The brand ambassador, historically employed by consumer businesses are beginning to play an important role in b2b organizations. Who is a brand ambassador, what can they do for your business, and how to put an ambassador program in place is the focus of this post.
What is a brand ambassador?
A brand ambassador is someone who promotes a brand and its products to their network with the objective of increasing brand awareness and driving sales.
Historically a brand ambassador was typically a celebrity or someone with a good amount of name recognition who was paid for their efforts. Celebrities and other well-known personalities are still employed as brand ambassadors (just look at the beauty products industry), however, this is typically done by businesses that sell directly to consumers.
For businesses that sell to other businesses, a brand ambassador is usually an employee of that organization. In the past, notable ambassadors for b2b businesses have been founders and executives (think Elon Musk), however in recent years and with the rise of social media, non-executive employees of all types have become effective brand ambassadors.
Why should you employ a brand ambassador?
In the year 2016, virtually every employee has a sizeable professional network. Between social media, email, and other services, b2b employees have a significant number of people they can talk to, and with whom they have rapport and trust.
Rapport, trust, influence – whatever you want to call it – is the key. These are the currency of business: the more trust and influence you have with someone, the more likely you are to earn their business. This is the value of a brand ambassador.
The relationships your employees have with their networks – which likely include prospective customers, leads, and hires – are stronger than any relationship the people in their networks may have with your brand. Putting a brand ambassador program in place allows you to leverage these relationships for the benefit of the ambassador and the organization.
Who can be a brand ambassador?
It depends on the objectives of your business (and your ambassador program), however and in our experience most any employee has the potential to be a brand ambassador. Employees in sales, HR, marketing, communications, product, engineering, and management can each serve as effective ambassadors. Here are some examples of the results employees within these teams can drive:
- Sales: Reduced sales cycle and new opportunity creation
- HR: Recruiting and retention
- Marketing: Lead generation and brand awareness
- Product & Engineering: Thought leadership
Generally, employees who regularly communicate with people outside the organization are the ones who will drive the greatest results. On average and given the nature of their roles (e.g., the requirement to network with people outside of their organization), sales, marketing, and management are going to have the largest professional networks and can drive the most bottom-line results.
How do they drive results?
A brand ambassador drives results through their communications, either publicly (e.g., through social media) or privately through email, messaging phone, and other one-to-one channels. The key to driving results is having an organized ambassador program in place. Like anything, in order to succeed there needs to be a plan, goals need to be clear, and it all needs to be managed and measured.
The CRM (e.g., Salesforce) provides a good corollary. Without a CRM platform, it’s almost impossible to effectively manage a sales team of any size, no matter how many talented reps you have. Having a CRM allows you to manage and measure everyone’s’ efforts against your plan. Same goes for a brand ambassador program: you need a plan, you need some tools, and someone to manage the program.
Where to start?
The sky’s the limit when it comes to putting an employee ambassador program in place; with time and success, it is possible for your program to reach a point where the majority of your company’s employees are participating. However–and in the beginning–it’s best to take things one step. Start small, learn, iterate, show success, grow, and repeat.
In virtually every case, successful brand ambassador programs grow from the bottom up as opposed to top down. Especially in the beginning, focus on attracting employees to your program that actually want to participate and who have experience with social media and other modern communication and networking tools; they’ll require less training and have an inherent understanding of the benefits (to them and the org).
We have a lot of experience helping companies of various types and sizes put brand ambassador programs in place. No matter what stage you’re at – from concept to ready-to-roll – we’d be happy to help.
If you’re interested in learning more I would suggest taking a look at some of our case studies, resource materials, or just shoot us a line. We’ll be happy to talk with you about what makes the most sense for your organization.