Every brand needs advocates in order to survive. That’s why, for many companies, having an ambassador program is crucial for success. My co-host Evy and I had the opportunity to talk to Bailey DuMont on the latest episode of The Fast Traack. Bailey is the Director of Brand Marketing for Ancient Nutrition; leading the charge on all things social media and influencer marketing. She’s also built one of the best ambassador programs we know of.
Based on our conversation, here are Bailey's top tips for starting a meaningful ambassador program for your brand.
Start by asking yourself how you can provide value
Bailey knew right away that they wouldn’t have massive budgets to pay influencers, so she needed to come up with other ways in which Ancient Nutrition could provide value to her ambassadors' lives. The good news is, she had a great set of products to start with. Complimentary products are the most obvious starting point, but she had to go further than that.
First, Bailey decided to let her ambassadors choose for themselves which products they wanted to try. There are definitely reasons for limiting an ambassador’s selection (new products, for example.) But given that Ancient Nutrition is in the business of wellness, letting people make their own decisions makes perfect sense.
Secondly, she decided not to enforce exclusivity agreements with her ambassadors. Part of the reason is because Ancient Nutrition is a personal health company, and people should have full control over what supplements they take. You might love Ancient Nutrition collagen, but get your multivitamin elsewhere. This builds trust among an influencer’s audience, for both the influencer and the brands they represent.
Find your organic advocates
This is where your technology platform comes in handy. The best way to build an ambassador program is to find influencers who are already talking about your brand! An influencer discovery tool makes it really easy to find out who these people are, and whether or not their audience is engaging with posts that mention your product.
If you're a relatively new brand with less organic mentions on social media, you can still use technology to help you find future advocates. Search for influencers who mention similar brands, or actively participate in the lifestyle that your company fits into. For Ancient Nutrition, that could be recipe creators, fitness influencers, or beauty bloggers who regularly talk about leading a healthy lifestyle. Your future advocates exist and can result in fruitful partnerships.
If you're confined to a tight budget, these organic influencer partnerships will provide limitless value. They already love your brand, so they’re far more likely to post in exchange for gifted products or a lower rate than they might change an unfamiliar brand. After all, they have paid for your brand in the past. These authentic partnerships will result in sales, because they are meaningful and make sense.
Actively build personal relationships
If you listened to the podcast episode, you could hear how excited I was when Bailey mentioned her desire to know the birthday and dog names of her ambassadors. I’m an ambassador for a major fashion company. When I got engaged, they sent me a bouquet of sunflowers. It made me feel SO special. Building personal connections with your influencers adds value to their life and yours. It increases brand loyalty and makes them want to post about your brand outside of contractual obligations. Spoiler alert: these “bonus” posts tend to be the best performing.
Another way of doing this is engaging with them on social media and sharing exposure. When Bailey loves an influencer’s recipe post, she’ll repost it to Ancient Nutrition’s instagram or blog page, linking back to the influencer’s social channels. This is super helpful to the influencers as it elevates their reach, which will result in financial gain over time. It also shows that you value them and the content they produce.
Pro Tip: an easy way to do this is by creating monthly ambassador newsletters to let your roaster know about upcoming promotions, new products, incentives, etc! This is a great way to engage your ambassadors, and inspire them to keep posting. Some brands build a community by doing this through a private Facebook group.
Measure the value and reassess
Whether you’re offering paid or gifted opportunities, influencer marketing programs can be expensive. You want to make sure that your budget is being allocated properly. One thing Ancient Nutrition suggested is measuring your sponsored posts differently from your organic or “bonus” posts. Some audiences may not respond well to a (FTC required) #ad or #sponsored post, but when they know something is unpaid, they are more likely to take the product into consideration. Ancient Nutrition reported that 80% of their impressions came from “bonus” posts from their ambassador program!
We’ve also recently introduced a new way to track your influencer spend. With our new budget calculator, you can see how much you’re spending per influencer post, impressions, engagements, views and other efficiency metrics. This will likely change how you decide to invest in influencers as well.
Take a listen to our latest episode and let us know what you think in the comments!