Shopify Ecosystem

DTC Boardroom: How To Turn Customers Into Brand Ambassadors With CrewFire’s Alan VanToai


Having 15-years of direct experience in the marketing industry, and throughout my time working with DTC brands, I have noticed some rather large shifts to this space over the past few years.

While organic reach for brands is plummeting and bids for paid ads are spiraling upwards, word-of-mouth has consistently reigned the supreme method of promoting products to consumers. Although social media has skyrocketed the power of marketing, it has also saturated the ad space like never before.

While it might seem daunting to try and grow in this space, there is one highly-effective strategy that can help DTC eCommerce brands flourish and reach their target growth goals.

That strategy is brand ambassadors.

Brand ambassador marketing has become the quiet killer, so to speak, in the ever-changing digital marketing realm, and we have seen this strategy provides a powerful and effective boost to traditional advertising methods for brands looking to beat out the competition and reach more people online.

However, for brand ambassador programs to be effective, you need the right framework and strategy to succeed.

And we’re here to help guide you to structure that framework. So today, we are going to show you how to turn your customers into your team of brand ambassadors.

Let’s hop into it!

What is a brand ambassador?

A brand ambassador can be defined as any individual within your existing customer base that acts as an authentic voice for your brand. ‍

These are the people that already know and love your product. They buy it consistently, they use it, they always talk it up to their friends and family. They are the type of customers that are generally passionate about your brand and support your company.

Brand ambassadors are your number one fans! They are eager to help grow your brand and genuinely care about your success.

What brands should use brand ambassadors?

There are a few things we recommend any brand to examine before preparing to launch. Analyze that your brand has the following characteristics:

  • A product or service that has proven traction (ideally a minimum of $500,000 in annual revenue)
  • An existing audience from whom you can recruit and build your program, or at least 10,000 email subscribers or 30,000 Instagram followers
  • A dedicated marketing manager
  • Bandwidth to dedicate 1-2 hours a day to program management
  • A fanbase that is already raving about your product online and/or to friends, family, and followers! Think of those brands that have a cult-like following

If you can check off each of those items, you are in a good place to start building out your ambassador program.

How to recruit brand ambassadors

Now, you might be wondering how to find brand ambassadors, and this is where creating a recruitment strategy comes in.

Recruiting is the moment where you will be able to watch your already passionate fanbase turn into your team of brand ambassadors.

Here are a few ideas for reaching out to your customer/fanbase to spread the word about your ambassador program.

Create a recruitment Landing Page

An ambassador landing page is one of the first pieces that need to go into play concerning your recruitment strategy.

Your program landing page will be the place where potential ambassadors can learn all about your program and what it will entail.

When you create your landing page, you will want to generate buzz and excitement seeing as it will likely be the first impression your customers will have of your program.

There are four crucial elements you will want to include on your page:

  • The benefits
  • The role and responsibility
  • A bit about your brand, goals for the program, and expectations
  • Several CTAs that link to your signup page

Take a look at some excellent examples below for inspiration!

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Spread the word on social media

Most of your potential ambassadors are already following you on social media, so applying your recruitment efforts to your social media channels will yield excellent results.

Make some branded graphics and share them everywhere! Your organic posts, stories, reels, everywhere. Include your signup info in the description and watch the qualified applicants roll in.

Make some branded graphics and share them everywhere! Your organic posts, stories, reels, everywhere. Include your signup info in the description and watch the qualified applicants roll in.

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Recruit via your email list

If you have +10,000 email subscribers, then reaching out to this core group and announcing your ambassador program will be an extremely successful recruiting technique.

In the announcement email(s), be sure to sell the program by touching on the benefit of the program, and create excitement!

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Have ambassadors refer a friend

You’re stronger in numbers, so tap into your core group of ambassadors and create an activity to have your ambassadors refer a friend.

You can reward them with either point or commission. Plus, who wouldn’t want to work with their BFF? You will be able to grow your roster and ensure that you are filling your team with like-minded people. If your ambassadors are skincare or fashion enthusiasts, it is likely they have friends who also share this passion.

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With all recruiting efforts and strategies you implement, it’s important to ensure that they convey your brand’s excitement for the program as well the benefits that your potential ambassadors will gain if they decide to onboard with your brand.

Your new crew of brand ambassadors will be excited and motivated to grow alongside your team!

How to mobilize your ambassadors

Now that you have recruited your crew of ambassadors, it’s time to mobilize them and have them support you in achieving your next stage of growth.

Consumers want to discover your products or services more genuinely. This is why paid ads are on the decline.

So mobilizing your ambassadors to create content and help you market yourself on social media will help you cut through the noise and beat out the competition on social media (and beyond!)

There is a multitude of activity types you can get your ambassadors to do on social media, so let’s look at some of our favorites along with some great examples!

Social engagement

You can mobilize your ambassador to help boost your organic social media posts by liking and sharing with their community. It is great for increasing your visibility and getting to the top of the feed.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

What a better way to showcase your product(s) or service(s) than to have your ambassadors create content using them.

Your ambassadors can great creative and make a variety of pieces of UGC, from product photos to reels, videos, and more!

Check out some examples below:

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Arm each of your ambassadors with a unique referral code and get them to share with their friends, family, in their bio on social media, and the caption of their post (they can post it in the description of the UGC posts!)

Affiliate marketing is an extremely effective strategy and a way to get your ambassadors excited about creating content for you, as they will be rewarded for each sale they make.

Not only that but offering a discount to first-time buyers can help ease the anxiety of buying from a new brand. With the added discount the referee will get, the closer your brand is to securing a new raving fan!

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How to reward ambassadors

You will need to plan out how to incentivize and reward your ambassadors for their hard work.

There are plenty of different reward types you can incorporate into your program and these rewards must cover a large value spectrum.

Free products, merch, and discounts are great and you definitely should incorporate them on your reward roster, but you also want to try and think outside the box a bit.

Here is a real-life example – When I was an ambassador for an entertainment company, I remember that getting T-shirts and merch were cool, but the best reward I ever got was a 20 minute phone call with one of my favorite DJs and his manager.

As someone who, at the time, wanted to work in the music and entertainment industry, this was extremely valuable to me. I got to learn from people I admired in the industry and all they had to do was give a bit of time. It’s something I will never forget!

These experiential rewards will be so valuable to the ambassadors and will likely become a lifelong memory for them.

Incorporating these rewards into your program will keep ambassador health high and aid in maintaining motivation throughout the program.

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One brand that works with CrewFire, Vitae Apparel, has its top reward as a night out with the team in Vancouver, B.C. This is an excellent idea as it will build community, and help their ambassadors gain a deeper bond with the team members of a brand they love.

Here are a few examples

  • Free products
  • Discounts
  • Experiences – concert tickets, drinks with the team, a class together
  • An IG or social media shoutout
  • Feature on blog or website
  • Access to an exclusive group

There are so many ideas for rewards, you will need to look at what your ambassadors value and then plan accordingly. Find out what will motivate them and then work it into your program!

What is CrewFire?

CrewFire is a brand ambassador platform that helps DTC eCommerce brands turn their customers into their army of brand ambassadors to help drive more referrals, word-of-mouth, user-generated content, engagement, and shares on social media (and beyond!)

We can help you lay the framework for a highly successful brand ambassador program and get you to a place where you can reach your 2021 growth goals!

Ready to turn your customers into your team of brand ambassadors? If so, check out CrewFire’s epic demo video to see how you can drive more referrals, word-of-mouth, and user-generated content for your Shopify store.

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Alan VanToai

I’m the founder of a brand ambassador & influencer management platform. In a market increasingly dominated by big tech, and increasingly hostile to independent brands, we’re on a mission to help independent brands grow and thrive.

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Special thanks to our friends at Pilothouse for their insights on this topic.
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