For most entrepreneurs, having ambassadors would be a dream come true. Imagine if your customers were begging to become ambassadors of your brand? By ambassadors I mean people who will represent your brand/product, talk about it, write about it, and all of this for free, only because they really like what you’re doing. So the question is: When, How and mainly Why do regular customers become brand ambassadors? And what can you do to improve your chances of creating new brand ambassadors?
The first thing you have to know is that your best brand ambassadors are your employees. According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, full-time company employees have more credibility than executives. Even if it doesn’t work exactly the same way for startups (the CEO & co-founders are surely the best ambassadors), turning your team into brand ambassadors is a strong asset you shouldn’t miss out on. Your employees have to be passionate about what they are doing and the product/brand they are working for. Therefore, the first step to getting brand ambassadors is to hire the right people and create an excellent work environment!
The second step is to focus on your customers. If you’d like to recruit brand ambassadors from customers, you need to engage with them in as many ways possible. To illustrate my point, lets talk about the work we’ve accomplish so far in the startup where I work. At Azendoo, we have very specific engagement methods with our users. Whether it’s the marketing team or our support geniuses, we prioritize timely responses to questions and superior customer service. Naturally, we use social media to interact with users, but we also use UserVoice to collect feedback and answer questions. The idea is to be there when you’re needed most!
The third step is to encourage your users (or customers) to talk about your product. One very simple way is to create a « user-story » category on your blog, and interview your VIP users (the ones you met on social networks or via User Voice). Here are the ones we’ve done for my startup : User Stories. Another way to encourage people to talk about your brand is to create a referral program. The idea is simple: by referring your product on social networks, emails, etc.. users win something (premium accounts, discount codes, etc.). People will only recommend your product if they love it, and finding out who’s recommending is an excellent way to identify your potential ambassadors.
One thing I haven’t talked about yet, but should be quite obvious, is that you must have a cool, efficient and well designed product. To become brand ambassadors, people don’t just need to like your product, but they also need to adhere to your company's core values and the image you want to reflect. Therefore, in addition to your product, you need to cultivate the core values of your company and be transparent regarding corporate communications. Don’t ever try to hide things from your users/customers.
The next step is to create a brand ambassador program like, for example, the one at Evernote. They created a special program: « The Evernote Ambassador Program » which is a « global community of selected users who volunteer their time and knowledge to show others how to become experts at using in various aspects of their daily lives ». There ambassadors speak for the brand they love, they organize meet ups, demo the application, etc. and all for free. Why? Because Evernote is a company that we want to love. Its founder is like a teddy bear predicting the further of work organization, and their team seems to be some cool individuals (that’s what we see in their corporate videos!). So people want to be part of the adventure, and that’s why they become ambassadors. In exchange, they receive goodies, coupons and some of them are even invited to the annual conference.
In short, transforming your customers into ambassadors is easy (or not)! All you need to you do is create a really cool product, engage with your customers, identify the VIP’s who want to talk about your product, create an incentive (cool offer) and simply ask them to become an ambassador! The outcome for you is having people from all around the world recommending your product. Plus, people tend to trust ambassadors because they aren’t working directly for the company, so they are free of speech!
If you want to take your brand to a whole new level, it’s time to engage with your customers, listen to them and show them that what they have to say is important to you!