It seems influencer marketing keeps exponentially growing in popularity.
Looking at Google Trends, the data agrees:
The question is when you’ve established a relationship, what do you do then? According to Tapinfluence, 67.6% of marketers consider finding relevant influencers their largest influencer marketing challenge.
But what about after those campaigns have run their course? How do you turn influencer relationships into ongoing relationships geared towards growth?
For many industries, ambassador programs are the answer. They empower influencers with effective content while providing a solid and ongoing ROI.
Today, I’ll share four steps to executing effective ambassador marketing campaigns. You’ll learn how to identify and connect with the right influencers so you can serve their audiences and attract new customers.
Step 1: Identify Profitable Brand Ambassadors
A brand ambassador is a celebrity or influencer who organically advocates (or is paid to promote) the products and services of other brands.
But what are the characteristics of a great brand ambassador? What makes them so qualified to work with you and spread your message?
Most successful brand ambassadors (i.e., those who drive new sales) have these qualities in common:
- They have an online presence: Like influencer marketing, you should work with ambassadors who already have a loyal audience. Word-of-mouth marketing is only successful when “word” reaches as many people as possible.
- They have leadership skills: People like to be led. If given a chance, they’ll take the word of someone they trust over researching and evaluating options themselves. The best ambassadors ooze confidence and attract those who wish to listen.
- They gather insight: Ambassadors are constantly listening to and engaging with their audience. They’ll gather feedback on experiences with your products, providing intelligence to optimize your marketing efforts.
- They understand marketing: They know how to attract attention and persuade prospects to take action. Great ambassadors know how important authenticity is, and this is present in the messaging and content they create.
- They’re professional: Ambassadors represent your brand. They should have a level of professionalism, both in how they work with you and how they represent you. Having clear guidelines from the start can save any embarrassments down the road.
- They’re relationship-driven: Ambassadors and influencers alike value long-term relationships over one-off sales. And they want the same for your brand, too. The ambassadors you work with must be skilled at making connections on your behalf.
Now you know what you’re looking for in an ambassador. But where do you find great candidates to grow your brand? Here are some proven techniques to get you started:
1. Look At Your Social Platforms
Start by searching through the followers you already have. Who has already engaged with you and your content?
Influencers who have liked or commented on your content are already engaged candidates. Check out this example from TRNK:
The highlighted user above has over 20,000 followers, which would make a great candidate for their micro-influencer marketing efforts.
You can also search for relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. Use a broad keyword to see hashtag suggestions, as well as the number of posts associated with them:
The most popular posts appear at the top of the page. These are recent posts that have generated a notable amount of engagement:
The account associated with the highlighted post above has 85,000 followers – a great potential ambassador for our efforts.
2. Use BuzzSumo
Not only is BuzzSumo a great tool for content research, but identifying potential ambassadors, too.
Start by signing up for a free trial or use the free version. In the search bar, enter a keyword relevant to your niche:
Click the “view sharers” button next to the top results:
You’ll see a list of Twitter accounts that have shared this content. You can sort by metrics such as domain authority and average retweets per user.
In this instance, you’re looking for the most popular accounts, so sort results by “Twitter Followers:”
You now have a list of potential ambassadors to add to your list.
3. Tap Into Influencer Networks
Finally, some platforms will connect you with influencers based on specific criteria. Work with these influencers on short-term campaigns before nurturing them into ambassadors.
Upfluence provides a platform as well as done-for-you services. Their platform scours social platforms for user data, which you can filter using their platform:
Another great option is TRIBE, a self-service platform that connects brands with influencers with various audience sizes.
Self-service platforms like TRIBE’s allow marketers to spread their budget across several micro-influencers.
As part of an ambassador marketing strategy, this allows you to work with individuals on a small scale before starting a long-term relationship.
Key takeaway: work with influencers on a small scale first, then go deep on those who generate the best results.
Step 2: Effective Influencer Engagement
The best influencers are already busy working with other brands.
Getting their attention is going to take some work – just like any other form of outreach marketing. You need to get on your target influencer’s radar before going in for the “ask.”
The first step is simple. Start by commenting and liking the content they create. Contribute meaningful comments to their posts to show you’re not just copy-and-pasting a vague statement:
Once you’ve got their attention, gently start the conversation via direct message. Thank your candidates for the work they’re doing. Tell them what your favorite post is and why. For example:
“Hi NAME – Just wanted to reach out and express how much we love your handmade furniture. Keep up the good work!”
Be truly helpful to them. Value-added activity can be as simple as sharing content to your audience. Influencers consider this a huge gesture, especially when they’re trying so hard to build up their audience.
On Instagram, you could do this in the form of a “regram,” where you repost a target ambassador’s content and credit them with a link back to their profile:
Look for other ways to help them overcome challenges and achieve their goals.
For example, if an influencer is running a contest, sharing it on social media and including it in your email newsletter could be a big deal to them.
Once you’ve established familiarity, it’s time to reach out. Here’s a good example of an outreach template:
- Start by referring to a post/tweet you’ve interacted with
- Set the intention while being aware of how little you know each other
- Tell them why they specifically would be a good fit for your campaign
- A simple call-to-action
Once you’ve begun a working relationship, you need to make the job of promoting your brand as easy as possible.
Step 3: How To Motivate & Empower Your Ambassadors
Unlike many influencer marketing campaigns, ambassador marketing is a long game.
It should be a mutually beneficial relationship between your brand and the individual. Therefore, you should be adding as much value as they bring to you.
There are several ways to do this. One of the most common is to give them exclusive products and access to events.
Ambassadors usually want access to new products and services before the public. It means they get to create exclusive, unique content for their audience. Help them do that by giving a behind-the-scenes look at what’s to come.
Even better, assist ambassadors in the content creation process. Get them involved hands-on with the process.
For example, Ben Brown recently worked on some promoted content for a campaign with Audi. While he was creating content for his Instagram audience, he took the opportunity to create long-form video of the process itself:
This vlog is a great example of repurposing content already being created. It offers behind-the-scenes access to your audience, building further brand awareness and adding new touch-points to your campaign.
Another great example comes from cosmetic brand AVON. They enjoyed explosive growth during the 90’s. How did they do it? Brand ambassadors. If you wanted to buy AVON products, you had to know a brand representative.
The sales message was so effective because it came from family or friends, not a company. They equipped these reps with everything they needed and rewarded them accordingly. In fact, this was a full-time job for many people.
Not only does AVON give their reps the materials to help sell their products, but they pile on extra perks, too. These include:
- Free tools, such as business cards and brochures that reps can design themselves
- Educational benefits to “keep your career moving”
- Discounts on communications expenses, e.g., Wi-Fi, cell phone, etc.
- Access to health and dental plans
- Opportunities to earn trips to vacation destinations.
You can tell they aim to look after their reps. After all, these people are acting as their marketing team.
The lesson? Give your ambassadors everything they need to promote your brand. Go above-and-beyond by providing perks beyond your brand.
Send them to events, provide education and bonuses that add value beyond your working relationship.
Lululemon gives their ambassadors complete access to all their events. They feel part of something, educating themselves on what’s happening in the company. Ambassadors use these events as an opportunity to create user-generated content, expanding the brand’s social media reach.
The overlying message here is to add as much value to your ambassadors as possible. Give them tools and support they need to spread your message and help them to succeed in their ventures.
Step 4: Set Up & Measure Your Campaign
Like any other influencer marketing effort, you need to set a primary goal.
Are you aiming to generate more sales? Do you want to grow your own social media following? The metrics you measure will depend on the goals you set.
While influencer marketing lends itself well to brand awareness, the goal for full-scale ambassador programs is to generate more sales.
Ambassador marketing is a long game. When you invest time and money into brand ambassadors, you need something to show for it financially. This is why revenue and ROI should be your true north.
However, other metrics act as indicators of success. You should be looking at:
- Content reach: How many eyeballs are seeing the content your ambassadors create?
- Engagement: How many likes, comments, and shares does ambassador content generate?
- Traffic: What’s the digital “footfall?” How many visitors is each ambassador generating?
- Sales: How many of those visitors convert into customers?
- LTV: What’s the lifetime value of a customer generated by your ambassador program?
- CAC: How much does each new customer cost?
- ROI: What’s the return on your investment?
Understanding these metrics gives you the power to optimize and tweak certain stages of the process.
Segmenting these metrics by individual ambassador will also show you who your “star players” are. Invest and reward those who bring in the best results.
For ambassadors who may be considered “underperformers,” find out why that is. Do they need further assistance, or are they just not putting in the work?
This level of visibility gives you a roadmap, shedding light on content optimization opportunities. You’ll also know who your top performers are, allowing you to give them extra attention and reward them for their efforts.
After all, a top-performer who feels valued will continue to generate sales in the long-term.
Three Superb Ambassador Marketing Examples
Now you know how to supercharge your influencer marketing efforts.
The value in turning one-off campaigns into ambassador programs is clear. But when everything has been planned and executed, what should the result look like?
To wrap up this guide, let’s look at three market-leading brands and how they’re using ambassadors to spread their message, build awareness and generate new customers.
1. Red Bull
From 2008 to 2010, you likely saw Red Bull brand ambassadors everywhere.
As part of their program, Red Bull had two different teams: the Wings Team and Student Brand Managers. The Wings Team consisted mainly of friendly girls who would pass out free product and make a good impression on the brand “in the field.”
Student Brand Managers, on the other hand, would take care of building relationships with influencers in specific regions.
As a result, they built a strong community of customers and influencers who shared their “reason why.” Red Bull went from being a drinks company to a lifestyle brand, using events and representatives to spread their mission.
Takeaway: For something of this scale to work effectively, communication is key. That’s why Red Bull U was created.
At the time, the online forum connected over 1,000 students to the brand. Having everyone organized in one place gave Red Bull the perfect platform to organize, communicate and empower their ambassadors.
2. Maker’s Mark
If your ideal winter setting involves log cabins, a fireplace, and bourbon, then you may want to consider becoming a Maker’s Mark ambassador.
When you join, you gain access to “The Embassy.” This private online community brings ambassadors and bourbon fanatics together.
Ambassadors also gain access to free swag – which includes having your face engraved on one of the barrels where they make their bourbon.
On top of the “fun” stuff, Maker’s Mark also gives them practical tools to help sell more product. Support included business cards and custom glasses they can gift to bar owners around their target regions.
Takeaway: Don’t limit yourself to direct-to-consumer activities. Ambassadors can also help with the B2B side of your operations.
In this example, ambassadors drop into bars with gifts for managers. This gives them a top-of-mind awareness that’s passed on to their patrons, as well as a sense of goodwill.
Like Red Bull, Lululemon has established themselves as a lifestyle brand over a clothing store.
Their positive and healthy image is what draws such a passionate audience. Not only do they put their company manifesto all over their merchandise, but they transform their stores into yoga gyms on weekends.
This culture of well-being can be seen in their ambassador program, too. They work solely with fitness trainers, athletes, and yoga instructors to inspire their customers.
There are over 1,500 Lululemon brand ambassadors, all of whom get the support they need when they want to run events of their own.
Takeaway: Work with ambassadors that believe in what you believe. It’s even better when they can educate and empower your customers for you.
Furthermore, Lululemon empowers their ambassadors to run their own events, workshops, and classes. By helping your ambassadors to build their audiences, you’ll have them for life.
Influencer marketing is so popular because you tap into an audience where trust has already established.
The problem is, many brands look at doing one-off campaigns where the only value exchanged is money.
Ambassador marketing is different. They believe in what your brand stands for, and they make it part of their own message. In many cases, your brand even becomes a part of their business.
The key is to work with those who believe in what you believe. Empower your ambassadors, providing the support to help them do their job. Do this, and you’ll see an impressive ROI from your efforts.
About the Author: Lorel Wilhelm-Volpi is Director of Client Strategy at SpotRight, helping marketers use data to turn consumer insights into marketing personas that fuel big ideas. Crazy Egg readers can sign up for a free trial of their platform here.