Move over, traditional ads. Step aside, posts on branded social media accounts. If you’re aiming at acquiring and retaining new customers, the most effective form of marketing is word-of-mouth.
Recommendations from people who use your products in real life resonate with audiences far better than messages directly from your brand. So, finding people who love your brand, and are willing to keep spreading the word about your brand to their friends consistently, is key.
Brand ambassadors fit all of these requirements—and they’re ready to commit to you for the long haul.
But who exactly are brand ambassadors, and what unique benefits do they provide that make them worth using? What sets them apart from traditional advertising? And is recruiting your own employees as ambassadors a wise choice? Let’s dive in!
What is a brand ambassador?
Brand ambassadors are people who love your brand, who want to see your brand succeed, and who actively use your products in real life.
After identifying people who are already enthusiastic about your brand and its products, your brand will officially recruit these people as ambassadors—experts who will promote the brand via word-of-mouth.
So, your brand ambassadors must be pros at talking about your brand online and offline: on their own social media accounts, at trade shows, at community events, and via networking.
What sets them apart is they love having genuine one-on-one conversations with people who are interested in your brand and products, rather than sticking to a script, like some influencers.
Your ambassadors could be your employees, partners, or customers. They may be experts in your brand’s niche or field, but they don’t have to be, as long as they’re authorities in your brand. Their loyalty is also key—brand ambassadors agree to maintain an ongoing relationship with you.
Most importantly, ambassadors give new customers a reason to trust you. They inform others about your products from their own authoritative perspective, without explicitly saying “try this” or “buy this.” Potential customers rely on these genuine experience with products, and this makes them more likely to purchase. Thus, brand ambassadors are extremely important for driving brand awareness and increasing sales.
Why are brand ambassadors important for your brand?
Brand ambassadors’ longevity, authenticity, and expertise make them powerful brand voices that your potential customers trust.
Reliable, Long-Term Advocacy
One of the best benefits of recruiting brand ambassadors is their continued commitment to your brand.
- Ambassadors agree to work with your brand because of its existing positive relationship with your brand. They’ve likely promoted your brand regularly already, without any prompting. So, you’ve built rapport with each other long before they officially signed on to promote you.
- Ambassadors will usually create digital content for your brand regularly. Unlike influencers, who agree to post about your brand only once or twice, ambassadors will share about your brand often on their social media accounts or blogs.
- And you can reliably call on ambassadors to keep sharing their positive experiences offline as well, in multiple different scenarios. As Entrepreneur puts it, “an endorser will say nice things in a [single] survey. A brand ambassador will say nice things for a year straight.”
- Brand ambassadors are great people to test new products out on because they’ll provide valuable feedback on these products before any formal launch.
- They’re also awesome sources of other feedback, like advice on how to better reach certain audiences, because they’re passionate about helping you build your brand.
Here’s another powerful reason why you should recruit ambassadors: if the majority of messages about your brand come directly from your brand, you’re going to struggle to get your message across. People are exposed to so much media every day that they’ve learned to cut through the saturation and ignore what they deem irrelevant—including your ads.
- According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers from various markets are more inclined to believe people who are in their circles than direct messaging from a brand.
- Only a third of consumers say they trust traditional ads.
- Also, almost 75% of consumers decide what to buy based on social media posts, but 96% of the people that discuss brands online do not follow those brands’ owned profiles. So, consumers don’t have as much trust for social media that comes directly from brands—instead, they’re turning to posts and reviews from individuals.
But your potential customers listen to brand ambassadors. People trust the opinions and recommendations from others who have used the product in real life, far more than they trust ads.
In fact, personal experience is the source of information consumers trust most. Brand ambassadors use your products regularly, speak from their own perspective, and recommend your products based on authentic experience, without being too “salesy.” Plus, they’re largely speaking to people who already follow them!
So, it’s easy for them to connect with their audiences genuinely and with true enthusiasm. Ambassadors provide powerful testimonies about your brand that lead to conversions!
Brand ambassadors aren’t just regular users of your products—they’re also authorities in your brand (and possibly experts within a niche). And it’s natural for customers to trust experts.
According to a B2B Buyer’s Survey report, industry experts and peers are the top 2 resources for buyers to get advice. From their followers’ points of view, ambassadors often serve as both “experts” and “peers!”
- It’s wise to recruit authorities in your field to serve as brand ambassadors; for example, an outdoor adventurer is a great ambassador for a hiking gear brand, and a dermatologist is a reliable ambassador for a sunscreen manufacturer!
- Whether or not you recruit industry experts, equip ambassadors with plenty of insider info about your brand, so they’re best able to serve as brand authorities, and so they can answer any questions people may have about your products.
One of the best parts about hiring brand ambassadors is that they’re far more cost-effective than traditional ads. After all, rather than being driven by external rewards, ambassadors are primarily motivated intrinsically.
- Although your brand may compensate them with cash, free products, or gift cards, ambassadors’ biggest motivations are seeing you succeed and helping your brand grow (while gaining experience in the process).
- So, many brand ambassadors will agree to help you for free—and if incentives are part of the deal, they are never the most important part.
Managing ambassadors efficiently (with software) isn’t free, but it’s still very cost-effective.
- Compared to paid ads, you won’t need to shell out nearly as much for ambassador management software. (This software lets you track the success of ambassadors’ online campaigns, and manage the rewards they earn if you choose to reward them.)
- As Business.com reports, management software costs even less than ads when you consider the higher ROI of ambassadors’ posts, because of the greater trust ambassadors earn from consumers.
Should you use your own employees as brand ambassadors?
As mentioned above, brand ambassadors could be your customers or partners, but you can also have your employees serve as brand ambassadors. Recruiting your own employees as brand ambassadors can bring unique benefits, but it can cause issues, too. Weigh these pros and cons carefully if you’re contemplating whether to use your employees as brand ambassadors.
Benefits of using your own employees as brand ambassadors
Employee-ambassadors can be valuable assets to your company, in ways that distinguish them from other ambassadors.
Your employees’ social media followers are their friends, family, and peers. And people see direct product recommendations from their close colleagues as the most reliable. Nielsen reports that 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know more than any other form of advertising.
The trust employees’ followers give leads to conversions. According to G2, employees’ social followers are “seven times more likely to convert on the content that is shared” than other leads are. Employee ambassadors increase both the quantity and quality of your leads!
Know the inside scoop
On top of all this, employees already have insider info about your brand, so it’s especially easy for them to act as brand experts. They know exactly why certain audiences are interested in your product, and they already value your company goals and philosophy. And they’ll save you the legwork involved in finding and training external ambassadors.
As an added bonus, having knowledgeable employees who are dedicated to sharing your brand reflects positively on your brand—and thus helps your overall brand image. As an ambassador’s reputation rises, so does your company’s.
Issues using your own employees may cause
But recruiting employees as ambassadors has disadvantages, too.
Risk of being too salesy
When an ambassador is an employee, the compensation for promoting your brand can easily become more of a motivator. Plus, they’re usually more exposed to the “sales language” of your brand. So, employee ambassadors must be extra careful to stay authentic in their recommendations, without becoming too “scripted” or too “salesy.”
Even if they’re committed to your company philosophy, it can be more difficult for employees to balance their personal brand (how they consistently portray themselves on social media) with your company’s brand. It may be easier to find an external ambassador whose personal brand naturally aligns with your core values and goals.
Can come off as less authentic
If certain audiences find out that a brand ambassador is employed full-time by the brand, the employee ambassador’s recommendations may not seem as authentic in their eyes (audiences may believe an ambassador is only sharing the product because they’re paid to do so).
Employee’s values can change
And there’s always a chance that employees will resign for personal gain. According to HRM, “as an employee’s status rises [among their audience], it can shift the brand equity from the [company] to an individual employee.” In other words, some people think highly of your brand because they think highly of your employee as an individual ambassador. And this can backfire. Even if they seem loyal to your brand, if a respected employee-ambassador receives a better job offer elsewhere, there’s a chance that they may leave you— or worse, leave you for a competitor. And then, all the respect an audience has for your former ambassador becomes respect for your competition.
Brand ambassadors already love your brand and are willing to promote it in the long term; their biggest motivation is seeing your brand succeed. So, they’re valuable marketing assets that your brand should mobilize. People trust ambassadors’ genuine recommendations far more than they trust traditional ads. And since ambassadors occupy a position of expertise, potential customers’ trust in ambassadors is even higher. Ambassador marketing is more cost-effective than ads because of this trust, and because ambassadors are often willing to share your products for free.
If you recruit your own employees as ambassadors, you may reap several distinct rewards. On social media, people trust family, friends, and peers most, so employees’ networks will place even higher trust in the posts your employees make as ambassadors—and they’re more likely to become your customers. Plus, your employees are already brand experts.
But still, proceed with caution, as recruiting employee ambassadors could backfire—especially if an enticing job offer motivates them to leave your company for a competitor.
So, choose carefully. If you’re reluctant to use employee-ambassadors, then seek out external ambassadors who already align with your brand philosophy, and who have already shared about your brand without prompting.