In absolute term, a brand is equal to the size and quality of its existing customers and the ability to attract new ones.
As simple as that statement might seem, it is no way a precise description that captures the reality of many businesses.
Because, given the competitive nature of today’s market, businesses now have to do twice (even more) of what they used to do before to convince potential customers.
Meanwhile, businesses with a few customers just yet are better placed to take the step further in their customer acquisition and expansion process.
Because the people who have already patronized your business could better tell a story about your products and services that customers want to listen to.
The big cats in the industry understand this strategy and they have mastered the act of using the brand advocates to spread the word about their business name and services. Word of mouth marketing is truly a powerful method to stamp authority in a competitive market.
This is about incorporating your loyal customers into a deeper system within your organization and allowing them to have a more integral role in the marketing front. And this is fairly simple because a totally converted customer will be more than ready to front for your brand at any given opportunity. You just have to give them the reason to and, as a key part of it, mobilize them as well.
Brands can take the opportunity in the fact that people love honest and independent views from others especially when they are coming from someone they know, like and trust. Trust is a major bane for many online businesses today that are still toiling. And it is a one BIG challenge that takes a sheer period of time to overcome.
But with the help of a brand ambassador program, you can quickly ward off any elements of skepticism in your business and turn over cold prospects into hot leads. This requires a lot of efforts and time as well, but it is worth every minute of it if you are able to successfully cultivate loyal brand ambassadors that are influential in their own right.
Sometimes, this can be resource-intensive which outstrips the capacity of a small or startup business. Some brand ambassador programs can span to up to six months or even a year before they come to fruition. They are often a long term project geared towards long term benefits for businesses.
Nonetheless, a small business that understands its customers can also launch a brand advocacy program that will drive tremendous customer expansions and that is also budge-friendly.
You need to have insights about your customer sentiments and conversations to do this. When you identify a few business advocates, you can create an ambassadorship program for them that tends towards value rather than a resource-driven.
Also, you have to set it up in such a way that it can grow itself organically over time. You need to create an avenue for existing advocates to bring other passionate customers into the program. They are definitely in the best position to do that.
Let’s see how,
Create and start the buzz on social media
Social media is arguably the best place to start off on anything that concerns end users or customers today. People ventilate a lot of views in this end based on their experiences on personal and business levels, where the shared views can also turn to trending discussions for the day.
Listen to these sentiments from your customers and/or potential customers to get the idea of how your brand advocacy program will be perceived. Don’t take a negative comment for it, sometimes it could be out of the passion for your brand. Also, such comment indicates an interest in your business which is easier to nurture into a positive light than when you try to convince a mute customer.
Now, you need to become an authority to your customers and to other users in your industry as well. To achieve this, you need to provide value to them and I mean a lot of it. Starting with your social stream, you need to make this place a haven of high-quality content for your customers and other people as well.
When people become familiar with your social accounts as go-to places for fetching ideas and solving problems, they will stick around and listen to whatever you are saying. This can go viral as well as people start to share and engage with the valuable content you have shared to enrich themselves. One key thing to keep in mind is CONSISTENCY.
Social media is fast moving, people visiting your profile are expecting to see different stuff from what they found a day or even an hour ago. You have to be updating your streams as frequently as possible with top quality content. It’s not compulsory that each piece should come from you, not even advisable as you will need others’ content to reinforce a total commitment to your brand.
Content curation will save you a lot of hours per day while still ensuring your social streams are busy with high-value content. The greater thing is that there are numerous free resources you can pick from to make content curation a breeze for your marketing. Let me mention few of the tools, to begin with:
Feedly is a content or a feed aggregator that allows you to monitor your feeds from a single dashboard. To add a feed, simply copy and paste its URL into this tool to create a reading list that you can assign to a category. This provides a source of fresh and useful content that are readily available for sharing into your social streams. There are many guides available that detail how to automate posting of content from Feedly to social media.
Scoop.it is a content curation engine as well as a content promotion tool. I recently shared a few of my blog posts on scoop.it, and ever since, I have been getting a steady referral traffic from this site. How it works is that you create a board around a set of keywords or a niche and populate it with relevant content. Other users can follow your board and share/scoop the content you have added into it.
Now, as a content curation tool, scoop.it will show you a bunch of other content in your stream based on the keywords you have defined. This makes it easy to follow similar boards created by experts and share the content into multiple social accounts at a time. It is definitely a big source for finding top-notch content in your niche.
There are many uses for this tool, but what is clear is that it is a huge library of content that you can mine ideas from and curate content for your social media. You can decide to automate the process if you like, but you will have to upgrade to ‘Storify 2’ to enjoy the full benefits of the automated workflow.
Postplanner is a content curation made easy tool. It is a Facebook tool that allows you to find popular content on a particular topic at a particular time. You simply enter your keywords into this tool and search. Then sort the content by the number of likes and shares to find the popular ones at that time. You can share into your stream right there or schedule for future sharing.
Triberr is a community of bloggers where you can find great and fresh content to share. When you join a tribe of bloggers in your niche, you will be presented with a stream of their latest content that you can share easily. You can browse content by categories to make it easy to find content from any topics. With their simple interface, you can be sure to always getting fresh and relevant content for your social streams.
Now that you have your social streams running in a full throttle, you can begin to identify advocates among customers or other people who are connecting with these posts.
Identify business advocates
When you make your social stream a hot spot for customers and business prospects alike, it’s easier to woo people who are already engaging your posts to become brand ambassadors. Also, providing a lot of value through these outlets will make your customers less likely to look elsewhere for relevant information, which in a whole increases their affinity to your brand. You can identify these advocates through their interactions within your accounts and other places where your brand name was mentioned. Make a list of these people as you will need to prepare them for your brand advocacy.
Engage with those who are already doing much of the work of brand ambassadors
Choosing a true brand advocate is a tough job as most of the criteria to use are often vanity metrics. It’s in the interest of a brand to take the step further in engagement to see if the interests are actually genuine. One thing that is certain is that a truly passionate advocate will already be doing much of what you would require from your brand ambassadors. When you find such people, engage them through chats to give a sense of value and appreciation. After a couple of positive responses from them, you can then begin soliciting them to become ambassadors.
Contact the proven advocates
While you may have given a hint about what you want from your advocates in earlier conversations, you still need to formally invite them into your brand ambassador program. Invitation by email often gets the best results. This will allow you to formally speak about your brand and incorporate all the logos and designs that represent your brand and the program.
Start with a small group, and expand steadily to other advocates
While the aim of your ambassador program is to get the message out about your business as far as it can get, don’t try to go large in the beginning. Start with a small group of ambassadors and intend to grow big. You can easily grow a dozen of ambassadors into a breath-taking size than when you try to blow it out at once with hundreds of starting members in your program. These few ambassadors will help you spread the word steadily and identify other passionate advocates just like them.
Give exclusivity right to the existing members
What is valuable isn’t available for free or offered on a platter of gold, – that is the mind of most if not all of your customers. You can use that mentality to make sure you are always driving only serious members into your ambassador program. Make membership exclusive to your brand ambassadors and give the new members some hurdles to jump. You can make the process perfect by allowing the existing members to have a say on who the future members are. They can better help vet the advocates since they know what it’s like to be your brand ambassadors.
Create spaces for your ambassadors to connect with each other
Your ambassadors are your brand coins, you don’t want them on a scatter course, you want them as a unit. Create a hub for your ambassadors to foster team spirit among them. This will be a sort of home where they meet each other and discover new things about the program. While doing this, do not forget to keep in touch with your advocates and get your ambassadors aware of them for possible selection into the program.
Empower your ambassadors to empower your brand advocates
Ordinarily, when your business is set up online, you already have brand advocates you may not have discovered yet. Just check your “notifications” on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see the people who are re-tweeting, liking, and commenting on your posts more often, these are your advocates. The reason for the brand ambassador program is that you want to bring these people closer to your brand and encourage (or reward) them to continue to do what they have already been doing. So the need to empower them too. Give them the tools that will make the job easier and to help other advocates better spread the words about your business.
Compensate your ambassadors
This can come in different folds and probably the most important of it all if you can get right. All ambassadors want to be compensated but many do not want to be given money. For a true brand ambassador, getting access to your brand and other empowerment are more valuable than any financial rewards. All the same, you can run a contest for your customers and give a VIP privilege to your ambassadors. Winners can get rewards in form of gifts, coupons, access, acknowledgment, etc.
To make sure the campaign cost you next to nothing, you can team up with a gifts company to offer the gifts in exchange for your product. You definitely need this to get your ambassador program well under way. Other options include sweepstakes, giveaways, video contest, and other custom made campaigns for a social platform… Implementing these strategies will help scale your ambassadors and allow them to grow organically.
Over to you
What about you? Have you considered a brand ambassador program for your business? How is it compared to what is discussed here, and what differences have been made?