For the past year or so, I have been in a love/hate relationship with the makers of one of my favorite protein bars. Because I still have mad love for the product itself, I won’t name the brand here.
I was fortunate to become one of the company’s brand ambassadors. Only, I never quite felt fortunate or appreciated. I watched daily as other ambassadors used social media to show off their branded gym bags, filled with free product like water bottles and tank tops while I made do with the occasional product shipment and hugely oversized t-shirt (seriously, it came down past my knees). I felt like Charlie Brown out trick-or-treating (“I got a rock.”)
Yet, I plugged away, sharing product samples, posting online product reviews and promoting within my fitness circles. Not once did the company use my images, my stories or my testimony. I continually was made to feel like a stepchild despite that fact that I was living and breathing their brand every day.
A couple of months ago, I received a cut-and-dry email, informing me that the ambassador program was changing. I was advised to reapply, and perhaps I would be chosen. Perhaps not. I reapplied, and heard…. nothing. Lots and lots of nothing. I called, emailed, tweeted, finally receiving a form message back saying that they still had not finalized the new program and I would be notified if chosen. Meanwhile, those lucky folks I mentioned earlier? They never missed a beat, continuing to post photos of their company perks.
I decided to retain some of my dignity and walk away. But, as a marketer myself, I would be remiss if I did not use this as a learning experience.
So, here are five tips for recruiting and keeping strong ambassadors for your brand:
- Have goals and a clear program plan. Make sure your would-be ambassadors know what is expected of them, and what they can expect from you.
- Know the type of ambassador you want and need. Establish this up-front so you don’t end up with step-child ambassadors like me. If you choose to have different levels, make sure that everyone knows going into it.
- Make them feel special and appreciated. Obviously, you feel they have something to offer your brand. Ambassadors carry your message to a wider audience and strengthen your brand. Recognize them and make them feel part of an elite group.
- Ask for their advice… and use it. Ambassadors are your eyes and ears and can provide valuable feedback if you only listen to them.
- Reward them. It can’t always be about your brand. What’s in it for your ambassadors?