Brand ambassadors for startups are not quite the same as those for big brands such as L’Oreal. You’re never going to get Jennifer Aniston to promote your business I’m afraid. Give up on that dream right now.
No, in this article you’re going to learn why Moreen from Dorset and Frank from Teeside are some of your biggest marketing assets. And how you get them on board.
What is a brand ambassador?
As Wikipedia puts it, a brand ambassador is “a person who is hired by an organisation or company to represent a brand in a positive light and by doing so help to increase brand awareness and sales”.
Big businesses can pay tens of thousands of pounds to hire someone but as a startup you don’t need to do that. A simple gift, incentive, VIP membership or other reward would do it. But more on that later.
What’s more, the brand ambassadors you recruit don’t need to be famous, or incredibly influential, they just need to be credible and likeable (i.e. not a criminal, a liar or someone who offends others) and genuinely like what your business sells.
How can you use a brand ambassador?
If you think about all the platforms you use to market your business and engage with people, you’ll have a long list. And while it’s all very well telling everyone yourself that you’re the best, it makes a huge difference if other people are saying it too. Happy customers don’t just give you their money; they can help you generate revenue from others too.
And with the wide range of marketing approaches available today, that leaves you with a lot of ways to put brand ambassadors to good use.
Think social media, forums, reviews, customer service, referral campaigns, PR case studies and more….
Here’s a snapshot of some of them:
1. Promoting what you do to their friends, colleagues, network and family by word of mouth and social media
2. Talking about the impact your product or service had on their life or their business to the media as part of a case study/feature package
3. Providing a customer testimonial or case study about the impact your product or service had on their life or their business to post online or in sales collateral
4. Posting positive reviews on your social media channels or website
5. Joining discussions on forums and social media about what you do and mentioning your brand in a positive light
6. Acting as an unofficial customer service to help new customers to use your product or service or fix problems
As long as their link to your business is clear, i.e. they disclose if they are receiving any payment from you for talking about you then it’s allowed.
So now let’s talk about how you find them and how can you reward them.
How do you find brand ambassadors?
Unless you’re a brand new business, you’ll have a decent sized pool of people to consider for brand ambassador-dom.
We’ll cover B2B businesses and B2C businesses separately. So click on the one that applies to you to skip past the content that’s not relevant.
If your customers are businesses, it may be the case that you only work with 4-5 at a time. That doesn’t mean you only have 4-5 people to consider as brand ambassadors. NO.
Within each of your current clients, there’s likely to be a number of contacts you deal with. Each of them could be a brand ambassador contact.
You also need to consider ex-clients and within this group I mean old companies as well as old contacts that moved onto a different business. Just because they don’t use your products/services anymore, doesn’t mean they don’t still have a lot of respect for what you do.
You can also look at partners, suppliers and other companies that you work with. While they can’t endorse you as a customer, they can still talk about the impressive work they’ve witnessed you deliver. Often, an endorsement from a brand people recognise is more impactful than one from a small company they’ve never heard of.
Then it’s time to make an approach:
1. Approach these individuals on the platform that you usually communicate with them on
2. Consider how likely they are to agree to help you and if they’ll need a favour in return. If the favour is needed, have some ideas ready.
3. Don’t be vague in your request for their help. Be specific on what you’d like them to do whether that’s to speak to the media about your service, provide a testimonial for your website, retweet or share some of your social media content etc. The easier you can make it for them to say yes, the more likely they will.
If you need to reconnect with old contacts before making your approach, then spend some time relationship-rebuilding before asking them for a favour!
For a consumer audience, you have a large pool of brand ambassador candidates to choose from. And a variety of tools to attract them.
- Use your email list.
If you have a mailing list for your blog, sales announcements or other news, then within your next email you could include some opt-ins for brand ambassadors. These would include:
- a request asking people if they’d be willing to join a VIP group to help your business’s community
- Share buttons – just by sharing your content with their friends/peers, they’re being brand ambassadors and every little helps
2. Use your sales process.
Once your customers have bought something from you, give them an option to share the news on social media via the Thank You For Your Order page.
You can also add in referral links and voucher codes to your Thank You For Your Order emails that they can forward on to others to use.
- Social media
Everyone following you on social media is doing so because they are interested in your business. This is therefore an incredible source for brand ambassadors.
As with the email list point above, you could post that you are looking for people to join a VIP group to help the company and from that delegate tasks such as customer support, referral marketing and other promotional tasks.
Unlike businesses which have a reputation to uphold, there is some risk in using consumers to represent or promote your business, particularly if they have unpopular views or ever post offensive remarks. It’s important to do a thorough check of the individual before you appoint them as a brand ambassador and make sure you set ground rules on conduct.
Does it work?
One of the best examples I’ve come across is from GiffGaff. It calls itself the mobile network run by you and boy is that true.
They’ve built a community from their customers, using them to help and support each other, create their own newsletters and enough UGC (user generated content) to run their marketing efforts for years.