Too many companies avoid launching a brand ambassador program because they view it as a new expense that will live by itself within your organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, a brand ambassador program is an investment that makes your existing business processes more effective and efficient. When your boss asks why your company should launch a brand ambassador program, you say “it takes what we are already doing and it makes it better.”
Earlier this month I wrote a post titled How to Create a World-Class Brand Ambassador Program. In that post, I stated that at a later date I would be writing a more in-depth post describing how your brand can better integrate a brand ambassador program into its existing business structure. This is that post.
A well-designed brand ambassador program will directly impact and improve several key business and marketing functions, such as; customer service, product design, brand reputation management, sales and promotion. Let’s look at how a brand ambassador program could save your company money in each area:
Reduction in Customer Service Calls/Interactions
Your brand ambassadors are constantly interacting with current and potential customers both online and offline. Often, they can answer questions and help solve problems that others are having. Each time they do, it eliminates the need for that person to contact your brand’s customer service reps.
Over time, this can generate a serious cost-savings for your brand. Once you know the internal cost your brand assigns to each customer service call or email or social media question (these numbers can be different based on the channel they originate from), then you can begin to determine the exact amount saved by your brand ambassadors.
For example, let’s say your brand has determined that each call to a customer service rep costs the brand $8.32. This means that each time a brand ambassador helps a customer and eliminates a call, your brand saves $8.32! Let’s say you have 50 brand ambassadors in your program and they average eliminating 40 calls a year per ambassador. That’s a cost-savings of $16,640 a year for your brand!
Customer Feedback Improves Product Design
So what would this look like in the real-world? At a basic level, it would simply involve training your ambassadors to be better listeners to other customers and to better record their feedback and thoughts so your brand can act on it. Keep in mind, your brand should also be doing this with your customer service teams, routinely asking them to give you reports on what customers are consistently saying, good and bad, about your brand, and its products.
Another option could be creating an online group/forum/community where ambassadors or even other customers could share brand and product feedback. Dell has already been doing this for over a decade with its Ideastorm online customer feedback site. The idea behind Ideastorm is so simple, it’s brilliant. Customers submit ideas for improving existing products, or offering new ones. The community then votes on the ideas it likes, and the most popular ideas get reviewed by Dell, and possibly implemented! With Ideastorm, Dell is basically crowdsourcing its customers for ideas. It’s a great way to get very low-cost market research. Rock stars like Lady Gaga have been doing this for years, creating sites just for fans, then using feedback and ideas generated by those fans to influence tour stops and merchandise selection.
According to Dell, each idea submitted to Ideastorm (over 27k so far) has a value to the brand of $10,000, and the site has generated over $100M in additional revenue for Dell! All because Dell got serious about listening to its customers and implementing their ideas.
Proactively Empowering Ambassadors to Engage With Customers Improves and Defends Your Brand’s Reputation
It’s one of the nightmare scenarios for social media managers across the country: Encountering an angry customer complaining about your brand on social media. What’s worse is finding a post on your Facebook brand page criticizing your brand that was left TWO HOURS AGO! Since that time, 5 more people have piled on, and now your Facebook page is filled with complaints about your brand, front and center for all to see.
If you’ve ever had to deal with such an issue on social media, you know what a headache it can be. One way to greatly lessen the chance of having to deal with such a social media firestorm is by empowering your brand ambassadors to defend your brand online. The great thing about your fans is that they act like guard dogs. If someone comes into your yard (or Facebook page) and tries to start trouble, they bark. Loud. If the person is a troll, the barking will often scare them away. If the person is a customer with a legitimate complaint, your brand ambassadors can often help the customer AND alert your brand so that a representative can reply as well. Your brand ambassadors can alert you to complaints that need to be addressed as well as issues they are seeing other customers mentioning repeatedly. To be clear, your brand should already be aggressively monitoring customer feedback, but having your ambassador alerting you as just means that you can deal with any potential issues quicker, which improves both your brand reputation and your ability to handle customer complaints before they grow into a bigger problem.
For example, one client told me that by aggressively monitoring feedback from customers, it effectively creates a two-week window for the brand to solve a widespread problem and address customer complaints before industry press notices and reports on the issue. This is a function of the brand being proactive in addressing complaints from customers, and a big part of that is getting information from customers as soon as possible. Having your ambassadors interact with customers daily can help your brand identify potential issues and respond in much less time. This improves your brand’s reputation, as well as letting you deal with customer complaints quickly, regardless of whether it’s an individual issue or a systemic one.
Your Brand Ambassadors Can Greatly Reduce Promotional Costs, Especially For a Product Launch
I’ve always told clients that cash should be a last resort when compensating your brand ambassadors. Instead, I challenge clients to think about how they can use access as a form of compensation. The problem with paying ambassadors with cash is that you frame their work as being a ‘job’. If you’ve chosen the right ambassadors, then you’ve chosen special customers that already love and promote your brand. You’re just working with them in a formal way to help them do what they already love doing.
Customers that love your brand want more access to your brand. One easy way to do this is to give your ambassadors early access to products before they are made available to the public. This is a true perk for your ambassadors, plus it also serves multiple benefits to your brand:
- It allows your ambassadors to give your brand immediate feedback on the product. This allows you to get a better sense of which features/characteristics of the product they enjoy, and you can highlight these features when you promote the product to your general customer base.
- Giving your ambassadors early access to new products allows them to create word of mouth about the products. This drives interest and demand for the products at launch. Think of how you give the press early access to review products so they will write about them. It’s the same idea here, the big difference is, your ambassadors LOVE your brand and will be more likely to enthusiastically promote the new product to others, and passionately so!
So how does this translate into a cost-savings? By letting your ambassadors drive promotion prior to and during launch, you can potentially reduce the amount of money you would normally spend on traditional advertising to support the launch. Ford has done this in the past when launching new vehicles, they would lean on ambassadors to build buzz and interest. Here’s Ford’s EVP Jim Farley detailing how this worked for the automaker during a product launch:
“What happens is, by launching the vehicle early, getting people involved in talking about the new global Focus or the new Fiesta is the US before it goes on sale, we can lower the amount of traditional advertising we do after the vehicle goes on sale. That’s where the massive cost savings have been. I’ll give you an example; On the Fiesta Movement, we had higher unaided nameplate awareness than Fit or Yaris, and we spent 10 cents on the dollar, than a traditional tv ad campaign. So by starting earlier and using social media to spread the word about the new product, we’re really reducing the amount of traditional advertising we have to spend.”
So by empowering its ambassadors to help promote these car models at launch, Ford spent 10% what it would have spent on a television ad campaign to achieve the same level of exposure! Scott Monty, formerly Ford’s Global Social Media Lead, added:
“We had a higher level of awareness for the subcompact than for vehicles we had in the market for 2-3 years; we collected over 125,000 hand-raisers who indicated they wanted to learn more when the car became available; and the conversion of reservations to sales was 10X higher than our traditional conversion rate.
All before we began any major media efforts toward the launch of the Fiesta.”
Additionally, this speaks to how we tend to trust messages that originate from fellow customers more than those that originate with a brand. A message coming from a brand is often viewed as being an advertisement, whereas we tend to be more likely to pay attention to and trust a message or recommendation that comes from a fellow customer. Ford tapped into that dynamic with the results it saw with its launch of the Fiesta.
The takeaway? Tapping your brand ambassadors to build awareness for your product can be more cost-effective than using traditional advertising to generate the same levels of exposure!
A Well-Designed Brand Ambassador Program Will Improve Your Existing Business Functions and Save You Money
Most companies plan a brand ambassador program to be a stand-alone effort. It shouldn’t be. A well-designed brand ambassador program will positively impact several of your core business functions, resulting in increased sales and lowered costs:
- Customer service costs are lowered because your brand ambassadors are interacting directly with customers, helping them solve their problems and answer their questions. This eliminates the need to contact your customer service reps, which saves you money.
- Customer feedback can improve product design and identify issues before they become larger problems. Since your brand ambassadors are interacting directly with your customers, they become aware of potential issues with your products in advance, giving your brand time to address them and improve the designs. This saves you money by improving customer satisfaction and potentially eliminating the need for later product recalls.
- Your brand ambassadors will help defend your brand online, which reduces the brand’s need to engage and ‘put out fires’, which saves your social media team a lot of time, and perhaps more importantly to them, a lot of headaches.
- Brand ambassadors are powerful promotional partners, especially when you have a new product launch. Giving your ambassadors early access to new products before they are made available to the public lets them create promotion and buzz for the products before they launch. The increased promotion can potentially reduce or even eliminate the traditional marketing efforts you were planning to support the product at launch.
There will always be costs associated with launching and maintaining a well-run brand ambassador program. But with proper planning, your brand ambassador program should not only generate profits, it should save your brand real money.
Want to learn how much money your company could save with a brand ambassador program? Email me today and let’s discuss the possibilities!