This Is (Probably) Why Your Brand Ambassador Program Sucks

by Mack Collier

Every week I field calls and conversations with companies about starting a brand ambassador or advocacy program.  Almost every time, the company explains that they are excited about the idea of launching a brand ambassador program as a way to generate sales for the brand.  They tell me how they have fans and they think they need a program to better connect with those fans so the fans can sell for them.

This makes complete sense.  Then the conversation typically goes something like this:

Me: “So what’s in it for your fans?”

Company: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Well you want your fans to start going out and actively selling for you, that’s a lot to ask of them.  What are you prepared to offer them in exchange for being a part of this program?”

Company: Long pause…”Well they are our fans, I just assumed they would be happy to help us!”

Just as communities do not form around the idea of being monetized, your fans are not waiting for you to take advantage of them.  You have to give your fans a compelling reason to be involved in your program.  If they don’t care about your program then they won’t care about selling your product to other customers.

So when you create a brand ambassador program, give special thought to what your fans get from being involved in the program.  Your goal is to create a set of benefits from being in the program that are so compelling to your fans that you have so many fans wanting to be involved that you have to limit membership.

A Real-World Example of How This Works

Your company sells lawn care products, and you want to create an ambassador program for the fans of your products that are designed to kill bugs in their lawns.

From the company standpoint, you want to do things like give your fans special coupons so they can give them to customers that they meet in their day-to-day activities.  You want to have a way to collect feedback from your fans when they talk to potential customers, and you want to be able to track sales generated from your fans.

That’s all company-oriented.  So what do your fans get from being involved in this brand ambassador program?

Since your fans are already buying your products to kill pests in their lawns, it’s obvious that these customers spend a lot of time maintaining their lawns.  So your company could offer them materials, seminars, etc that help teach them how to create and maintain a more beautiful lawn.  You could teach them why certain lawns attract certain pests, and how to eliminate them.  You could partner with chains such as Lowe’s and Home Depot to offer special Fans Only workshops on lawn care.

The best part about all of this is as you are teaching your fans how to better maintain their lawns, you are also educating them on your lawncare products.  Which means you are teaching your fans a new set of skills, but you are also teaching them how to better sell your products.  Because once your fans understand why certain pests are damaging to their lawns, they will be able to better sell your product, because they will know that it eliminates those pests.

So by creating benefits for your fans you are not only increasing their loyalty toward your brand and the program, you are also empowering them to be better salespeople for your products.

When you are creating a brand ambassador program spend as much if not more time on what your fans get from being involved.  The more you offer your fans, the more you can ask of them.  Never assume that your fans will happily jump through hoops for you simply because they are your fans.  Think about who your fans are as people, and how you can give them skills and empower them to better succeed in their day to day lives.  And do so in a way that relates to your product and why they love your brand to begin with.


Kelly August 6, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Hey Mack,

I love this quote: “Just as communities do not form around the idea of being monetized, your fans are not waiting for you to take advantage of them. You have to give your fans a compelling reason to be involved in your program.”

If we every marketer would have the mindset of “ask not what your community (or fans) can do for you, but instead what you can do for them”, it would be so easy to do the right thing. Without that mindset it’s nearly impossible to find a mutually beneficial solution that will motivate fans and drive business results. And yes to education!

I was just invited to a special crafter’s evening at a local craft store this past week for being an awesome and devoted crafter.

I picked up new tips and tricks that will help me workshops that I hold for kids. Did I buy anything? Nope. Will I in the future? Yes, and they know that. That’s why they are investing in me. They are an old school shop who tracks every sale’s lead on a piece of paper when you they ring you up….they see the payoff in WOM by treating their most valued customers to perks that can help them be better. Too bad so many others don’t.

Mack Collier August 6, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Exactly, Kelly. Show me that you care about me, and that makes me more likely to care about you. Too many marketers start with ‘this is what we get’ and spend all their time there and forget to answer the question ‘what do our customers get?’

Sam Patterson August 6, 2014 at 2:13 pm

You make many great points here. In the world of education I see many of the same issues. many teacher love to be involved in the process of shaping products to be used in their classroom, but it is a commitment of time.
Educational companiaies who do this right find ways to support their brand advocates in the classroom and in professional learning. While it takes time away from my teaching to write a blog post, if I know I can count on support to go to a summer confeence, it is easy for me to see the value in it. On the other hand if the guest blog I wrote gets buried on their site quickly and it seems like no one read it, it is challenging to make that time commitment a second time.

Thanks for the thoughtful post

Mack Collier August 6, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Thanks Sam! I think the points you and Kelly are raising about investment and time commitment really get to the heart of the matter. The key is finding a way to give the customer a benefit that also benefits the company. Like in the post, teach the fans how to take better care of their lawns, and a byproduct of that is you’re also teaching them how to better sell your product.

It all falls apart when the company is focused strictly on what they get and don’t invest the time to think about what the customer gets out of being involved. In fact that should be the starting point in many cases and work backwards

Jackie - Jump Branding & Design August 6, 2014 at 4:01 pm

I have to say that the “A Real-World Example of How This Works” makes a lot of sense to me. Great way to expand on the idea of really thinking in the way of your customers (or in this case your fans). What they really want, what they really care about. The same concept can be apply in so many instances Thank you Mark!

Mack Collier August 6, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Thank you Jackie, and you’re right, it definitely can! Teaching your fans a skill that relates to your product (that is useful to them) is a great way to also improve their ability to sell your product. A win-win!

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