There is perhaps no kind of marketing within the creator economy that’s more authentic than partnering with brand ambassadors. Just picture it: a community of people who love your brand and can talk about your products and services without it coming off sounding biased or transactional.
And the good news is that ambassadors can come from anywhere—your employees, your social media followers, the people already buying your products, and more!
Now, if this sounds too good to be true, we’re here to tell you it’s within reach. All you have to do is focus on building strong relationships with people willing to go to bat for your brand. We’ll show you how.
What is brand ambassador marketing?
Brand ambassador marketing involves working with a group of creators (whether that’s employees, influencers, customers, or a combination) for long-term partnerships. These programs are often exclusive, meaning ambassadors can’t work with competitors of the brand.
In general, ambassador programs often have a minimum number of posts that a creator should share each month or some sort of goal for each member to reach.
Brand ambassador marketing is extremely effective because it exposes people repeatedly to positive brand messages over time, which is far more authentic than a one-and-done partnership with a brand. These programs often lead to more brand recognition, increased conversions, and more.
What are ideal brand ambassador characteristics to look for?
Determining the right brand ambassadors depends on your objectives, budget, audience, and capabilities. Developing an ideal creator profile (ICP) can help narrow down your ambassador search efforts and save you time sifting through prospects. But keep in mind that your ICP should change over time, so it’s important to test and adapt your program as you gain more data.
First, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your product?
- What pain point does your product solve?
- Who’s purchasing your product?
- What do they do for fun?
- What causes do they care about most?
- What are their core values?
- Are they employed? If so, what’s their job?
- What’s their highest level of education?
- What problems do they have?
- Where do they live?
- How old are they?
- What kind of content do they enjoy the most?
Next, you can dial in on specific brand ambassador characteristics like:
- Follower count: Do you want a large team of “everyday” creators with smaller followings or a more exclusive team of carefully curated creators with large audiences?
- Engagement rate: The more engaged your ambassador’s audience is with their content, the more likely the creator is to influence their purchasing decisions.
- Social media usage: Determine where your audience spends its time and select brand ambassadors who are most active on those platforms.
- Niche: Successful brand ambassadors can come from a variety of niches as long as they’re related to your overall industry. Consider experimenting with creators with different areas of expertise to find out what resonates best with your audience.
- Location: Is your brand regional, national, or international? If you’re a local brand, you probably only want to work with local ambassadors. If your product is available worldwide, you’ll want to diversify your ambassadors’ locations as much as possible.
Examples of ambassador brands succeeding with creators
Nutpods has built an extensive ambassador network with fans who apply to become members of the “nutpodsquad” on the company’s website. Each accepted applicant gets a welcome care package, access to limited edition products, and exclusive swag options. There is also an option for paid opportunities depending on how well the ambassador’s content performs on social media.
From platinum recording artists to transgender activists, IPSY’s ambassador team includes a broad spectrum of creators who embody the brand’s movement toward self-love, self-expression, and self-discovery. By sharing their unique stories, IPSY’s brand ambassadors help cultivate a community of like-minded brand fans and give the company a more relatable identity.
Pura Vida jewelry is always on the hunt for brand ambassadors of any following size who can help spread the love for its beachy accessories. The brand offers its ambassadors an impressive list of perks, including:
- Free products
- Cash commission
- Invites to events and experiences
- Input on new product launches
- Insights from the Pura Vida team on how to perfect social media content
By offering so many resources, their ambassadors truly feel like valued members of the team.
How to create a successful brand ambassador program
Step 1: Set your program objectives.
Like any influencer marketing program or campaign, you’ll need to set some clear objectives before you start putting things into motion. Each goal should be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) for your best chance for success.
- Specific What do you want to accomplish?
- Who do you need to include?
- When do you want to do this?
- Why is this a goal?
- Measurable How can you measure progress?
- What are your key performance indicators (KPIs)?
- What does success look like?
- Achievable Do you have everything in place to achieve the goal (i.e., the right creators, product, team, budget, etc.)?
- Relevant How does this goal relate to other marketing goals you want to achieve?
- Is this goal realistic?
- Why are you setting this goal now?
- Time-bound What is the timeline to accomplish this goal?
- Is it realistic?
See Also: S.M.A.R.T. Goals Worksheet
Step 2: Define the kind of ambassador you want to partner with.
There are several different kinds of ambassadors you can partner with, depending on your goals. You might find that one works better than another, but ideally, your program will combine various ambassador types.
The influencer ambassador
The influencer ambassador is someone in your niche with a large, engaged social media following. This person has cultivated a strong connection with their audience and holds plenty of sway with followers who trust them for genuine product endorsements. Typically, they’re an influencer you’re currently working with who continues to create high-performing content that showcases their brand love.
The employee ambassador
Turning employees into ambassadors is a great way to give a behind-the-scenes look at life inside your company. In theory, your employees should know your brand and product as well as anyone, making them the perfect spokespeople to help share your story.
The customer ambassador
Ideally, each of your ambassadors should be someone who uses and loves your products. But the customer ambassador is brimming with so much brand love they’ll talk about you without you having to ask. Just be sure to create branded hashtags and post opportunities for your customers so you can easily keep an eye on the UGC they’re producing.
The experiential ambassador
The experiential ambassador thrives in an in-person setting. Whether it’s an already-established event or one you’ve created yourself, this person knows how to show up and put your brand and products at the center of the conversation.
The industry expert ambassador
The industry expert is someone with specialized knowledge in your niche. For example, a health supplement company might partner with a registered dietician to explain the science behind its product and how it can help your body perform to its highest potential.
Step 3: Break your program objectives down into ambassador KPIs.
Your ambassador KPIs are small milestones your partners will reach on the way to achieving the overall goal of your ambassador campaign.
For example, the following KPIs might accompany a campaign goal of brand awareness:
- Reach # followers on brand IG page by [deadline]
- Reach # page views by [deadline]
- Get # engagements on branded posts
Setting KPIs will give you a good idea of what’s working and what isn’t so you can tweak your processes before it’s too late.
Step 4: Take a look at your fan base and active influencers.
You don’t need to start from scratch when recruiting creators for your ambassador program. First, take a look at your active customers. See if anyone makes multiple repeat purchases, and identify whether they meet your ideal creator profile. Happy customers often make the best ambassadors, so this is a great place to start.
Next, check your list of active influencers. Begin with your highest performers and see if they would be open to taking the partnership to the next level and becoming a brand ambassador. Remember, becoming a brand ambassador should be a “promotion” from the regular creator roster, so be sure to treat it as such when you pitch the idea to your partner.
Step 5: Create an ambassador program page.
You don’t have to spend all your time scouring social media for the perfect brand ambassador. By setting up an ambassador page on your company website, you can encourage fans to apply for the position and pick and choose who you think might be the best fit.
Be sure to include a few lines about what makes a successful ambassador for your brand and any qualifications applicants need to meet. You might also consider including a list of your current brand ambassadors and a short bio for each to give potential partners the overall vibe you’re looking for.
Step 6: Invite prospects to join your ambassador program for the long term.
The best brand ambassadors are long-term partners. When you’ve found someone you think is the perfect fit, ask them if they’re open to extending the collaboration and what it might take for them to be “exclusive” with you. This will almost certainly involve a pay raise for the creator, so be prepared to negotiate a rate that works well for both parties.
Step 7: Set ambassador expectations using your program KPIs.
Provide your ambassadors with detailed campaign briefs based on the KPIs you determined in step 3. Although you need to set content and performance expectations for your ambassadors, you still need to allow them the creative freedom they need to produce the content they know resonates best with their audiences. With that in mind, write your brief as more of a “roadmap to success” rather than a prescriptive plan each creator must strictly adhere to.
See Also: Standard GRIN campaign brief template
Step 8: Decide on a compensation package.
Because your brand ambassadors are generally exclusive, long-term partners, your compensation package will likely need to be more alluring than what you offer for a single campaign. That could mean a monthly flat fee, commission, premium product gifting, or a combination of all three.
Here are several things you’ll need to factor in when considering an appropriate compensation model:
Creators with more followers command higher rates. If you have the budget, macro and celebrity influencers can be great for blasting your message out to the masses. Otherwise, hone in on smaller creators with highly engaged followers to reach a more captive audience.
Quality of the brand-creator relationship
When you’ve been working with a particular influencer for some time and have achieved consistent success, that brand-influencer relationship should be worth more than others. In most cases, long-term influencer relationships generate greater authenticity and brand familiarity with target audience segments.
What are you asking of your brand ambassador? If you’re expecting your partner to help plan and attend in-person activations, you’ll likely need to pay them more than an ambassador with an exclusively digital presence.
Depending on your brand and its deliverables, you may be able to offer influencers a number of attractive perks. Many influencers will lower their rates in exchange for samples, gifts, and special experiences.
Step 9: Track ambassador content and performance.
After creating an ambassador team, you’ll need to track posts and performance. In the beginning, you can manually track your program using the appropriate social media platform and spreadsheets.
Among the most important metrics to track are:
- Post frequency
- Engagement (reactions, comments, shares, etc.)
- Link clicks
Once you have several ambassadors and an established program, you’ll need a more robust platform to save time and track these metrics more accurately.
Step 10: Use current and past performance to screen future ambassadors.
Carefully track the performance of each brand ambassador and use their successes (and failures) as a baseline for the expectations you set for future partners. Remember: The success of your ambassador program hinges on your ability to accurately accumulate and report performance data, so having a foolproof strategy in place is essential.
Creating long-term relationships with your brand ambassadors
Nurturing long-term partnerships with your brand ambassadors is hard work. Even if they already love your brand and products before becoming an ambassador, you’ll still need to go the extra mile to ensure your relationships last. Here are a few tips to consider.
Keep ambassadors informed.
Your brand ambassadors should always be aware of how they’re performing and how their content contributes to your program’s overall success. Be sure to keep your ambassadors in the loop with regular updates on both. Let them know what they’re doing well, what needs improvement, and how you can best collaborate to reach your shared objectives.
Additionally, if there is a new product launch or a major update within your company, your ambassadors should be some of the first to know. To keep everyone up to date, consider publishing an ambassador newsletter that recaps all the latest relevant company news and developments.
Nurture a sense of community.
You’ll get the most out of your ambassador program if it functions as a tight-knit community. By hosting regular events, retreats, virtual happy hours, etc., you can build a sense of camaraderie among your team that will help get the creative juices flowing and nurture invaluable long-term relationships inside your program.
Keep ambassadors engaged.
Everyone loves a good side quest. Consider implementing the occasional contest or “challenge” to keep your ambassadors engaged. Whatever you come up with should be separate from your overall program goal and KPIs and focused more on encouraging your team to shake things up and have some fun.
When you bring on an ambassador, you basically bring on a business partner. That means there should be a two-way feedback loop. By seeking regular feedback from your ambassadors (and taking that feedback to heart), you’ll establish the trust you need to maintain long-term relationships and gain valuable perspectives from creators with deep knowledge of your target audience.
Key takeaway: Ambassadors can help drive massive brand love within their audience.
Ready to make a splash in the creator economy with a brand ambassador program of your own? The one thing to keep front and center throughout the process of setting it up and running it is authenticity. Make sure your ambassadors are developing authentic messages, their audiences are responding well to them, and you maintain a strong connection with each of your partners.
By centering honest and compelling stories in your program, you’re sure to see amazing returns.