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A good advertisement can go a long way. But when potential customers hear positive things about your products from a third party, it tends to mean a little bit more.
Enter the brand ambassador. These ambassadors can be online influencers, celebrities, or everyday people who agree to rep your brand in exchange for a commission on the referrals they send your shop.
Given that 92% of customers trust word-of-mouth advertising more than any other form, a brand ambassador is especially useful in the age of social media. But it’s not enough to hire one brand ambassador for your online presence and call it a day.
Here’s how to start a brand ambassador program to turn word-of-mouth advertising into a system you can keep repeating.
Who Should Set Up A Brand Ambassador Program?
Not every business is ready for a brand ambassador program. If you’re barely shipping out products, you might not be able to handle the influx of traffic a high-powered brand ambassador can send your way. Here are a few obstacles to overcome before you build your first ambassador program:
- Revenue — Yes, brand ambassador programs are partly to drive up your revenue. Think of a $1 million minimum in revenue as a rule of thumb here. Why? You need to establish a working business first. If one brand ambassador makes your product go viral, the glut of orders can do more harm than good, causing stoppages. It’s better to prep your business for new orders first.
- A structure for collecting UGC — User-generated content (like videos, testimonials, and customer reviews) can be worth its weight in gold. When new users find your store, a website full of UGC looks credible. It shows off happy customers. And that trust translates into conversions for all the traffic your brand ambassadors send you.
- Conversions — Speaking of conversions, try to make sure yours are up to par before you start your program. The average landing page conversion rate can be as high as 2.5%. If you’re far below that, you might have to ask yourself why before you can handle the new traffic.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for when you’re ready to set up a brand ambassador program. But keeping the above in mind will give you an idea of the preparation you might need before you’re ready to unveil a program for brand ambassadors.
How To Set Up A Brand Ambassador Program Step-By-Step
Setting up your brand ambassador program isn’t just a simple point-and-click. You need to please two types of people: your future customers and your future brand ambassadors. Here are the essential steps to ensure you onboard them both.
Set Goals For Your Brand Ambassador Program
You first need a barometer for your success. What will it look like when you can step back and declare “job well done”? Is it going to be conversion rate? Revenue growth? Ambassador-specific conversions? ROI? There are plenty of metrics to choose from, but only you know what will make the juice of your brand ambassador program worth the squeeze.
These numbers are important because they’ll help you build the offering you create for brand ambassadors. For example, Outdoor Voices’ brand ambassador program includes 14% commissions on all referred purchases, while referred friends get 20% off their purchases. Outdoor Voices can do this because they know what it’s worth to them to attract new customers. Your own goals will help you do the same.
Identify Your Ideal Brand Ambassador
Next up: who’s the type of person who can help you achieve those goals? You can dial in on the answer by asking about the types of influencers who resonate with your audience. There are a few ways to get answers:
- Run customer surveys — Look for customer feedback. What are customers saying about your advertising or user experience? What types of influencers do they tend to follow on social media? And the ever-important question: how did customers discover you?
- Get feedback from your customer support team — These people remain dialed into your customers’ desires and frustrations. What are the universal characteristics that define most customers? And what types of brand ambassadors might fit that mold?
Knowing your ideal brand ambassador isn’t just for your reference. It’s for theirs. When a potential brand ambassador clicks on your brand ambassador program page, they should see images of people who share similar interests. The more relevant your brand ambassadors are to your specific audience, the better the chance they’ll resonate.
Set Your Program Structure And Requirements
Now it’s time to talk specifics. Build a brand ambassador program checklist before you seek them out. If you don’t, they’re going to ask these questions anyway:
- What commissions do you pay out? — For example, Outdoor Voices' referral commission is 12%. Think about other details here. Are you going to cap that commission, for example, or leave it uncapped?
- Do you offer discounts for referred purchases? — Let’s go to Outdoor Voices again. They offer discounts on both sides of the brand ambassador referral spectrum. This isn’t a requirement but is certainly an additional incentive for potential customers.
- What are your brand ambassador standards? — Let’s say you sell a family-friendly product. The kind you wouldn’t want to associate with adult influencers. Don’t just assume brand ambassadors know your standards. Create a thorough document of your brand voice guidelines and how your ambassadors can match it. Use examples when relevant.
Set Up Brand Ambassador Rewards
Let’s zoom into every brand ambassador’s favorite subject: the rewards. Ambassadors may have passion for your product and your market, but without adequate rewards, they might not be able to drive the kind of traffic you want to see. You have a few options here:
- What triggers a brand ambassador reward? — Do rewards pay out when a brand ambassador sends a customer your way? When that customer makes a purchase? When the friend signs up for a referral program? Make your decision early so you can tell brand ambassadors exactly where they should point their work.
- One-sided or two-sided rewards? — One-sided rewards incentivize only the brand ambassador. But if you have a relatively unknown brand, you may have to “introduce” yourself to customers with additional incentives. Two-sided rewards can help you out here. They can help uncertain customers make the leap and buy from your brand for the first time.
- Gift cards or payouts? — Do you pay brand ambassadors direct fees? Do you add gift card points or online shopping points for their referrals? It might sound like a small distinction, but for your brand ambassadors, it can mean the difference between making a living and being a brand enthusiast.
Find And Reach Out To Potential Brand Ambassadors
At this point, your brand ambassador program should start taking shape. You’ve defined the parameters. You know what you’re going to pay brand ambassadors, how you’re going to pay them, and what you expect from them. You’ve set your goals in place. Now? You just need to find them.
Don’t take the Field of Dreams approach. You know: “if you build it, they will come.” Your website might not yet have enough traffic to support that kind of approach. Instead, you can start with the emails you already have on file. Create an outreach email that outlines why you’re contacting them and what it might mean to become a brand ambassador with your company. It can look like this:
But that’s not all. You shouldn’t leave any stones unturned if you’re trying to build traction for your brand. Get loud. And use the following tactics to find your potential ambassadors:
- Social media searches — Run a search on Twitter, for example, to see who’s engaging with your brand hashtags. Are there positive reviews? Influencers who have expressed admiration for your products?
- Software programs — You can find online software that will help you identify brand ambassadors by exposing you to a list of people who have done similar work for other brands. You can also use Friendbuy software integrations to expand the outreach potential of your brand ambassador emails.
- Customer data — Who are the mega-loyal customers who might want to hear about a brand ambassador program?
- Influencer marketing platforms — Not every ideal brand ambassador is already a customer. They might already have a following and a listing on an influencer marketing platform, waiting for you to discover them.
- Formal application forms — When you eventually draw enough traffic, add some application forms to your website. This way, potential brand ambassadors will approach you as “leads.”
- An informal application process — Outreach, networking, and in-person events can be great ways to meet people who might be interested in repping your brand as an ambassador.
Ideally, more brand ambassadors will reach out to you than you could ever need. But that’s not always going to be the case, especially in the beginning. To kickstart your experience, learn how to identify and invite potential ambassadors. Over time, you may learn to hone in on the ambassadors who end up driving the most conversions.
A/B Test Your Brand Ambassador Program
Congratulations, you’re done. That is, if your brand ambassador program gets off to a roaring start. But chances are, it might not be the immediate success you’d hoped it would be. That’s okay. As long as you have a method of A/B testing in place, you can improve the program over time.
What can you A/B test? The answer is simple: everything. Your brand ambassador email outreach subject lines are one element. The email copy? Another element. You can A/B test calls to action on your website, the location of those CTAs, and elements on your brand ambassador landing page, like the “hero image” that pulls it all together.
Your goal should be to improve one element of your brand ambassador sales pitch at a time. It should also be to improve the ambassador program itself. You can test different incentives to see which resonate with the influencers in your market.
Once you get used to A/B testing, you’ll find there are all sorts of elements you can improve. For example, the widget header, the best ways users can share information about the brand ambassador programs, and images in the referral shares.
These minute improvements might seem insignificant at the time. But as you attract new customers with your brand ambassador program, you should slowly start to see the cumulative impact start to work. Brand referrals will become more effective. More ambassadors will see it working, and soon they’ll want to join. Eventually, word will spread. And you may find that you don’t have to do much outreach anymore, as brand ambassadors are coming to you.
Take the example above. This simple email provides a link for brand ambassadors to share with their audience. Notice all of the elements in this email you can A/B test:
- Hero images
- Brand rewards, including both commissions and customer rewards
- Naming the brand ambassador program
- Subject line
That’s just a small selection. Once you start building out your brand ambassador program with a platform like Friendbuy, you’ll see two things. First, it’s easy to put together your first brand ambassador program. Second, you can test almost every element after you start it. This means your brand ambassador program isn’t just a one-time launch. It’s a program you can continuously improve until you see the results you want to see.
Interested In Putting Together Your Own Brand Ambassador Program?
When it’s up and running, a brand ambassador program can feel like a perpetual motion machine. You’ll barely have to lift a finger for new sales. Brand ambassadors will be more than happy to do the referring themselves. But as physics teaches us, perpetual motion is a myth. Your brand will have to supply the energy that gets the ball rolling. You can do that with an effective brand ambassador program: one that offers generous incentives, continually improves its offerings, and learns how to reach out to potential ambassadors.