More than ever, companies are enticed by the prospect of launching a brand ambassador program.  The idea of having an army of ‘customer marketers’ that help promote the brand is very attractive to many companies.  But how do you choose the right brand ambassador?

First, let’s remember what we discussed when we talked about whether you should work with fans or influencers, because the same rules apply.  The biggest mistake that many companies make when connecting with potential brand ambassadors is the company will offer customers free products if they will become an ambassador.  In other words, companies want to give customers an incentive to become a brand ambassador.

The problem with this approach is that your true fans don’t need an incentive to join your brand ambassador program.  All they need is an invitation.  Remember that your fans aren’t motivated by free products, they are motivated by access, by a belief in the values and ideals that are core to your company.  Your fans want a closer connection with the brand they love, yours.  They want the backstage pass, they want a level of access, connection and input with your brand that the average customer doesn’t have.  Or want.

Here’s How to Spot Your Best Brand Ambassador

Let’s say Hewlett-Packard is launching a brand ambassador program and wants to promote its new laptop.  HP has identified two candidates for its brand ambassador program; Tim and Josh.

Tim has had several different brands of laptops over the years, including an HP.  While he wouldn’t consider himself to be a fan of HP, he does think they are about as good as the competition.

HP decides to pitch Tim on joining its brand ambassador program by giving Tim a free laptop.  HP encourages Tim to talk about the laptop online, and gives him coupons that he can give to other customers.

The problem with this approach is that HP is enticing a non-advocate to become a brand ambassador for HP by giving him free stuff.  Basically HP is trying to ‘buy’ Tim’s advocacy with a free laptop.

The other candidate HP has identified for its brand ambassador program is Josh.  Josh is a diehard fan of HP products, in fact he has an active blog devoted to the brand’s computers.  In fact HP knows about Josh because he reached out to the company’s social media manager on Twitter and asked her for an interview on his blog.

Josh doesn’t need to be ‘sold’ on HP, he’s already a fan.  So HP doesn’t need to offer Josh a free laptop (he’s probably already bought it anyway), they need to offer him special access to the company.  HP would ask Josh to help them tell other customers about the laptop, but HP would also make its product engineers and marketers available to Josh so it can utilize feedback from Josh on its products and marketing.  Since Josh is a fan, he doesn’t view this as an incentive, he sees this level of access toward HP as a reward for being a fan.  So he would be thrilled to join.

On the other hand, if HP went to Tim (a non-fan) and asked him to join its brand ambassador program and told Tim that HP would want him to routinely connect with its product engineers and marketers to give HP feedback on its products, Tim would likely see this as work, and not be interested.  Because Tim’s motivation (as a non-fan) is based around getting free stuff, where Josh (the fan) wants more exposure to the HP brand.

Pick ambassadors that believe in your brand

When you are picking brand ambassadors, you don’t want customers that you have to incentivize by giving free stuff.  You want people that believe in your vision and who will work with you to help you realize that vision.  Remember that your brand ambassadors will literally be your brand’s representatives in your markets.

Choose wisely.

Pic via Flickr user Irina Patrascu


LegosOn Feb. 13, 1997, the ship Tokio Express was bound for New York when it was struck by a huge wave about 20 miles off the coast of England.  As a result, dozens of shipping containers were thrown overboard and into the sea.  Among the lost cargo was almost 5 million Lego toys and pieces.

Almost immediately, these Legos began washing up on shore in nearby Cornwall, England, and still do even today.  At first local beach-combers began to discover the unexpected treasure, but then additional possible findings were made in other locations.  Eventually, it led to the creation of an online community devoted to finding the lost toys, led by the appropriately-named Legos Lost At Sea Facebook page.  Here, passionate collectors come together to share what they know and have discovered about this event and the 5 million or so Legos that were lost at sea.  Due to the group’s research they have secured cargo manifests and know how many of each item were on the ship.

This event has become a rallying point within the Lego-collecting community.  Fans from around the world are now comparing notes in an effort to locate as many of the Legos as possible.  The majority of the findings have been on the shores of the UK, but it is believed that toys from the lost stash have been found on beaches as far away as California and Australia.

As I talk about in my book Think Like a Rock Star, a community is a group that has a shared sense of ownership in something larger than themselves.  If you’re wanting to build an online community, it’s often very difficult to do based on the product itself.  It’s far better to focus on something that brings the group together.  The Legos Lost At Sea community is a good example of this, they share the common bond of trying to locate as many of the lost Legos as possible.

So how could a brand or company become involved in an existing community like Legos Lost At Sea?  Well the first thought would be that Lego should sponsor or participate in this group.  But there might be some valid legal reasons why this wouldn’t be a good idea, perhaps participation could somehow be tied back to an admittance of fault in some way for the lost cargo, who knows?  Another idea is what if local beaches in England sponsored ‘Lego Treasure Hunt Days’, where collectors could meet and work together to clean the beaches, and at the same time (hopefully) find more of the lost Legos!  The local beaches benefit from becoming cleaner, and the local collectors benefit from not only finding Lego-booty, but also they get to meet their fellow collectors and bond over a common love of all things Lego.

Whenever you’re thinking about your community-building efforts, think about how you can work with an existing community to them it reach its goals.  The goal isn’t to join a community so you can promote your product, the goal is to join the community to help it reach its goals.  Helping an existing community reach its goals and better itself is the best promotion possible for your product.  Keep that in mind the next time you are thinking about how your company can ‘leverage’ an online community.


EnterpriseEmailConsider these customer service/satisfaction facts:

Americans tell an average of 9 people about a good experience with a company, and 16 people about a bad experience.

Roughly 80% of all tweets related to a customer service issue with a company, are negative.

But think about how this applies to you: Are you more likely to praise a company or complain?  Personally, I am more likely to share a negative experience, or rather I am more likely to be motivated to share a negative experience.  Especially when I think the company just completely screwed up.

Yet when it comes to a positive experience, I am less likely/motivated to share that experience.  Case in point, for over a year now I’ve been renting cars (quite often) from a particular Enterprise location locally.  So much so that the employees that work there recognize me and know which vehicle I prefer in the class I rent.  I always get a good experience, and a couple of times it’s been exceptional.  So when I received an email (screenshot above) encouraging me to review them online, it was a no-brainer.  In fact my first thought was ‘Of course, I should have already done this!’

The reason why?  We complain because we want to get the company’s attention so they will fix our problem.  That’s typically our motivation when we complain online.  With a positive experience, we aren’t trying to get the company’s attention, so our motivation to share good news is typically less.

The takeaway is this: A lot of companies are very reluctant to send an email like the one Enterprise did.  “We’re just encouraging our customers to leave negative reviews online!” I can see many CEOs lamenting.  But most of those unsatisfied customers have already left a negative review online.  Asking for reviews would typically encourage more positive reviews than negative.

We are more motivated and likely to share negative experiences with a company than positive ones.  So by asking for reviews, you are evening the scales because you are making it easier for customers that had a positive experience to share that.

Do you agree with this?  Are you more likely to share a very positive or negative experience online?


14325498366_f041d5d541_zSprint has rolled out a new bonus structure for all its employees, including executives.  Moving forward, 20% of employee bonuses will depend on how effectively its current customers promote Sprint to new customers.  In short, Sprint is betting on the power of the Net Promoter Score, and will pay its employees big bucks for raising its score.

Here’s how it works: Surveyors ask Sprint customers to rate — from zero to 10 — how willing they are to recommend the company to others. Only nines and 10s count as promoters. Sevens and eights are considered neutral, and anything less comes out as a detractor.

The key for Sprint employees and execs is that 20 percent of their incentive pay is now tied to improving that score.

On paper, this sounds like a good idea.  The rationale is that if more of Sprint’s current customers are generating positive Word of Mouth, it will lead to new customers.  So Sprint wants to reward employees when its NPS increases.

Here’s the potential problem I see:  By paying employees for raising its NPS, it gives employees an incentive to raise its NPS instead of creating an environment where happy customers promote the brand.  What gets measured gets managed.  The goal shouldn’t be improving your NPS, that should be a by-product of doing a better job of understanding your customers.  The goal should be to better understand and connect with your existing customers.  A by-product of this will be an increased NPS.

Here’s another example:  Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, is also betting big on the power of its brand advocates.  But instead of focusing on raising its NPS, Telstra has focused on its call centers, on giving customers a better and more efficient experience.  Additionally, the company sends out over 11 million customer surveys a year, including 30,000 a day.  The feedback from these surveys as well as call centers is then mined and applied to Telstra’s existing marketing efforts.

As a result, Telstra’s NPS has increased by 3 points in 2014.

Whenever I talk to a company about launching a brand ambassador program, we talk about the reasons why they feel they need such a program.  Then I ask them to tell me what in it for their customers.  Many companies can tell me exactly how they want to benefit, but when it comes to discussing the value created for the customer, they typically haven’t given that as much consideration.  The goal shouldn’t be to raise your NPS, it should be to give your customers a reason to rave about you.  If you do that, then your NPS will take care of itself.

Whenever you considering launching any initiative that’s dependent on your customers performing some action for you, always carefully outline what’s in it for the customer.  Be able to spell out how you benefit, and how the customer will benefit.

The goal is a win-win, not a win for your brand.

Pic via Flickr user Mike Mozart


2872583288_8127958300_zLast week I got an email from someone that was interested in learning more about creating a brand ambassador program for their company.  I called them and during our conversation they told me they had been doing research on brand ambassador programs and came across my blog post 10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program.  They came across this post because it’s (currently) the top Google result for the term “Brand Ambassador Program“.

The Great Blogging Lie

One of the great ‘blogging rules’ we are told is that we must always write useful content for our readers.  This is also one of the biggest blogging lies we are told.  We should absolutely create useful content for our readers, but we should also create useful content for ourselves.  Both parties have to benefit.  If I am writing useful content for you that doesn’t benefit me, then I can’t afford to keep writing that useful content.  If I am writing content that only benefits me, then you won’t stick around to read it.  The content you write has to create value for both you and your readers.

A personal example: Last year I was talking to a friend about my blogging and my business.  She said “I’m confused. If your target audience is companies that need help creating programs to connect with their loyal customers, why was your last blog post about how individual bloggers can make money on their blogs?”

I looked at my blog and my jaw dropped.  She was exactly right, I was so focused on writing USEFUL content for readers, but not for the readers I wanted.  Which meant that content wasn’t useful to ME because it wasn’t helping me connect with the audience that I wanted to do business with.  From that point forward I have been extremely mindful of the content I create here and making sure that it is useful, but useful for the audience *I* want to connect with.  That ensures that it is also useful to ME.

And it’s working.  Up until this year, the majority of the emails I got requesting information about working with me came from small businesses wanting to know if I could help them manage their Facebook page or Twitter account.  This is NOT the type of work I typically do, but my content was often more focused on how small businesses could better use social media.  Over the last year or so I shifted my content to focus on more brand advocacy, brand ambassadors and creating programs and structures that help companies reach their biggest fans.  Now, 90% of the email inquiries I get are from companies that want to learn more about creating similar programs within their companies.  So if you are using your blog as a tool to drive business growth, make sure you occasionally spot-check the content you are creating to make sure that it is useful to the audience you want to reach.

BTW if you want to hear about the second biggest blogging mistake I’ve made, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter, I’ll be discussing it in tomorrow’s email.

What Type of Engagement is Best?

The default answer that most bloggers will give you is that comments are best.  They want readers to come to their blog and comment.  And that’s fine if you are running a personal blog and want to make friends and meet like-minded individuals.  But if your blog is part of your social media marketing strategy, you need to track engagement that matters to your business. In the above example, a marketing director did a Google search for ‘brand ambassador program’ and found a post I had written on the subject.  She read the post, and instead of leaving a comment, she emailed me asking about setting up a brand ambassador program for her company.  For me, that’s the type of engagement that has value for my business.   A comment still would have value for me, as her comment would have made the post itself more interesting and it still would have given me a way to connect with her, but her contacting me directly about us working together is what I want.

Always do this simple test with your blog:  If I were to visit your blog right now for the very first time, what action would you want me to take?  Would you want me to leave a comment?  Would you want me to signup for your newsletter?  Would you want me to buy your product?  Think about what type of engagement is most important to YOU, then craft your content and experience on your blog so it encourages me to engage in that type of behavior.

So that’s my biggest business blogging mistake, what’s yours?  And if you want feel free to change names to protect the guilty!

Pic via Flickr user Peter Lindberg



UPDATE: Here’s the transcript from tonight’s #Blogchat with Jay!

I’m thrilled to announce that Jay Baer will be joining #Blogchat tonight (10-5-2014)!  Jay is one of the true thought leaders in digital marketing and a New York Times Bestselling author thanks to his hit YouTility!  Jay will talk to us tonight about how to leverage our blogs to create useful marketing for our customers, starting at 8pm Central!

Here’s what we’ll be discussing:

8:00-8:20 PM Central – How do you determine what type of content is most useful for your particular audience?

8:20-8:40PM – Does the helpful content you create have to be directly related to the products you sell?

8:40-9:00PM – Is a blog the best way to create and distribute content that provides YouTility for customers?


Hope you can join us starting at 8pm Central on Twitter!  And EVERYONE is welcome to join, just follow the hashtag on Twitter and jump right in!  If you will be joining us make sure you are following Jay on Twitter and reading his blog, Convince and Convert.

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Yeah, it was a party! Here’s the transcript from tonight’s #Blogchat with Ann!


Tonight I’m thrilled to welcome for the second time, Ann Handley as co-host of #Blogchat!  Ann is going to teach us how to be better writers PLUS tonight kicks off LAUNCH WEEK for her second book, Everybody Writes!  Everybody Writes is doing AMAZINGLY well in pre-sales and will no doubt be an instant bestseller.  You can order your copy here on Amazon.

Here’s what we’ll be discussing with Ann:

8:00-8:20pm Central, we’ll discuss What are some tips for telling interesting stories on a blog? How do you keep the reader’s attention?

8:20-8:40pm, What are some of the common writing mistakes bloggers make that can be easily corrected?

8:40-9:00pm, How does Ann Handley write?  What tools does Ann use to help her writing and how does she find ideas to write about?


Ann will be joining us with her @AnnHandley name on Twitter, so please make sure you are following her on Twitter!  See you on Twitter at 8pm Central, everyone is welcome!


Sprinklr Acquires Brand/Influencer Advocacy Company Branderati

September 3, 2014

Sprinklr today announced that it has acquired brand/influencer company Branderati.  Sprinklr is a social media management platform aimed at the enterprise and Branderati is a platform that allows brands to recruit new and connect with existing advocates and influencers.  The acquisition seems to complement what Sprinklr can offer so I decided to talk to Branderati’s […]

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Bring Your Blog to the Next Level with Expert Interviews

August 28, 2014

Note from Mack: This is a sponsored post from Ann Smarty for MyBlogU, who is the sponsor of #Blogchat in August.  You can learn more about them by clicking here.  Last week I was lucky enough to co-host #blogchat talking about being featured in the expert interviews for brand awareness and influence building, so today I […]

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The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show Episode 8: Building Loyalty To Your Brand, Not Your Offer

August 27, 2014

Hey y’all!  In this 8th episode of #FanDamnShow I talk about loyalty programs and why most companies completely mess them up.  For a good background on what we’ll be discussing, check out this post. Show notes: 1:09 – Discussion of Loyalty Programs (that are more interesting than Andy Griffith re-runs), and why these are typically […]

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Bloggers, Learn How to Get More Interviews With Ann Smarty!

August 23, 2014

UPDATE: Here’s the transcript from our #Blogchat with Ann! This Sunday (8-24-2014) we’ll welcome Ann Smarty to #Blogchat!  Ann will be helping us learn how as bloggers we can get more interview requests from other bloggers and sites.  Ann’s MyBlogU is the #Blogchat sponsor for August, you can learn more about MyBlogU by clicking here. […]

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