How to Build a Brand Ambassador Program for Your Business
Being a successful marketer means keeping an eye on the horizon for the next big thing: the next social media platform, trade show, and new customers. But great marketing involves more than what’s coming down the line — it also means effectively leveraging the people who already stand by your brand and its offerings.
Just like new prospects, existing customers have a life cycle, and it’s imperative to keep them engaged throughout it. With the endless outlets and communication channels available, there’s no excuse for not keeping your existing customers happy and enthused. Not doing so leaves them feeling unappreciated and results in a stale customer experience with your business.
Your customers chose your business because of the connection they felt during the sales cycle. You undoubtedly worked hard for their business; the last thing you should do is abandon that trust and connection. Instead, start leveraging those emotional bonds and turn your customers into champions for your brand.
In other words, start building brand ambassadors.
Defining Brand Ambassadors
What exactly is a brand ambassador? While it seems like a bit of a buzzword, it’s just an evolution of the oldest strategy in the book: word-of-mouth advertising. And it’s still one of the most effective and credible forms of marketing today.
A brand ambassador is someone representing and advertising your company to help build a positive embodiment of your business’s identity. Through their words and actions, they provide ongoing word-of-mouth marketing to help solidify your brand as a compelling force in your industry.
Consider this: Businesses make $6.50 for every dollar they invest in brand ambassadors and influencer marketing. When it comes to effective marketing, that’s a massive ROI.
While good brand ambassadors don’t necessarily require set qualifications, there are a few things to consider. For starters, they’re experts in talking about your business, both online and off. They’re the people who know and understand your company and its offerings from top to bottom.
Secondly, they have a solid social presence. They’re the people with a big social media following or a successful blog, and plenty of people turn to them for advice. They’re the social media influencers.
What Brand Ambassadors Do
A brand ambassador’s job is to cultivate the relationships between your business and your future customers. These advocates are out in the weeds, from personal blogs to myriad social media platforms, championing your products and services day after day. With social media, in particular, these ambassadors effectively use their platforms to promote the companies and causes they care most about.
Why Your Business Needs Brand Ambassadors
There’s no getting around it: Your company’s success is determined in large part by its popularity and reputation. From their conversations on social media to the comments and reviews they leave on websites, what people say about your brand online has a meaningful impact.
What’s changed in recent years is who people turn to when deciding on a product or service. Almost three-quarters of people turn to social media to help make purchase decisions. And just under half of all people rely on the opinions of influencers to guide them in the right direction.
It’s simply not enough to leverage traditional marketing and branding strategies. You need authentic brand advocates: real people in the real world sharing your product and mission because it resonates with them. These personal and passionate referrals resonate far better with your future customers than any other marketing strategy.
Here are the reasons why.
They Provide a Human Element
Even with the best visual identity and corporate branding, a business is still only a name and an image. Even companies that leverage professional models don’t necessarily connect with target audiences on a human level.
Ambassadors provide your business the human touch it needs to connect with prospects you’d otherwise miss. They help make your business more human and accessible to your audience. Future customers and even potential job applicants are more likely to engage with your brand if a real person advocates it.
They Provide Authenticity for Your Brand
Consumers are skeptical these days. They don’t take what you have to say about your brand for granted. Instead, they do their homework and find independent voices before making a decision. They look to popular blogs or ask people on social media about a product or service before buying in.
Brand ambassadors promote a business, product, or service because they believe in it, not because you’re paying them. Ambassadors have the honesty and authenticity needed to get through to otherwise wary prospects who remain unconvinced of your business’s efficacy.
They Improve Marketing and Recruiting
A great brand ambassador is a positivity machine for your brand and its offerings. By independently championing your cause, they help mold the public’s perception of your business in the most effective way possible. They essentially function as an additional sales rep, marketer, and support team all rolled into one.
They Invigorate Your Company’s Social Presence
Brand ambassadors typically have a commanding online presence. Think of the influencers in your industry — the people with extensive social media connections who have established themselves as an authority. These people can reach many prospects with a single tweet or status update, creating a robust social media presence for your brand.
Even your corporate website benefits from these influencers. Because of their social following, brand ambassadors can drive significant traffic to your site, whether it’s new prospects or talent looking for new opportunities.
They’re a Support Channel for Your Business
When prospects look to social media and blogs for information about your products and services, they’re essentially looking for support. Even your current customers have questions, whether it’s the best way to utilize your service or simply need help troubleshooting one of your products.
In these instances, brand ambassadors serve as a support channel for your business, answering questions your prospects have and guiding your existing customers through their issues.
They Change Minds
Even the best brands need to deal with negative word-of-mouth. Whether it’s a disgruntled customer on social media or a scathing review in a blog post, bad press is a reality of business. Dealing with that bad press is a part of every marketing and PR strategy.
A good ambassador can help shift these negative perceptions and even change minds for the better. An independent voice outside the brand is far more effective at squelching lousy press than a PR rep.
Cultivating Brand Ambassadors
By now, you’re probably of the mind that successfully promoting your products, services, and business is a tricky proposition without leveraging brand ambassadors. Cultivating the authentic voices that believe in your company is an integral part of any marketing strategy.
Plenty of companies invest in a formal ambassador program. And they certainly experience success in doing so, but it’s not necessary. There are several things you can do right now to nurture your business’s would-be ambassadors organically.
Keep Training Your Customers
Depending on your business’s offerings, new customers might require training to get up to speed. Even companies with simple products or services need to field questions and help their customers along their journeys. Throwing documents and webinars at them in the hopes they provide the right answers is a mistake.
Instead, engage with your customers regularly. Send them periodic emails to see how they’re acclimating to your products and services. Ask them if they have any feedback. Doing so makes them feel seen, appreciated, and understood, and it’s far more effective than any whitepaper or webinar.
Another good way to help inform your customers is to set up a regular newsletter, as it enables you to touch your entire customer base at one time, providing them with ongoing training, product updates, and company changes. An informed customer is a happy customer.
Two Words: Social Media
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of social media. But don’t just use it for sending out automated blasts — use it to engage with your customers and prospects. Read and respond to comments on your company’s blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feeds. Engage in conversations with your customers, so you understand their questions and concerns. Learn to listen to them.
Listening to the conversations people have about your brand helps you manage and guide those conversations. In turn, this improves perception and helps turn happy customers into champions for your business. There are even several tools you can leverage to stay on top of the chatter about your business.
- You can use Google Alerts to find mentions of your brand online.
- Reputology, Mention and Social Mention are paid brand-monitoring tools that comb the web for mentions and track your brand reputation.
- The social media platforms you use have built-in notifications that let you know when someone engages with you or tags you in a post.
- Oktopost is a great business tool for aggregating mentions of your brand into one spot from all of your social media channels.
With the right tools and the endless notifications available to you, you can stay ahead of the curve in responding to what people are saying about your brand. You can put out potential media fires before they spread or fan the flames of positive comments at a moment’s notice. After all, in marketing, timing is everything.
Be one with Twitter. Make friends with Facebook. Embrace the LinkedIn lifestyle. Social media is your single biggest ally in engaging your current and future customers.
Leverage Customer Feedback
All too often, businesses have all the information they need to improve their offerings and still fail to do so. If your customers aren’t satisfied, you need to listen to them and understand why. Even if they’re simply ending contracts without so much as a comment, there’s a reason.
Whether through a newsletter, heavy social media engagement, or a forum on your website, you need to provide a way for your customers to share their opinions, suggestions, and feedback. More importantly, they need to feel heard. And they feel listened to when they see their feedback put into action.
When your customers provide feedback on your products and services and see it implemented, they feel emotionally invested in your brand. It strengthens the relationship and fosters incredible brand loyalty.
Besides, your customers have a perspective that you might not have. Many of them have spent time researching and learning about all the solutions available to them. They know what your competitors have that you’re missing.
Use Promotions to Boost Conversations
The best brand ambassadors talk about your brand because they love it. But other potential advocates need a little incentive to share their love with a larger audience. Promotions through social media can help liven the conversations around your brand and encourage would-be ambassadors to share those conversations with more and more people.
For example, a bed and breakfast could offer a free weekend stay to people who share social media offers. A software business could offer a free subscription for those who do the same. If what you’re selling is genuinely great, it won’t take much to get the people who love your brand talking about it. Their authenticity is their superpower, and it’s contagious.
The Bottom Line Isn’t the Bottom Line
It’s easy to focus on the bottom line. After all, you can’t keep customers happy if you can’t keep the lights on. But it’s important to balance bringing in new customers with listening to and satisfying your existing ones. When you focus on quantity over quality, your customers feel it. And none of them want to be just another number.
Instead, transform your best customers into brand ambassadors through education, training, honest engagement, and open communication. Most importantly, listen to them and let them know their feedback guides your business. These are the people who know your business inside and out and spread good things about it throughout the industry. They’re the most credible form of advertising you can invest in, and they know when they’re appreciated.
Help Build Brand Ambassadors with SugarCRM
Staying connected to your customers is crucial. Listening to their questions and comments and taking action to build better products and services is what separates the best brands from the other boring businesses. But to do this effectively, you need the right tools.
SugarCRM is a cutting-edge platform that helps you turn today’s happy customers into tomorrow’s brand ambassadors. By combining the best in marketing and sales automation and customer service, SugarCRM takes the busy work out of nurturing your customers so you can focus on solving their problems and providing real value. Get started today by requesting a demo, and we’ll show you how everything changes when you let the platform do the work.