Here’s a sobering fact about our industry: as a general rule, people don’t trust brands. But, people DO trust other customers.
A recent Nielson study showed that 84 percent of people trust recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues over other forms of marketing.
Think about how much more impactful and persuasive it is to have a customer talk about how great a brand is, versus the brand doing so. If you can get loyal and passionate customers to promote your brand for you, then you’ve won most of the battle.
I particularly love the way Todd Kunsman of business.com put it in a recent post. Brand ambassadors, he writes, “are actually much cheaper than paid advertising. Essentially, this type of platform will yield greater ROI than traditional PPC. Why? When you spend money on advertising, like in Google AdWords, you are paying and competing for keywords that continue to rise in cost. You are constantly fighting for space against the competition as well. Also, you are advertising to people searching specific terms who are often clicking your ads cold, meaning they may have never heard of your brand previously. It can be challenging convincing people to purchase or buy your product based on just a Google ad. Brand ambassadors promote more trust and have a far greater reach.”
How to Build a Brand Ambassador Program
The question, of course, is HOW to do that. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject.
The very first, and most important step in the building of a solid and vibrant troop of brand ambassadors is to know WHO your ambassadors are. You might THINK you know, but the people – beyond the obvious – that love your brand and will sing its praises and tell all their friends about you may actually surprise you.
You must also choose wisely. I’d rather have twenty deeply invested fans for a brand than 20,000 that are merely so-so. Your ambassadors are people that are choosing your brand, that share your vision, and, if you’re doing it right, they know you care about them, too. This is organic brand affiliation at its best.
Create opportunities for your ambassadors to connect with you on a human level. Listen to them, be open and transparent, and empower them with information and respect.
Lastly, you have to have a deep knowledge of what your potential loyalists are talking about and what’s important to them. Be sure to engage with those people that reach out to you.
As far as brand ambassadors go – brand ambassadors that are truly the most zealous and avid – you’d be hard-pressed to find any as ardent as craft beer lovers. Colorado, where Avocet is located, is home to some of the country’s most amazing craft breweries, including Wibby Brewing. Not long ago I had the pleasure of having Ted Risk, Wibby’s co-founder, on the podcast. The creative strategies he has deployed to grow the company’s loyal following are inspiring. Take a listen here.