry experts and other solution providers to share insights but make sure they’re standing in front of a company branded backdrop and behind a branded podium. Pictures of your event will likely pop up on social media and you want it to be clear that your company has hosted the event.
- Don’t view it as a referral program.
Don’t confuse an ambassador program with a referral or affiliate program. Your ambassadors should not be incentivized by driving registrations or lead generation or else they will totally lose the independence that gives them the credibility you need. Every action by your brand ambassadors should be based around how best to grow your brand and local image, rather than delivering one or two more direct sign-ups. The new customers will flood in as long as they trust the ambassador.
- Show your ambassadors appreciation.
Like all relationships, this one needs to be mutually beneficial. If you want brand ambassadors to stand proud in advocating for your company, you need to show them some love in return. Think about small gestures that show your appreciation, including adding them to your website, inviting them to guest blog for you and granting them time with your executives.
Before launching a brand ambassador program, accept that it will be a long process requiring investment time to build out. While you won’t see measurable results instantly, all you need to get started is one person – your first ambassador in your first location. Keep in mind you’ll need other supporting marketing elements down the road, including landing pages, social campaigns and email blasts can come later. The most important step is to start out with a customer who is already enthusiastic about your product to become an evangelist for your brand and invite this customer to kick off the program. You’ll be reaping the rewards in no time!
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