Skimm'bassasadors Spur Growth for theSkimm

Have you heard about theSkimm?

It's a curated daily newsletter that targets female millennials. Founded by two female ex-NBC news producers, theSkimm has rocketed to rapid growth:

  • 3.5 million active subscribers
  • 1 million social followers, 80% of whom are women
  • 40% open rate (more than 2X higher than standard email open rates)
theSkimm makes it easy to be smart.

theSkimm makes it easy to be smart.

 

Advocate Marketing Fuels theSkimm's Growth

Advocate marketing -- a marketing approach of systematically identifying and mobilizing your highly-satisfied customers and others enthusiastic about your brand or products --  is driving theSkimm's growth.

The centerpiece of theSkimm's Advocate marketing program is theSkimm's Ambassadors ("Skimm'bassadors.")

13,000 Strong

Why limit your Ambassador program to a handful of paid influencers?  theSkimm has created an army of 13,000 Skimm'bassadors, a powerful Word of Mouth marketing force.

In return for promoting the newsletter to friends, Skimm'bassadors get Skimm swag like T-shirts, tote bags, and umbrellas. Skimm'bassadors also are also given early access and exclusive offers to the Skimm's partner brands.

Beyond SKIMM Swag

Skimm'bassadors also get connected to a professional network made up of like-minded enthusiasts.

For an audience of female millennials, this reward can be much more rewarding than brand swag.

Word of Mouth key

Trevor Wade, global marketing director for brand design and consulting firm Landor (theSkimm is a client) told AMA's Marketing News that Word of Mouth being spread by Skimm'bassadors has been key to theSkimm's success:

"We know (word of mouth) is one of the best ways to market a brand...because you have the trusted opinion and recommendation of somebody, and you're much more likely to give something a try or come to it predisposed to like it when you hear it from a friend."

That's a marketing insight not worth skimming over. 

 

 

Top 5 Marketing Benefits of Advocate Communities

Online Advocate communities are hot.

Thousands of B2C and B2B brands are creating and launching customer communities, with many of these focused on brand's most passionate customers -- Advocates.

Here are the top five marketing benefits your brand can get from an online community of your Advocates:

1. Increase sales

Advocate communities can turbo-charge your sales. 

Many brands have doubled or even tripled the number of referrals they're getting within only weeks after starting an Advocate community. While this result won't occur every time, Advocate communities should boost referral results by making it easy and rewarding to refer friends.

Advocate communities also can help you boost sales by encouraging and enabling Advocates to share your promotional offers and discounts with their social and peer networks.

We've seen conversion rates 50% higher or more for offers shared by trusted Advocates with friends compared to offers sent by brands to prospects. 

2. Drive advocacy

Nine out of ten buyers say product reviews influence their purchase decisions. And after only three negative reviews, 59% prospects won't buy. (source: Google consumer study.)

Advocate communities help you increase advocacy by getting more positive product reviews plus other valuable content like Advocate-generated stories, testimonials, case studies, success stories, and more. (This content can be used to drive organic search traffic, improve email conversions, increase web sales, and more.)

In addition, Advocate communities help you cost-effectively reach more prospects by getting Advocates to share your content like videos, white papers, and product announcements on their social channels.

HOG (Harley Owners' Group) is the grand-daddy of Advocate communities with over one million members who are passionate about riding and, of course, their Harleys.

HOG (Harley Owners' Group) is the grand-daddy of Advocate communities with over one million members who are passionate about riding and, of course, their Harleys.

3. Reduce attrition 

Customer churn can cost your company millions of dollars in lost revenues. In some industries, customer churn is as high as 50 percent. Reducing customer churn has a major positive impact on the bottom line. 

Advocate communities help cut churn by building deeper relationships with Advocates. A key to this is the dialogue that communities enable between you and your Advocates and with each other.

4. Boost engagement

Smart marketers today know that effective marketing doesn't end once you acquire a customer. It's about keeping your customers involved with your brand. At the highest level, this means building an emotional connection between your brand and your customers.  

Advocate communities boost engagement by providing multiple opportunities for Advocates to engage with your brand through things like content creation, referrals, sharing, surveys, polls, and more.

5. Get valuable ideas and feedback

Advocate communities will help you get valuable ideas and feedback for how to improve your products, services, and customer experiences. Focus groups are expensive and time-consuming. Advocate communities are like a real-time, online focus group of your most passionate customers. 

 

In short, Advocate communities help you strengthen customer relationships -- the key to building a stronger brand. 

 

 

 

Top 10 Stats about the Power of consumer Online Reviews

Consumer Reviews: Highly Trusted, Influential

92% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews (source: BrightLocal, 2015)

90% of people say online reviews influence their purchase decisions (source: Dimensional Research, 2013)

88% of people trust online reviews from strangers as much as personal recommendations (source: BrightLocal, 2014)

By an overwhelming 77% to 23% margin, consumer electronics buyers say they put more trust in consumer reviews than expert reviews (source: Weber Shandwick, 2014)

30% of consumers say they begin their purchase research by going to Amazon and reading reviews (source: The Harvard Business Review, "What Marketers Misunderstand about Online Reviews," 2014)

Positive Reviews = Increased Sales

Restaurants that boost their Yelp rating by one star can increase revenues by 5% to 9% (source: Harvard Business School Study, 2011)

Given equal pricing, guests are 3.9 times more likely to choose hotels with higher ratings than lower ratings. And even if the hotel with great reviews has higher pricing, travelers are still willing to book at that hotel  (source: PhocusWright, 2014) 

Negative Reviews = Lost Business, Damaged Reputation 

92% of people will hesitate to do business with companies with less than four out five stars (source: BrightLocal, 2014)

Four or more negative articles about your company or product appearing in Google search results is likely to cause you to lose 70% of potential customers (source: Moz, 2015) 

It only takes one to three negative reviews for most people to decide not to buy your product or service (source: Lightspeed Research)

 

 

 

 

 

How do you rate your advocate reviews program?

Advocate Reviews can help you boost your online ratings, enhance your online reputation, and increase revenues -- but only if you follow best practices.

How do you rate your Advocate reviews program?

Here are five questions to ask yourself. Give yourself one star each time you answer "yes" to the question below:

5 stars = excellent

4 stars = good

3 stars = fair

2 stars = poor

1 star = very poor

1. is your Advocate Reviews an ongoing program?

It’s not smart to start a review program to temporarily boost your ratings and rankings, then discontinue it, even if results aren’t immediately compelling.

Here’s why: 

This “start and stop” approach usually results in wiping out the gains you’ve made or could make in the future once the program gains momentum.

Here’s an actual example of a Zuberance customer:

Rating before program started: 2.8

Rating six months later: 4.1

Rating three months after stopping program: 3.2

Even if your Advocate reviews program doesn’t boost your ratings and rankings in the short-term, it’s still very important to get “fresh” reviews on third-party sites plus your site.

Prospects place significantly more credibility in recent reviews than older reviews.

44% of people say a review must be posted within the
last month to be relevant. (source: BrightLocal.)

Bottom-line: You should be soliciting reviews an ongoing basis. You will get the most benefits from an Advocate reviews system and program, not a short-term campaign.

2. are you Leveraging Advocate reviews in multiple places?

Advocate reviews are a premium form of user-generated content. UGC is about 2X more trusted and influential than brand-created content, studies by Contently and others have shown.

In addition to encouraging and enabling Advocates to post positive reviews on third-party sites, here are three places to display this valuable content:

•    On your website, particularly on “buy pages” and on other high-traffic pages

•    In your marketing emails to add valuable “social proof” 

•    In your social media marketing with tactics like "Customer Review of the Week"

Make sure to make Advocate reviews very visible on your website. Prospects and other site visitors shouldn’t have to work hard to find these reviews. 

Leveraging Advocate reviews has proven marketing benefits:

•    Boost SEO results

•    Increase engagement on your website

•    Increase conversion rates on your website plus in email marketing campaigns plus boost sales

Here’s an example of how Hibu, one of our customers, is leveraging Advocate reviews on its website. Check it out below and here: https://hibu.com/hibu-reviews/

Notice how nicely Hibu displays featured reviews. Hibu also uses an attractive, informative header that includes the total # reviews; reviews by star rating, and the average star rating. In addition, users can sort reviews in several ways including by most recent and also search by keyword.

Notice how nicely Hibu displays featured reviews. Hibu also uses an attractive, informative header that includes the total # reviews; reviews by star rating, and the average star rating. In addition, users can sort reviews in several ways including by most recent and also search by keyword.

As mentioned above, putting Advocate reviews in emails is proven to boost click-through rates, conversions, and sales.

This skincare company got a 25% increase in click-through rates after it added Advocate reviews to this email:

3. are you Soliciting Advocate Reviews in multiple places and ways?

Dedicated emails to customers are a proven, effective way to generate reviews. But since Advocate reviews are so valuable, you should also be soliciting reviews on other channels like:

  • On your website
  • On your social channels like your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
  • On customer portals
  • On your online community
  • Kiosks in your stores

In fact, you should be soliciting reviews in nearly all places that your customers interact online or offline with your company or products. 

4. ARE YOU USING ALL REVIEWS AS VALUABLE FEEDBACK?

Whether or not you succeed in getting Advocates to publish their reviews on third-party sites, the feedback you get from all reviews (positive and negative) can benefit you in many valuable ways.

By analyzing reviews, you can use this feedback to:

  • Improve your products and services
  • Learn more about key customer segments
  • Identify a problem and solve it before it wreaks havoc with your business

Are you regularly sharing reviews with discussing insights and actions with?:

  • Product management
  • Customer experience
  • Sales

5. ARE YOU GIVING AS MANY CUSTOMERS AS POSSIBLE THE OPPORTUNITY TO RATE & REVIEW?

One of our customers only allowed customers who previously identified themselves as "Promoters" (9s and 10s) on a customer survey the opportunity to rate and review.

This not only severely reduced the number of reviews they received but also didn't allow them to get feedback from all customers. 

Best practice: give everyone the opportunity to rate and review, even if you only accentuate the positive!

How did you rate your company? Let us know.

 

 

The Business Case for Referral Marketing

Considering referral marketing for your business? Smart move.

Referral marketing is a proven, highly cost-effective tactic to generate highly qualified leads, get customers, and boost awareness.

Plus, referred-in customers are proven to be 37% more loyal than other customers.

Gigaom Research sums it up this way: “Brands that invest in referral can gain a competitive advantage over those investing elsewhere.” 

Top 10 Facts about Referral Programs

Here are the top 10 facts about referral marketing programs:

1.     People are 4X more likely to buy when referred by a friend. Did you know that 2 out of 3 Millennials block ads? Most people don’t trust or even pay attention to ads, but referrals get people to buy. (source: Neilsen.)

2.     Referrals are the most effective form of lead generation for B2B marketers. Fifty percent of B2B marketers said referrals delivered the largest number of qualified leads for their company ahead of email (48%), live sales visits (46%), direct marketing (25%), and white paper downloads (20%). (source: Chief Marketer)

3.     Customer referrals can drive stunning profits. A study published in the Harvard Business Review showed that referred customers are 18% more loyal, 16% more profitable, and that companies earned 60% on referral rewards. (source: “Why Customer Referrals Can Drive Stunning Profits,” Harvard Business Review.)

4.     Referral marketing is a proven customer acquisition tool. In a study, 27% of marketers said they get more than half of their new customers from referral marketing. (source: “Workhorses and Dark Horses, digital tactics for customer acquisition” Gigaom Research.)

5.     Referral marketing provides multiple marketing benefits. In the same study, marketers cited four key benefits of referral marketing: acquisition (31%), conversion (31%), retention (26%), and awareness (23%). (source: “Workhorses and Dark Horses, digital tactics for customer acquisition” Gigaom Research.)

6.     Referred-in customers are more loyal. Referred-in customers have a 37% higher retention rate than other customers. Depending on much customers pay for your products or services, and how long they typically stay, this means that referral programs can generate millions in dollars in revenues for your company. (source: Deloitte)

7.     When friends refer, people buy. Word of Mouth is the primary factor behind 20%-50% of all purchase decisions (source: McKinsey)

8.     Referral marketing is one of the lowest-cost lead gen channels. B2B marketers rated “referral/advocate marketing” as the third lowest-cost lead gen tactic, behind only social media (not paid ads) and email marketing (house list.) (source: “Cost-per-Lead by Channel, according to B2B Marketers”, Software Advice.)

9.     Referral marketing also delivers among the highest in quantity and quality leads. In the same study, B2B marketers rated referrals as “very high in quality and quantity” along with trade shows and events and email marketing (house list.)

10.  Conversion rates for referrals are almost 4X higher than any other marketing channel. In a Marketo study of its customers, B2B marketers said the average conversion rate (lead to opportunity) was 11% for referrals. Following referrals are partner-generated leads (4.5%), inbound leads (3.8%) and paid marketing (about 3%.) The lowest-converting channel was email (.55%.) (Source: Marketo.)

 

 

 

How to Create Brand Advocates

Many CEOs and marketers ask me this question: 

"How do we create Brand Advocates?"

Here's the answer:

Surprise and delight your customers. Go beyond the expected. Create memorable, "WOM-worthy" experiences they'll tell others about. (Like I'm about to do now in this post.)

Hotel Mokara Creates Advocates

Hotel Mokara, a lovely hotel/spa on the San Antonio River Walk, knows how to create Advocates. 

My wife Debbie and I stayed at the Mokara last week while I was in town to speak at an American Marketing Association (AMA) San Antonio luncheon.

Early one morning, Debbie went to the lobby to get some work done when she realized she didn't have her "readers" with her. So Debbie asked the front desk reception person if the hotel had a spare pair.

("Readers" are reading glasses that correct close-range vision and sell for about $10. I've bought about 63 pairs of readers in the last couple years. I have readers everywhere...in my car, in my desk at work, in my tennis bag, in the bathroom. I once had to buy a pair of readers to find the readers I misplaced.)

Doak Walker to Debbie's Rescue

Doak Walker, Hotel Mokara Manager

Doak Walker, Hotel Mokara Manager

Doak Walker, Hotel Mokara's manager, overheard the conversation between Debbie and the front desk receptionist. He gladly offered to go to the local CVS and buy Debbie the readers.

Mr. Walker returned about five minutes later with a new pair of readers in hand. (He even called the front desk while he was in the CVS to make sure he bought the right magnification.)

Amazingly, Mr. Walker refused Debbie's offer to pay him for the readers. "Oh no," said Mr. Walker, with a smile. "Absolutely not."

Mokara Means Mo-Caring

Many brands try creating Advocates by showering customers and other influencers with swag, gifts, points, and coupons.

There's really nothing wrong with treating your customers well. (Debbie and I really appreciated the complimentary champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries on our second and final night at Mokara.)

But it's remarkable service experiences and caring professionals like Doak Walker that earn genuine loyalty and advocacy.

Debbie can see that clearly, thanks to Doak Walker.

PS: Doak was named after Doak Walker, the famous Southern Methodist and Detroit Lions football player. There's an annual college football award called the "Doak Walker Award" that goes to the nation's top collegiate football running back. However, there's no family relation between Doak Walker the famous football player and Doak Walker, the hotel manager extraordinaire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Checklist: Are You Following Referral marketing best practices?

Referral marketing can deliver “stunning profits” for your company, according to a study published a few years ago in the Harvard Business Review.

The study found that referred customers for a bank are 18 percent more loyal and 16 percent more profitable than non-referred customers.

https://hbr.org/2011/06/why-customer-referrals-can-drive-stunning-profits

Banks aren’t the only types of company that have benefitted from referral programs.

DropBox, the online file sharing service, is considered one of the most successful referral programs of all time. The company’s referral program helped DropBox grow from 100,000 to 4 million users in less than 18 months.

Is Your Referral Program Missing the Mark?

Despite these tantalizing numbers, your referral marketing program may not be delivering desired results.

This checklist of five referral marketing best practices will help you determine if you’re following referral marketing best practices:

1. Are you promoting your referral program effectively?

Like most marketing programs, the success of your referral marketing campaign depends a lot on effective promotion.

Are you using all of the promotion tools available to boost awareness of your referral marketing program and invite people to refer friends?

Here’s a list of 10 ways and places you can leverage to promote your referral program. How many of these are you using?

1.     Dedicated emails

2.     Email newsletters

3.     Reminders including footers in other emails

4.     Banners and buttons on your website

5.     Social outreach via your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, plus other social channels

6.     In-product reminders. Invision is a good example of a company that does this well. It seems like about every 10 times I log in to Invision, I get a request to refer friends.

7.     Paid media including Facebook custom audiences

8.     Messages from all customer-facing employees like account managers plus your business partners to promote the program.

9.     Invitations to referral friends in post-purchase messages like Thank You pages

10.  Create a contest or sweepstakes. TiVo generated over 100,000 referral actions in a referral sweepstake managed and powered by Zuberance. http://zuberance.com/case-studies/

2. Is your referral reward and/or incentive compelling?

Rewards and incentives boost referral results but only if they’re compelling. Here’s what I mean by “compelling.”

·      Valuable: The rewards and incentives are viewed as valuable by your potential referrers and prospects. By the way, valuable doesn’t always mean money. DropBox gave referrers and their referred friends free storage.

·      Relevant: Your rewards and incentives should reflect the price of your offering. Tesla gave referrers $1,000 for each referred-in customer. That may seem like a lot. But the average price for a Tesla is about $70,000.

·      Timely: There should be adequate time for referrers and referred friends to promote your offer and receive incentives and rewards. This is especially the case for considered purchase decisions like travel. For example, a referral reward of $500 off for a trip to Europe if you book and take your trip in the next 30 days doesn’t make a lot of sense. That is, unless you’re on the run from the law.

3. Are you inviting everyone to refer friends?

Referral programs shouldn’t be limited to current customers and Advocates. Are you inviting all of these types of people to refer friends to you?

·      Current customers

·      Past customers

·      Prospects

·      Partners

·      Employees

Invite Detractors to Refer Friends?

We’re often asked this question: Should we invite Detractors (people who respond 0-6 to the 0-10 likely to recommend question) to refer friends?

You probably don’t want to send referral offers to customers who responded 1 or 2 to the 0-10 question. It may just irritate them more.

However, you may want to invite customers in the middle range of the Detractor category -- like 3-6 – to participate in the referral program.

Keep in mind that the Net Promoter scale is unforgiving. Only customers who answer 9 or 10 (highly likely to recommend) are considered Promoters. Many Passives and even some Detractors would refer friends especially if there is a compelling incentive.

4. Are you making it easy for referrers?

I’m an advocate of Bill.com, the online bill paying service. But I’m not an Advocate of the user experience of Bill.com’s referral program.

Bill.com does a good job of promoting the referral program on the home page of its website. The “refer a friend” call to action is right there in the upper right-hand corner of the site.

But the referral form doesn’t follow best practices:

·      It only gives me one way to refer friends

·      There is no social sharing capability

·      I must put my friend’s phone number on the form

·      I can only refer one friend at a time

Check it out for yourself: www.bill.com and let me know what you think.

Review your user experience for referrers and referred friends. Making it easy is super-important.

5. Are you personalizing the referral experience?

Lastly, here are several ways you can personalize the referral experience. Are you using all of these:

·      Putting the referrer’s name in the subject line of the email to the friend. Example: “Rob has an offer to share with you”

·      Putting the referred friend’s name in the body of the email. Example: “Debbie, I recommend this product to you.”

·      Enabling referrers to choose from a couple or three offers to share with friends.

If You Don’t Succeed at First…

You’d love to have the kind of success that DropBox did. Who wouldn’t?

Truth is, very few referral programs achieve success immediately. Here are the key questions to ask yourself:

1.     Are you carefully analyzing data from every element of the referral program flow and user experience? Where are the “drop off points” occurring? Are certain types of your customers participating at a higher rate in the program than others? Why?

2.     Have you tested other referral rewards and incentives? I know of brands who tried over a dozen different rewards and incentives before finding the right formula. Don’t over-react. Give rewards and incentives adequate testing time.

be patient and persistent

Your customers are inundated by marketing messages – about 5,000 each day – including referral offers from other vendors. Ongoing promotion is critical if you’re going to break through this communications clutter.

Feel free to reach out to me at rob@zuberance.com if you’d like to discuss your referral program.

 

 

 

How to Turn Passives into Promoters

Looking to boost your Net Promoter Score*?

One of the best ways to do this is to convert Passives (customers who answer 7-8 on the 0-10 likely to recommend question) into 9s and 10s (i.e., Promoters or “Advocates” as we call them.)

Passives are the “low-hanging fruit” on the Net Promoter scale. It’s much easier to convert Passives into Advocates than Detractors (customers who answer 0-6 on the 0-10 likely to recommend question.)

Here's why:

Many Passives actually like their overall experience with your product, service, or company. Making slight improvements to your products or customer experiences can “tip” Passives into the Promoter category, turning them into likely recommenders.

The 4-Step Process

Here’s a step-by-step approach for transforming Passives into Promoters:

  1. Ask Passives for their feedback. Ask Passives how you can earn their recommendations. For example, a full-service hotel might find that a common complaint among Passives is that its fitness center needs improvement. A consumer electronics company may find that Passives actually enjoy the product but find the set-up process difficult.

  2. Analyze Passives’ responses. This will allow you to spot trends. For example, you may find that Passives make certain suggestions most often. You may also find that Passives tend to be a certain type of your customers. For example, your hotel may have a high percentage of Passives among guests traveling on business vs. those traveling for pleasure. This can help you zero in on issues and customer types that require your attention.

  3. Take action. Actions do speak louder than words. So fix what is keeping you from earning Passives’ recommendations. Put new equipment in the fitness center. Improve service in your restaurant. Or offer free phone support for customers who need help installing your product. If more Passives are business travelers than consumers, focus on improving business travelers' experiences.

  4. Track results. Go back to Passives after you’ve made the suggested improvements. Ask the “likely to recommend” question again with the same Passives to see if they are now likely to recommend.

Tough Scale

Lastly, keep in mind the Net Promoter scale isn’t very forgiving. Only customers who are “high likely” or “extremely likely” to recommend are consider Promoters or Advocates. 

Customers who choose 7 or 8 on the 0-10 scale can be “somewhat” likely to recommend. (Or maybe they’re just tough graders.)

Show your Passives a little love and you could turn them into Advocates.

*Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score and NPS are registered trademarks of Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix.

 

How Brand Ambassadors can Boost Your Brand & Business

Brand Ambassador programs are a great way to nurture relationships with your most passionate Advocates and get more positive Word of Mouth or even sales.

Are you thinking about launching a Brand Ambassador program? Here's some info and insights:

What’s a Brand Ambassador?

A Brand Ambassador is an enthusiastic person who agrees to participate in a structured, ongoing program to recommend your company, brand, products, or services to others. Ambassadors may be:

  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Partners
  • Influencers

In most cases, Ambassadors receive perks like free or discounted products or services in exchange for their time and effort. Some Ambassadors receive pay, although I don't recommend this approach. (More on this below.) 

Ambassadors are “Power Advocates”

I like to think of Ambassadors as “Power Advocates.” These are Advocates who formally agree to help build your brand and business. (Of course, like any healthy relationship, this isn’t a one-way street. You need to love on your Ambassadors. More on this later.)

 

 

Benefits of a Brand Ambassador Program

A Brand Ambassador program can help you:

  • Increase awareness of your company, brand, product, or service at a fraction of the cost of paid media
  • Generate qualified leads, boost sales, and increase revenues
  • Drive advocacy, positive Word of Mouth, and social reach
  • Generate authentic, high-value content like reviews, stories, testimonials, blog posts, and more 
  • Get valuable product feedback and money-making ideas
  • Deepen relationships with valued customers and others
  • Defend your brand's online reputation from haters and detractors

Brand Ambassador Profiles

Brand Ambassadors are typically people who exhibit these characteristics:

  • Very enthusiastic about your brand, product, or service and eager to recommend to others and spread enthusiasm
  • Viewed as credible and trustworthy
  • Moderate to heavy users of social media
  • Often create and share content
  • Hundreds or even thousands of friends and followers online
  • Outgoing, personable, articulate

For Love or Money?

Some Ambassadors will engage with you simply because they love your brand, product, or service. 

But Ambassadors usually receive some form of compensation in exchange for their participation. This may be perks, free products, tickets to events, special access to premium content, etc. The rewards you provide Ambassadors generally reflect:

  1. The commitment (time, effort) you’re asking for from Ambassadors.
  2. The level of influence of Ambassadors. The more influential they are, the more you’ll need to reward them. 

5 Steps of Building an Ambassador Program

Here are the five key steps in developing an Ambassador program:

  1. Create your Ambassador plan. Clarify your goals, objectives, strategy, Ambassador profiles, programs, timeline, and budget. As part of this, create your Ambassador program terms and conditions (T’s and C’s.)
  2. Identify potential Ambassadors. Build a target list of segments and people within these segments you would invite to become Ambassadors. (See “How to Find Potential Ambassadors” below.)
  3. Begin recruiting Ambassadors. This can be as simple as sending an email to potential Ambassadors with links to a sign-up form and T’s and C’s. 
  4. Start engaging Ambassadors. Ask Ambassadors to participate in an activity. This could be giving you feedback on a new product, creating content, or sharing content you provide to them. (See the list below for ten ways to leverage Ambassadors.)
  5. Re-engage Ambassadors. Ambassador programs are usually ongoing programs, not one-time events. Re-engage your Ambassadors in other ways. (See the list below.) 

How to Find Potential Ambassadors

If your company is a small one, you probably have an idea of who may be willing to serve as Ambassadors. They’ve probably already recommended you countless times to their family, friends, or business associates.

However, you may need some help finding potential Advocates. Here are some ideas:  

  1. Look for customers who post highly positive reviews, stories, or other content about you online.
  2. Ask your sales team and other customer-facing employees for suggestions on who might be effective Ambassadors.
  3. Invite customers and others to apply to become Ambassadors.  Make sure to be clear about the qualifications and requirements.

Top 10 Ways to Leverage Brand Ambassadors

Here are ten popular ways to leverage Ambassadors. You can encourage and enable Ambassadors to:

  1. Create and share content such as reviews, testimonials, blog posts, tweets, and more.
  2. Share your brand content like videos, infographics, white papers, etc. plus special offers
  3. Refer friends and peers to you
  4. Serve as references for major deals
  5. Give you feedback on new products
  6. Provide ideas for improving your customer experience
  7. Help recruit other Ambassadors
  8. Launch new products
  9. Participate in company-produced videos, case studies, testimonials
  10. Represent your company at offline events like trade shows, seminars, and at online events like Google hangouts, webinars, and tweet chats

Measurement & Tracking

Here are some of the key metrics you’ll want to track for your Ambassador program:

  • # Ambassadors
  • # Ambassador actions
  • # content pieces created
  • # content pieces shared
  • # referrals
  • # impressions generated by Ambassadors
  • # re-Tweets, re-posts by Ambassadors friends
  • # clicks back to your website, landing pages
  • # conversions
  • Value of conversions

Keep in mind these are sample metrics. Measure what matters most to you.

Examples of Brand Ambassador Programs

  • Lulu Lemon is one of the best-known examples of a Brand Ambassador program. I like how Lulu Lemon shows photos and profiles of their Ambassadors on the company's public website. I recommend this approach in most cases. (Some of their Ambassadors are shown in the photo above.) The sportswear company has recruited thousands of athletes, personal trainers, yoga teachers, group exercise leaders, and others to become Ambassadors. Lulu Lemon groups its Ambassadors into three categories:
    1. Global yoga Ambassadors
    2. Elite Ambassadors Ambassadors. These are "elite athletes.
    3. Store Ambassadors. Ambassadors get free apparel. Here’s a page of one of Lulu Lemon's Ambassadors.
  • Maker’s Mark Bourbon has created a thriving Ambassador program with over 100,000 members. They reward Ambassadors with Christmas gifts, a personalized barrel of bourbon, inside information and discounts, plus invitations to special events, and more. Here’s a video created by Makers Mark Ambassador.
  • SolarCity has created a “Solar Ambassador” program aimed at generating referral leads. SolarCity pays Ambassadors $200 for each referred customer. (Referred customers also get one month service free.) The company also has run contests where Ambassadors get a chance to win “solar for life” or $15,000 for referrals. SolarCity has enrolled over 100,000 Ambassadors in the program. I think of this as more of a glorified referral program than an Ambassador program. Let's see if SolarCity evolves how it engages with its "Ambassadors."
  • Hootsuite, the social marketing platform company, has 1,400 Ambassadors. The company has grown the program from 55 Ambassadors only three years ago. Ambassadors, who are required to commit to the program for a minimum of three  months, are encouraged to provide product feedback, create and share testimonials, share Hootsuite content, and more. Hootsuite gives Ambassadors discounts on social media training and certification; online recognition; plus swag. Here's something cool: Hootsuite holds "Hoot-Ups," offline meetings where Ambassadors can celebrate their Hootsuite love.

 Here are a few other companies with Brand Ambassador programs:

  • Lyft
  • Uber
  • Fiskars (scissors) This is of the best-known and most written-about examples of Ambassador programs.  Fiskateers, as the company's Ambassadors are called, helped turn scrapbooking into an obsession and drove massive sales increases for Fiskars. The program has changed a lot over the years but it still is a "best-in-class" example of how to grow a passionate Ambassador community.
  • Footmark (workout bags)
  • Microsoft (More of a technical support community. Check it out at mvp.microsoft.com

Top 10 Ambassador Best Practices

  1. Set clear goals and measurable objectives for your Ambassador program
  2. Communicate clearly what your expectations are of Ambassadors
  3. Educate your Ambassadors about your company mission and values
  4. Make it easy for Ambassadors; give them tools that make it easy for your Advocates to spread positive Word of Mouth about you
  5. Make sure that Ambassadors are transparent about their relationship with you when they recommend you to others. When in doubt, disclose, disclose, disclose.
  6. Build relationships with your Ambassadors. Encourage their feedback. Listen, learn, and act. 
  7. Choose Ambassadors carefully. Make sure they will represent your company and brand well. They should reflect your company or brand's mission, value, goals, culture.
  8. You may want to gamify your Ambassador program. Create friendly competition that boosts participation, engagement, and results. Think leaderboards, badges, and fun titles for your top ambassadors. 
  9. You may want to consider creating an online community where your Ambassadors network with each other, learn about new ways to engage with your, view leaderboards, or more. 
  10. Give back to your Ambassadors in ways other than money. Promote your Ambassadors by following them and sharing their content or help promoting their careers and businesses.

Getting Started

I recommend that you don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Start small with your Ambassador program. This allows you to learn and adopt. 

If you are a SMB, you may want to start with a handful of Ambassadors – like 10 to 25. You can always add more Ambassadors later.

A basic program as shown below is a good place to start.

"basic" Ambassador program:

Here's what you'll need for basic Ambassador program:

  1. An Ambassador gameplan
  2. T's and C's
  3. FAQ
  4. Someone to manage the program (estimate about 25% of one person's time.)
  5. Online tools for Ambassadors and analytics (can be provided by a third-party like Zuberance.)

"DELUXE" AMBASSADOR PROGRAM

Here's how you can step it up:

  1. Feature Ambassadors on your public website
  2. Create private online community for Ambassadors 
  3. Add an online forum within community
  4. Points, leaderboards, swag
  5. Create tiers and/or categories of Ambassadors
  6. Special, "Ambassador-only" online and offline events

Note that "stepping it up" means increasing Ambassador program costs. This typically includes devoting more people to manage the program plus additional software costs.