Whenever you attempt to sell your boss on launching a new initiative, there’s a few things you need to do to improve the boss’ chances of signing off:
1 – Help the boss understand the value
2 – Help the boss understand the cost
3 – Help the boss understand the scope of the initiative and the changes that will be required
Unfortunately, the idea of a ‘brand ambassador program’ can mean different things to different organizations, and it’s often difficult for your boss to know what the program is or the impact it could have on their business. When you tell the boss that such a program will cost likely tens of thousands to fully implement and it will take up to a year to see maximum results, well it’s easy to see why many bosses pass.
So in order to improve the chance that your boss signs off on launching a brand ambassador program, we need to address each of your boss’ possible objections head on.
Helping Your Boss Understand the Value of a Brand Ambassador Program
As I mentioned, a brand ambassador program can mean different things to different companies. Some companies, for example, hire infuencers or even celebrities to act as their brand ambassadors. Patagonia is a good example of a company that follows this model. When I work with clients, I typically advise them to structure their brand ambassador program so that the ambassadors they select are current customers that love the brand. These customers are already proactively engaging with other customers and promoting the brand, we are just going to build a program that gives us a framework to work with and connect with them regularly.
In general, there are four ways that brand ambassadors benefit your brand:
1 – Promotion. Brand ambassadors are constantly encouraging other customers to buy from your brand. Even if you don’t connect with them, they are already promoting your brand. These are the customers that will stop you in a store and give you an unsolicited recommendation for a product you are considering. The benefit of having a brand ambassador program is that you can work directly with these customers to help them promote your brand in the specific way that you want.
2 – Reputation Management. Your brand ambassadors are the customers that are online and offline protecting your brand. They are defending you from troll attacks, they are defending you when other customers criticize your brand. The benefit of a brand ambassador program is that it gives you a way to train these customers on how to best respond to complaints about your brand that they encounter either online or off.
3 – Customer Service and Support. Along with the previous point, brand ambassadors will proactively help other current or potential customers with issues associated with your brand and its products. The benefit of a brand ambassador program is that it gives your brand a way to provide training for these customers and to give them a way to contact the brand directly if they encounter a customer who needs more help than they can provide.
4 – Customer Feedback. Brand ambassadors are in constant, direct contact with your customers, and are constantly collecting feedback from them. This is honestly the most underutilized benefit that brand ambassadors provide for your brand. By launching a brand ambassador program, you have a more efficient way to collect, categorize and draw insights from the customer feedback that your ambassadors collect.
Now if you’re having to sell your boss on the idea of launching a brand ambassador program, the odds are he doesn’t fully see and/or appreciate the value that ambassadors bring to the table. For example, if you tell your boss that brand ambassadors help your brand by promoting it and the brand’s products, he probably sees the value in that promotion. But when you get further down the list to things like customer support and feedback, the value can appear a bit murkier for a boss that isn’t familiar with the idea of a brand ambassador program to begin with.
And it’s worth remembering that when you launch a brand ambassador program, it will likely need to be a gradual rollout. You will want to start with a smaller group of ambassadors, likely with limited responsibilities. I always tell clients when launching a brand ambassador program to “start small, nail the process down, then expand”.
So out of necessity, and in an attempt to make your best case for a brand ambassador program to your boss, it makes sense to start the rollout of a brand ambassador program gradually. For instance, start with the promotional aspect of a brand ambassador program first. This is where most bosses will understand and see the immediate value.
Helping Your Boss Understand the Cost of a Brand Ambassador Program
Building on the previous section, understand that if you start by first focusing on how your brand ambassadors can better promote the brand, you are also significantly lowering the cost of the program. Think of it as adopting a payment plan system for paying for a brand ambassador program instead of needing all the costs paid upfront. Start smaller, with just the promotional aspect, nail the process, then you expand.
Here’s another key: Start with a smaller group of ambassadors. This will also significantly lower costs. If you envision having a nationwide ambassador program, you could start with a single market, maybe it could be your most prosperous market, maybe it could be the one where your headquarters are. Either way, by starting with a small group focused on only one aspect of the program (promotional), then you greatly reduce the cost of the program, and make it much easier to manage.
Here’s the best part: By adopting this segmented approach, you not only reduce time and cost, you can, if managed correctly, have the brand ambassador program pay for itself as it is launched and rolled out. Increasing promotion will lead to increased sales and increased revenue. That increased revenue can then be used to fund the next stage of the program’s rollout; focused on brand reputation management. If done smartly, the only new costs associated with the program could be those involving the promotional aspect at launch.
Helping Your Boss Understand the Scope of the Initiative and the Changes Involved
By adopting a segmented or tiered launch/rollout of the brand ambassador program, we’ve significantly reduced the scope of the rollout, and the associated costs. Additionally, we are focusing only on the promotional aspect at launch, which is likely the area that even a skeptical boss will see and understand the value in. This also means that necessary changes within your organization will be kept to a minimum. If you start by first focusing on the promotional aspects of a brand ambassador program, this can be launched with minimal disruption or additional work from your staff. Ideally, your brand already has at least one manager for your social media efforts, and this person or team could also assist with helping your best customers promote your brand. Additionally, your brand may want to explore launching a brand ambassador program for your employees, and a promotional aspect is typically the cornerstone of such an initiative.
By starting with just the promotional aspects of a brand ambassador program, you’ve reduced associated costs and maximized the potential benefits.
One Final Note About Starting a Brand Ambassador Program
When you bring up the topic of launching a brand ambassador program to your skeptical boss, one of the thoughts he will have (whether he shares it with you or not) is “Ugh, how much is this going to cost us?” It’s worth remembering, and spelling out to your boss, that a brand ambassador programs takes what your business is already doing, and makes it better.
Your boss will likely understand and appreciate the value brand ambassadors can create by promoting your brand and its products. But make sure he understands the other ways that ambassadors can help your brand, and make your current efforts more efficient while also reducing costs.
For example, your brand likely has a set dollar amount placed on every customer service call it receives. In other words, your brand knows what the business cost is for each call it receives. Let’s say that cost is $7.13 per call based on the call length and what your brand has to pay a customer service representative to handle the call. That means that every time one of your ambassadors helps a customer and eliminates their need to call your brand for customer service, your brand has saved $7.13. Each customer service call that is averted by the actions of your brand ambassadors is a cost-saving to your brand! You can find similar ways to calculate cost savings for reputation management (an improvement of online sentiment by one point results in an X percent increase in sales) and customer feedback as well. These cost-savings that the brand ambassadors create also help offset or even eliminate the cost of expanding the program.
So if you want to improve the chances of getting your skeptical boss to invest in a brand ambassador program, do the following:
- Don’t try to launch everything at once, focus on a staggered rollout.
- Start small, with a limited group and focus first on the area that your skeptical boss can clearly see the value in where your brand can quickly see results. Focusing on promotion first is a good start.
- Once you see results from your initial efforts, grow as necessary, and use gains realized to fund the growth of the program.
- Make sure your skeptical boss understands that your brand ambassadors will increase sales AND lower costs for your brand.
Still have questions about how to sell your skeptical boss on a brand ambassador program? Fill out this contact form and I’ll be happy to help you!